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Anxiety, Funny, Mental Health, New & Expecting Moms, Parenting, Postpartum Depression

FACES OF MOTHERHOOD: A MOMMY’S JOURNEY FROM CONCEPTION TO MOTHERHOOD

Faces of Motherhood: A Mommy's Journey from Conception to Motherhood, Photo credit: Abby Schafer Photography

We’re continuing during this quarantine period of 2020 with our Faces of Motherhood series. Hopefully you’ve been following the series covering A Jewish Mama’s Confessions and A Single Mom’s Journey

The series is about building a bridge between us mothers. Despite what tribe you may be part of, we all share a common experience. The aim here is to foster diversity, understanding and community amongst us mamas by sharing mom stories.

The process of storytelling is powerful. It is an empowering process for both the storyteller and the viewers. Most of the time when we think we have differences, we are more similar than we think. 

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JOURNEYING THROUGH PREGNANCY TO MOTHERHOOD 

Meet Elissa Toto Taylor from Hubbard, Ohio. Elissa has a son aged 1 and she had him when she was 41 years old. 

Let’s find out more about her and her motherhood journey. We talk about cultural background, relationship and mental health. 

Q: Cultural background of you and your partner and languages you speak. 
A: I’m from a large extended Italian family and am first-generation US-born on my mother’s side. My husband is from a much smaller, fractured family. We’re both native English speakers. I speak very little Italian (though I took several years of classes and grew up hearing, understanding, and being too shy to speak it). 

Q: Marital status, if you’re comfortable sharing. 
A: I’m married. We’ve been married almost three years. I was a couple months shy of 40 when we got married. He’s nine years my junior. I lived alone my entire adult life, so sharing a home with my husband (one he purchased years before meeting me) was a huge adjustment. I never felt like it was my home. But I digress. 

Q: If you are in a relationship, how do you feel having children has impacted you and your partner?
A: Having our son has definitely strained our relationship. I’ve always been a type A and introverted, and he’s extroverted and easygoing. I became really irritable and easily agitated after having Huxley, and it’s gotten steadily worse since my menstrual cycle resumed eight months postpartum.

I was recently diagnosed with Postpartum Anxiety (PPA). I’m always on edge and defensive. I have a hard time asking for my husband’s help because I know he won’t do things the way I would. I’m working on accepting the help and realizing that his way isn’t wrong just because it’s not my way. 

He’s a great father who jumps in to care for our son however he can, but I resent his freedom. He travels at least one week a month (it was every other week for the first few months of Huxley’s life), and he sends photos of nice meals and beautiful places. He lives like a single guy during those trips, and I live like a single, mostly shut-in mother. 
I lash out at him a lot out of anxiety and frustration, and it makes me think he’d be crazy not to want to get away from me when he can. 

Q: What’s your journey been like as a mom?
A: The motherhood journey has been a bumpy one. 

Faces of Motherhood: A Mommy's Journey from Conception to Motherhood
Faces of Motherhood: A Mommy’s Journey from Conception to Motherhood

FACES OF MOTHERHOOD CONTINUED

I was told by a specialist that my chances of conceiving and carrying a baby to term with my own eggs were slim to none. He suggested IVF with a donor egg. We kept trying while weighing our options, and I conceived without any medical intervention. 

But I was so affected by the doctor’s prognosis that I couldn’t allow myself to enjoy the pregnancy. I just kept waiting for the worst to happen. 

When I finally had Huxley via C-section full-term, I was so relieved to meet him and to know that he was perfectly healthy. But I didn’t feel a connection to him for months.

I’d have moments of joy and happy tears, but for the most part, I felt like someone had entrusted me with a tiny, helpless stranger, and I felt guilty for feeling that way. There I was with the child I had hoped for, one I was told I wasn’t likely to have, and I struggled to even bond with him. I felt undeserving. 

I decided not to return to work for a number of reasons. The biggest being that I didn’t want to take time away from Huxley to do a job that I hated. I wanted to put my energy into my son and find my passion or at the very least, a job I could do part-time from home (I had been working as a technical writer before he was born). 

The isolation of being a stay at home mom just compounded my growing anxiety. I wanted to do everything for him, but that unrealistic desire was crushing me. I felt like asking for help would mean I was failing at my job. 

Things got much worse before they began to get better. Huxley’s sleep was horrible, and while he seemed unaffected, introverted mommy was losing her mind. I never had a moment to myself. I cried a lot. My husband and I were always arguing. Some of the arguments were pretty angry and hurtful. He told me I needed to find a therapist to talk to because I was making things difficult for everyone close to me. He and the therapist both suggested I make a schedule with my mother so she could watch the baby for a few hours a couple days a week so I could leave the house or do something for myself. 

Faces of Motherhood: A Mommy's Journey from Conception to Motherhood, Photo credit: Abby Schafer Photography
Faces of Motherhood: A Mommy’s Journey from Conception to Motherhood, Photo credit: Abby Schafer Photography

I still struggle to ask for help or connect to Huxley. Therapy is helping. But I still grapple with the feelings of guilt and failure. And I’m angry with myself for missing so many of the moments of joy during Huxley’s first year. 

FACES OF MOTHERHOOD CONTINUED

Q: What do you feel has been the biggest joy?A: My biggest joy has been watching my son learn and develop. When he struggles with something, masters a new skill, or shows curiosity in something, I get glimpses into his personality and feel more connection. 

Q: Biggest challenge?
A: My biggest challenge has been sleep. This kid will not sleep without one of us helping him.

He was sleep trained and sleeping through the night for two glorious months, but when he started crawling, he also started sitting up in his crib and boycotting sleep. And he could outlast our cry-it-out sessions, which always ended with him hyperventilating. Even a sleep coach was unable to help. 

So we have to rock or nurse him down at night, and then again with every wake up. We’re working on it, but progress is slow. 

Q: Biggest learning? 
A: I can’t do everything on my own, which had been my approach most of my life. 

Q: If you could do anything differently with regards to parenthood, what would that be? 
A: I would have sought therapy before my son was born to help with the inevitable adjustments I would have to make. 

Q: What was your relationship like with your parents?
A: We were close, but not the kind of close where I could tell them anything and everything. I’ve always been afraid of disappointing them. 

They’ve also always struggled to understand me. How emotional I am and how deeply I feel everything. They would tell me—and still do—that I’m too sensitive. I think I numbed myself for years because of that. 

Q: Anything you would do differently compared to what your parents did?
A: I want to make sure my son knows he can tell me anything and feel whatever he feels without judgment or guilt. 

Q: Stay at home mom, working or combo?
A: Stay at home doing some freelancing

Q: Proudest moment. 
A: My proudest moment was my son’s first birthday party. I found myself observing a happy, inquisitive, brave little boy who was enjoying his day among nearly 50 people who love him and want the best for him. He wasn’t frightened by the commotion or eager to get away from the crowd in his space, and neither was I. He was enjoying his community, and I was learning to. And I was proud I’d survived the year of sleepless nights and feeling so unsure of myself as a mother. 

FOLLOW THE FACES OF MOTHERHOOD SERIES

Faces of Motherhood
Faces of Motherhood

If you would like to submit to the Faces of Motherhood Series, please get in touch with your name and what makes your motherhood journey unique. 

Don’t forget to comment below if you’re a single mom! Let’s show some support for Elissa. 

Follow me on Pinterest and Instagram for more community and connection with other moms, plus mom mental health and evidence-based parenting (i.e., Mindful Parenting).

Be good to yourself,

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