Encouraging Families to Live Joy Filled Life (A Re-Brand!)

Hey sweet friends! It’s been a very long time since the last time I updated. In case you missed that previous post, baby number seven is on board! My current due date is February 13th, 2017, though we will have the specific date near Christmas. The past month has been really quiet because of the pregnancy fun…and because I have been working on a re-brand!

A Re-brand!?

Yes, I am going through a re-brand.  In case you haven’t noticed, the theme in this neck of the interwebz has changed as well as our colors. We aren’t planning a huge upheaval of new content, though. It’s still going to be similar to some of what I’ve shared before. So what’s changing with the re-brand? For this new-ish direction we are taking on the blog, we are reworking the why of our writing.

What’s the new why?

We have been changing our why to match what we want our readers to get from Bellows in the  Berkshires. For the past few years, it’s been a mash-up of everything I enjoy and our life story. I love sharing our life with you all, but I felt like I was writing for ourselves and not anyone else. I know people enjoyed seeing the stories about our lives and that’s not about to change; we will still be sharing those. We still hope to launch our YouTube channel starting in August, which will show up close and personal life moments.

That all being said, I want to move forward with our blog focusing on things less personal and focus on encouraging families to live joy filled lives. 

Joy, as I know it, is a wonderful, deep seeded and unfaltering truth. It’s not the same as happiness, which can come and go with how your day is going.  Joy doesn’t come from your situation or your mental health, but it is something much deeper. It’s a choice you have to make every step of the way.

Now-I know how hard of a choice that can be some days. This isn’t going to turn into a place where I preach fluff and nonsense at you, telling you exactly how to live your life. I also am not here to pretend joy is the easiest decision ever and you can wake up tomorrow happy go lucky. Choosing joy is not always simple or easy. I know all to well what it’s like to live each day with mental illness, situations, circumstances that are make you fall below that baseline joy.

Joy may not be easy, it may be quite hard for you; but joy for you and your family is totally attainable.

From this point forward, everything I write will focus on encouraging and helping families find joy in their lives. Joy in parenting, in marriage, in the hardest times, in the postpartum depression. Joy in the best and worst moments this life can send your way.

As I mentioned above, I won’t be just switching to fluff and happy posts. I still fully intend on focusing on some of the harder parts of life. Joy does not erase those heart-wrenching and hard moments and I promise I will not either.

As we move forward, I hope you stick around and enjoy the changes that are to come! I know I am so excited to make these steps towards where I want this blog to go.


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Bellows Family Announcement!

Hey sweet friends! A Sunday post…what do you owe this treat to?! Well, if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve heard we spilled the beans! Lucky Number Seven is coming to our home come January/February 2018!

Yes that is correct, I am pregnant! If you’ve been sad about the silence on the blog, it’s been because I’ve been super sick. We just fund out but I am about 8 weeks along. If we are being completely honest with each other, I thought I was just ill. We had tested about a month ago and the numerous ones came back negative! This seems to be a consistent story for us. I swear I know HOW to use a pregnancy test! At least I think I do…

Anyway, I will probably only do bumpdates once I get further along. I am determined to be healthier this pregnancy than any others and intend to keep hiking and eating right through it all. At the moment, my projected due date is January 30th so whether we have a January or February babe will all depend on the scheduling of the midwives. I will be having another cesarean.

For those of you doing the math, it will be about 22 months between Bear and Lucky. That’s what we are calling bellybaby for now! That will not be their legal name, discussions on that are pending. If you have any names for boys that are moderately weird but cute, please share! We are not opposed to naming our kids animals.

While not necessarily “planned”, this baby is very loved. We are excited to complete our family and have another little love to hold tight.   God always laughs at our attempts to plan right?

Just for a little introduction:

Symptoms: I’m feeling completely exhausted. It’s happened to me with both Bear and James, so I am not worried. Usually about 12/13 weeks I am back to normal energy level. I have had a little bit of nausea and morning sickness. By morning sickness though, I mean full day sickness. It has not been fun but as long as I stay on top of eating every hour or so, no vomiting. I have also experienced much worse dizziness this time around. I am a low blood pressure chick from the start, but it’s been pretty bad. I’m hoping that slows down at the end of the first trimester as well.

Baby Info: Baby Lucky’s projected due date is January 30th. Because I will just be signing up for a cesarean, we should know their arrival date in a few months. Lucky is the size of a raspberry. They are growing healthy!

What Is Coming Up: We have our first real appointment next month. I’m looking forward to hearing the heartbeat. I’m planning the summer with being pregnant, as well as getting ready to drive to Florida pregnant! We still love to hike though and I cannot wait to keep doing that.

I am so happy and blessed to be sharing this news! We can’t wait for our family to grow again.


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EN&MH: A Letter to my Husband About Mama’s Depression.

If you’ve been around here the past month or so, you know May was hard on me. I’ve been struggling with a pretty deep depression. Whether it’s related to physical reasons, seasonal things, who knows. What I do know is mamas depression has been prevalent and loud.

In the wake of this season of depression, I have found myself slacking in certain areas. In those areas my husband has had to step up. Today I wanted to share with the world a letter of thank you to my husband, who has stepped up so much in my brokenness.

To my husband, picking up the slack in the midst of my mental illness.

I am so sorry.

I hate that this is how my mind works. Whenever my moods spin out of control and my emotions are wild, it seems we find ourselves here. You doing far more than you should in our partnership and me trying to get by. The laundry, the dishes, picking up-they all seem to feel like milestones that I can’t keep on top of. An outsider sees our house and would say, “No Lauren, you’re doing great!” but you know the truth. Far more often I’m doing great at watching a movie with the kids or I’m baking so I can overindulge.

My moods change more than I want. The swings are intense and you love me through them. You love me even when I’m yelling over milk spilling or seething at something so meaningless. When there is no patience left in me, you are a rock I am able to lean into. You’re the anchor as my storms toss our family boat around.

I really am sorry you have to be those things. Through thick and thin you are though.

I hope you know how thankful I am that you are the man I married. That God knew exactly what He was doing when He put you in my life. I hope you know how grateful I am that you are picking up my slack. That you show up at 125% on the days I barely manage 50. Dear husband, I hope you know how much I love that about you.

My sweet husband, I hope you know I wish I could just get better. That it was as simple as choosing to feel better or getting over it. I pray you know everyday that I would rather be awesome and fun all the time. That I want to love you as well as you love me constantly. I hope you know I am trying. I am trying so so so hard to be better. And I am so sorry I’m not yet.

I hope you know this depression isn’t a reflection of you.

My prayer is you know it’s not because I’m unhappy with our marriage. It isn’t in response to being discontent with the life we are living. I am so happy with the life we have made. You are the best husband I ever could have asked for and I would choose you a thousands times more.

I am forever thankful for how well you love me. How sacrificially you love me. I imagine God smiles down on you because you truly love your bride as Jesus loved the church.

I hope you never doubt that I see you. Someday, hopefully in the near future, I will be back to normal. Someday, maybe, you will need me to love you a little more. To pick up your slack. To hold you as you cry and love you as you break.

Until that day comes though, I pray you now that I appreciate you so much my sweet husband. For the moods you endure, the tears you dry, the late nights you hug me through. I am so thankful that I married a man who steps up and picks up my slack as I fail.

And is crazy enough to tell me I’m not failing.

Yes, husband, you’re crazy enough to carry so much of the weight in these seasons and yet still deny you are carrying it. You never call me out for slacking on any of it. You simply come in and pick up, treating me with more grace than I can ever extend myself.

Husband-I am lucky to have you. I pray you always know that I know I’m lucky.

Thank you for picking up the slack me. I love you.


May Recap&June Goals

Hey sweet friends! Can you believe today is June 1st? Unlike most of these, where I exclaim how the month flew by…this month dragged on and on. May was a rough month on me on almost all fronts. Spiritual, mental, physical, relational. Everything.

I am so happy it’s June. Walking into a new month I want to focus so hard on making it new. I just hope to leave May and everything that came from it behind. Now, it wasn’t all bad. We did get our dog, we have spent a lot of time hiking, and Josh and I are so much more on the same page. But a new dog is exhausting, hiking isn’t giving me the same freedom as before. And Josh and I are working so well together because we have HAD to.

Overall, I’m so ready for June. Hello June. But before we dive into the new month, let’s review the goals I have done this month!

2 date nights!

We didn’t technically get two date “nights” but we did get two dates. We went out to dinner one night at a local Chinese place. We talked about our trip this summer, my trip to Florida and really caught up. Then we went out to breakfast one day! I feel like breakfast dates do NOT get the loving they should. It was a blast and we got to really reconnect over our favorite meal of the day. We aren’t any further with planning our overnight hunting trip but really all we need to do is pick which day!

Plan our trip to Florida!

As a whole, y’all I’m not much of a planner. Itineraries, schedules, routines…not my thing. When I originally wrote this goal I was hoping to be one of THOSE people. But I’m not. We have our house booked for the five days down there, we have food ideas, we have a few activities…and that’s good enough for me. I still need to finalize our route to drive but it’s mostly perfect.

The kids are so excited and so am I. My sisters and I talk about it far too often. It’s such a wonderful trip.

Continue updating older posts.

I didn’t do great at this. I’ve updated a few since starting this month, but as I mention it’s been a rough month. Any extra time I had I didn’t really spend doing this. There really wasn’t a whole lot of extra time if we’re being honest. It’s going to be an on going procedure. And I’m going to be okay with that.

Maintain or lose weight.

I have been doing okay with this! Before this past weekend I had lost a few more pounds. Memorial Day Weekend really put me off my usual food routine though. I’m probably a pound or so heavier than I was May 1st, but that’s okay! I am still hiking constantly and taking care of my body. Fluctuations aren’t a huge deal when I feel good.

May was apparently much more productive than I thought. Like I said, in raw authenticity…it’s been a hard month. I’m looking forward to a new month with new goals. What are those goals?

Write a post on marriage and one on faith.

I haven’t forgotten about my surveys sweet friends! I know you wanted some more articles on marriage and faith. I intend to have those both in the next month. I have been working on them. Life has just been overwhelming and neither are topics I feel super great at. But I want to listen to your wants! I have plans for both and how I want to tackle them.

Hike 45 miles in June!

That’s only about a mile and a half a day! I really want to stay on top of hiking and I feel like this is a healthy goal for 30 days. I’ve been doing 2-3 miles when I get out on my own, so this is totally doable.

Plan half way homeschool topics.

For those of you who have been around since last summer, you know how much I LOVE doing some unschooling during the summer months. This summer we’re planning on concentrating on survival skills. I want to have weekly ideas for things to read or talk about. With those things, we’ll have lessons that aren’t super structured, but fun. Some ideas include fire starting, shelter building, and edible plants!

If you have any suggestions for lessons, books, whatever for kids…please let me know! Leave me any suggestions for them.


Have two “clean up” hikes.

Guys, love your Earth. Seriously. We only have this one. I got this suggestion from a friend actually, sort of. We’re going to have two hikes that are specifically for helping clean up the trails.

One thing we try to stress with our kids is leaving no trace when we’re out in the woods. It’s depressing to see how few people respect that rule. God’s creation is a gift to man and man…do we miss that. We’re going to clean up as a family in hopes of helping remind our kids how beautiful a gift this world is.

Begin an 100daysproject Challenge.

An Instagram friend of mine is doing this and I loved the idea behind it. You do 100 days of something and share it on Instagram. She is doing 100daysoftruth! I’ve seen them done for a bunch of different things, a lot of art and printing. Anything really!

For mine, I’m going to be doing 100DaysofPoetry. Those of you who know me know poetry and slame are my first loves when it comes to writing. Over the past few years I’ve really put those on the back burner and rarely write poems anymore. I want to change that. Poetry is something that really helps my soul and allows me to share the most intimate parts of me. So be looking forward to that!

What are your goals for June?

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We Are Motherhood: My Story About PostPartum Depression and OCD(Take 2)

Three years ago, I was existing in my new area of motherhood. My youngest(at the time) was 2 months old. We had our four older foster children, all in various stages of becoming forever children. It was what we had been working for since our marriage a short two years earlier. I should have been happier than ever. The depression pregnancy hormones and life curve balls had thrown my way were healing and would be resolved. It was time to be happy.

Instead I was downright miserable.

I was struggling immensely with what I would learn in a few short weeks was post partum depression. A few months after that, almost 6 months after his birth, the diagnosis for obsessive compulsive disorder would come up. As time went on, discussion and therapy continued, we came to realize I had been dealing with OCD most my life. The diagnoses were not a shock. As a woman who struggled with mental illness most my young adult life, it was almost expected.

What I wasn’t quite as ready for is the shame I would feel for being “that mother”.

There’s a weird new shame that comes with postpartum mental illness. Since leaving college I had been open about mental illness. At times I’m more raw and authentic than others, but for the most part I resisted any shameful feelings over my diagnosis. I was all about ending the stigma. Mental health is as important as physical health. The hashtags are easy enough to add to the end of my Insta pictures.

Even so, there was a newfound shame involved in acknowledging I was not as mentally stable as I had thought I would be as a mother. The past was no longer only in the past-my mental health was a big part of each and every day. I found myself unable to sleep, intrusive thoughts interrupting any moments of quiet I may get. The guilt of not attaching “the right way” and hating breastfeeding and attachment parenting was horrible.

I went through a long time pretending like I was okay. And a whole lot of people thought I was. Very few people knew about my increased struggle before I willingly wrote abut it on this blog. I couldn’t tell anyone about it, after all. Mental illness is real and needs to be treated-except mine. Mine was going to be okay; it was going to just go away. And I was too ashamed to share it with others.

That shame is the number one reason I wanted to partake in this campaign.

I know I’ve talked about postpartum depression quite a bit and most of what I’ve shared is nothing new to long term readers. But what I do want to share with y’all today is a little new-a feeling that hangs over me everyday as a mother.

I feel so much guilt and shame for having my mental illnesses affect mine and my kids lives.

I am not sharing this in hopes you all come in and tell me how great a mother I am. At the end of the day, I know I’m a decent one. I work very hard to not allow my kids to experience some of the downfalls of the anxiety, depression, OCD, and PTSD I live with daily. But I also know at the end of the day, they have had to deal with some things only because of my personal struggles. I feel guilty for the first few months of my sons life I doubted he was a good choice. That I was heartbroken and miserable for him and the older kids. That my husband had to pick up a whole bunch of the slack I left there.

The shame of being “that mom” weighed on me. It still does. I hate when I wake up Bear because he’s been sleeping so long, my thoughts lead me to believe he must be dead. I’m not a fan that I’m extra strict with Doodle because of anxiety-a conversation we had that I wish never had to happen. Some days I yell more than I want and often I find myself annoyed at the silliest things, things that shouldn’t set me off do. After those days, I am ashamed of the mother I am and I hate my mental health for not always being at the top of it’s game.

And I don’t think I’m alone.

The fact of the matter is, we all have life events and emotional things that have made us the way we are today. I would bet there are somethings you do because your mother did it when you were growing up. OR on the slip side, things you purposefully don’t do because your father did. We are all molded and shaped into the people we are today because of the things in our past. My kids may remember that I yelled at them for not double checking before playing in the neighbors yard, but they will also remember the days we had blanket forts, movie marathons, and popcorn. They may remember mama had to pull over six times to check Bears seat belt, but they’ll also remember her fearlessly leading them through the woods.

Your kids will remember those great parts too.

I said I wanted to partake in this series because I still feel ashamed of my mental health sometimes. Writing this hasn’t fixed that. But reading so many other people share if on Jamie’s website has. Seeing I’m not alone has. Knowing many, many women out there live each day with maternal mental illness has.

I wanted to share this in spite of my guilt and shame. Because I am the face of postpartum depression. I am the face of maternal mental illness.

And I don’t want to be ashamed of those things.

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EN&MH: Talking to Your Kids About Your Mental Health

Hey sweet friends! Today on Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Health, I wanted to talk to you about your older kids! Specifically how to talk to your older kids about their parents mental illness. In May, I’ve focused intently on Maternal Mental Health. Today’s post is within that umbrella though I am in no way trying to make is sound as though only mothers struggle with a mental illness. This one is for you dads out there too!
As you know if you’ve ever looked at my blog before, I value honesty and openness within the parent-child relationship. I am a firm believer that those traits are the only way we will raise mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy children. I’ve talked about discussing sex openly with your children before. Right now I am working on a post about talking about struggling with faith with your kids. Kids are kids, yes, and there are some topics that are less comfortable to talk with them about. But we must prepare them for this world.

Abstinence only education does not help our children. Same goes for an education that erases mental illness.

Talking about our own mental illnesses with our kids can seem daunting though. I still remember the day our oldest son asked me “So Lauren, why did you leave college?”
It was a hard conversation to have, but I wanted the truth to be out there. So I explained in understandable terms what happened and why I left. I not only empowered my personal experience with mental illness but in turn gave him the tools if he ever needed to talk about a mental illness to another.
Now that’s not to say it was easy. And I totally do not have all the answers on the best ways to do this. I however did want to share what worked for us and how to approach the topic with your kids.

Be aware of what your child can comprehend.

Children have different abilities at all ages and developmental steps. Each child is different. I’m not going to lecture you on what your child is able to understand because you are the person who knows them best. I can tell you this-what I tell my 21 year old about my mental health is very different from what I tell my seven year old. While I do not lie to either, nor do I tell it in niceties, my adult son is capable of comprehending what I am telling him much more clearly than my younger children.

Maybe you’re sitting there wondering “How do I know what they are able to understand?” That’s a hard question to answer. Our little Princess tends to be more in tune with things than most 8 year olds I know, but Monkey usually miss a lot more behaviors tied to mental health. Maybe your life looks similar to that. If you’re unsure what they are able to hear at this point, ask them questions. Let them ask questions. Gauge what they are retaining by having it be an ongoing conversation. Much like sex and their bodies, their comprehension will change with age.

It can’t be a once and done conversation. It’s okay to have it be continuous and morphing with each step.

When I first told Doodle I struggle with anxiety, I said it just like that. I was apologizing for checking her seat belt a third time before leaving. As she has matured, I have shared with her specific parts of my life that have caused my anxiety and why some of those anxieties at times feel projected onto her behaviors. I would venture to say that we have a much better relationship because she understands where I am coming from. While haven’t sat her down and had full out conversations about exactly what causes my PTSD, I have told her that’s what I struggle with and why.

I know this isn’t always the easiest conversation to have. To be completely authentic here, I didn’t even make this choice on my own. A trusted elder pushed me to do it and I took his word on it. Talking about it totally helped though.

Acknowledge the parts your kids can notice-they’re picking up more than you realize.

One of my biggest pet peeves as a parent is that I find we tend to assume our kids don’t notice anything. We pretend that we can hide things so well they will miss what’s really going on. That’s just false. Kids are so much more aware than we give them credit for.

You may think you’re behaviors are too small or your children are too young. This may not be true. Even the smallest thing sticks to our kids.

Let me tell you a little story. My mother hates when her food touches. Hates it. I watched as she put huge spaces between her food for most my life. For her this wasn’t a behavior due to OCD or an eating disorder-it was just how she liked to eat. But she never thought anyone else ever noticed or it effected us. My Mema doesn’t drink while she eats. Also not a behavior because of a mental illness, just a preference. They have both told our families this. Seemingly super small things that probably would never stay in the mind of a small child right?

But after years of watching these behaviors, my siblings and I know these as facts. I no longer even offer Mema water or milk with her meal and when I make a plate for my mama you bet your bottom nothing touches.

Yes, these have nothing to do with mental illness, but it is to serve as an reminder that even the smallest things we believe our kids don’t noticed are noticed by them.

Treat it like a REAL illness.

It is so easy to wave off mental illness. So, so easy. I catch myself doing it sometimes still. “Oh yeah, I mean I have anxiety but it’s not that big of a deal.”

Right now, in this moment, it doesn’t feel like that big of a deal to me. I have it mostly under control. And I understand trying to brush it off as not a big deal in general, with the hope as to not scare your kids. But as I mentioned above, they’re pretty intuitive. Most kids will only be afraid if there is a reason to be.

More important is what their lifelong reaction to mental illness will be. Mental illness is a real illness. Repeat that a few more times. We are taught to treat it differently than anything else because it’s all in our heads. This belief is so ingrained into our culture that even those of us who are advocates sometimes forget to treat our own mental health as kindly as our physical health.

We need to treat our kids that mental health matters.

Be okay with being uncomfortable.

Ladies and gents-we all hate to be uncomfortable. It’s just a fact of life. And some of these conversations may be really uncomfortable. They may bring up conversations you don’t know if you’re ready to have yet. Your child may ask questions you truly don’t want to answer. And that stinks.

I know it can be really hard to cross over some of those lines. We are all here struggling with different mental illnesses, so I can only speak generally and for myself. One really hard conversation I am not looking forward to having someday is when my children ask me where my scars came from. I dread it. I truly do. But the fact it will make me uncomfortable or may be a hard conversation to have doesn’t mean I can shy away from it. If anything the sensitive subject needs to be pushed even harder to talk about because it is such a raw and vulnerable area of my life. 

And don’t forget- if all else fails, get help from a professional. There’s no shame in bringing your child with you to a therapist and having them assist you in explaining what’s going on with your mental health. Having a second person to help may further your child’s understanding.

Mamas, I know this is a hard topic to breech. Some of you may be thinking “Wow, thank GOD I only have an infant for now!”

While I know it can be a hard topic, it’s also such an important one.

As I said above, the way we speak to our children about mental health will shape the way they talk about it forever. If we are ashamed and embarrassed by our diagnoses, they will learn that. They will learn mental illness is something to be ashamed of. If we are open, they will learn the opposite. We empower them to speak about their own mental health. We will teach them that the stigma surrounding mental illness is outdated and silly.

When we talk about mental illness openly and freely, we will raise a generation of people who are empathetic. Who are compassionate. Who are educated.

So please, step outside your comfort level and share your mental illness with your children. Be open, be bold, and be freed.

It’s time to end the stigma, one little person at a time.

*Don’t forget next weeks EN&MH will happen on Tuesday, May 30th!!*

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Five For Friday: May Update!

Hey sweet friends! I know I haven’t been that great at updating you all on our lives as much as I mean to.  A lot of people seem to truly care about what and how we are doing so I wanted to jump on and give you all a little update. In case you didn’t notice, this is a lot later in the day than usual…because my week has been CRAZY. But good, too. So without making you wait any longer, here is what we have been up to the past few weeks!

We got a DOG!

You read that right-a sweet 7 year old named Sasha! She is coming in from another family who had to move and couldn’t keep her. She’s an absolute doll, great with the kids and my new favorite hiking buddy. We brought her on the trail today and she was amazing. I need to work on her endurance a little though, because she’s exhausted after 2 miles!

Our trip to Florida is PLANNED!

Yes, you’ve read that right. Our trip to Florida is ready to go! After much discussion and arguments, we reserved our house. We are staying in a gorgeous condo with two pools and a hot tub! We have our roads mapped out, I’m finalizing where we are staying the two nights we’re driving, and I’m finishing up our summer to do list to share with you all next week. There will be one for Florida and one for the rest of the summer. The rest of the summer one will be super cheap because we have to save some money, you dig?! Keep your eyes peeled for that.

I’ll also be beginning to share VIDEOS as I move forward with this trip. More on our future vlogging life later.

Mama didn’t lose her engagement ring.

Alright y’all, ready for a story? I don’t wear a wedding ring. That’s right, I don’t wear a wedding ring. Neither does my husband. My old ring doesn’t fit and doesn’t match my current engagement ring. Josh lost his. OK, he didn’t LOSE it. He knows where it is…behind a sink he can’t get to.

Anyway, we don’t wear wedding rings. Judge away. We have discussed getting them but for now we’re okay with not having them. I do have an engagement ring I LOVE though. It’s a pearl delicately put in rose gold. Everything about it was perfect for me when he gave it to me. Delicate, pretty, soft, intricate.

And then I had kids.

I always worried about putting my engagement ring on and losing the pearl or one of the diamonds or losing it. Mama only wears it on special occasions like Mother’s Day. Only, this Mother’s Day I thought I lost it-I couldn’t find it ANYWHERE. I spent a week searching for it only to find it sitting on my bureau UNDER my jewelry box. Put it on for Mother’s Day and at the end of the day I put it right back in my jewelry box!

Speaking of Mother’s Day-Praise Jesus for Mother’s Day.

This Mother’s Day was absolutely amazing. I’ve shared quite a few times on how rough it can be on adoptive and foster parents. It can be emotional and exhausting. This Mother’s Day however was absolutely fabulous. My husband surprised me with  day off, a present, and my kiddos made me presents and cookies. It was an amazing day I desperately needed and I am so thankful I got it. It was a breath of fresh air. I love you Joshua(not that he would read this but…oh well!)

Life has been really good lately.

Life has also been kind of hard the past few weeks.

I’ve always been pretty honest on here and I’m going to very honestly tell you…the past few weeks have been kind of rough. It may be because oh my favorite aunt flo coming back. It also may be weaning Bug. Maybe because it’s summertime.  No matter what it is, something has me all out of whack and pretty emotional. So that’s there. I’ve been pretty proactive in meeting with some friends and talking it through as well as getting out hiking extra. I would love your prayers as we make it through the summer. As I find joy and peace within this summer. After all, peace is my word of the year!

Anyway, that’s what life has looked like lately! I’m working on a post about hiking safety, the one about our summer goals, and of course-I truly AM doing a few on marriage! Just have to work myself up to them.

What have you been up to lately?

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EN&MH: We’re Contributing to Our Loved Ones Maternal Mental Illnesses (&How to NOT)

On the third installment of my mini series inside Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Heath, I’m talk today to the older mamas, the more experienced grandmothers, the people who should be showing the most support yet may be doing the most damage to those just joining our army of mothers. Again, this was written in honor of Maternal Mental Health Month. This article can be used for those women who just gave birth, those adopting infants and those doing foster to adopt.

Depression in motherhood seems to be at an all time high. I see people blame everything, from the foods they eat to the comparison game we play on Instagram. People say it may not be that depression and mental illness is at an all time high, but acceptance is and that has led more people to open up about theirs. I definitely agree that is a good thing. I’m not sure we can pinpoint an exact reason why so many new mothers struggle with mental health, but I do think I know one thing that contributes to it.


Okay, well, maybe not you, not specifically. But definitely older moms. Grandmothers. Women in the church. Women online. In message groups. During the discussions for nursery at your church.

I’m not talking about the comparison game. We’ve all heard about the dangers of online comparison. Jealousy and inadequacy are amplified as you see the perfect life others may be living on Instagram. That may be a contributing factor as well. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

I want to talk to you guys today about the disease that fills our young mothers souls-a disease of dread, apathy, and resigning to exhaustion and loneliness. The disease of “Welcome to motherhood.” Of “Get used to it now.”

And this disease is spread by the women we love most in our lives.

I’ll be the first to admit, in defeat, I’ve done this to other mamas. They are complaining about how tired they are and I laugh. “Oh, you’ll live your life in exhaustion. Welcome to motherhood.” I’ve tried to stop, since recognizing what “standing in solidarity” does to the new moms in my life. It strips them of their hope. The empathy they are hoping to receive becomes dread at what the future holds.

We take away the future joys of motherhood by lamenting the hardships.

I see it everywhere. Pregnant women are told they won’t ever sleep again. We nod in agreement when a new mom is saying how lonely she is, mentioning the last play date we had was months ago. We share in laughter at the very thought of how lucky some moms are to have a partner who helps. Messy houses are shrugged at, as we eloquently dream of “someday.”

Someday we will be able to sleep again. One day our house will be clean. Someday we will eat right, get date nights, be adequately met in our need for self care.

Someday, someday, someday.

What if instead of meeting moms where they need to be met, we are simply hurting the moms we love by these jokes and jabs at motherhood?

Now imagine this instead. Because obviously, I’m not here to just yell at us all for being failures and walk away. That’s a little outside my norm right? I like to fix problems, not cause them!

Instead picture this.

You know a woman at your church just gave birth. It’s her second in 18 months. You want to joke about never sleeping again, but you hold your tongue. Instead you send her a message on Facebook and offer to make her a meal. You bring over something, because you know as well as I do she’s not going to make a nutritious meal with two little ones. You stay around for awhile, helping her wrangle her almost two year old. The dishes are still sitting there from a few days earlier so you roll up your sleeves and do them while she relaxes. Eventually you’re heading home, leaving her a few leftovers for the middle of the night feeding and a cleaned up kitchen.

Instead of taking away any hope she may have of bouncing back, you’re giving her love and hope.

Bringing Christ into her life as she struggles in those first few weeks-the hardest there are in my opinion. You’ve given her food, company, a mini break, and the love she needs in that moment.

What if, and this is a radical notion, we stepped up and offered that to the new moms we all know and love? Or the ones who may not be new, but are in the midst of the struggle. Because, trust me, even as an experienced mama I need that love from my village. (Can I be considered an experienced mama yet?!)

I would love to challenge all the women (and men, maybe!) out there to step forward and offer love to these mamas instead of unfunny jokes and hope draining jabs. If you’re a mom, think of this-would that comment help you in the middle of your crisis mode? Or would it hurt you even more? If you’re not a mom…ask me!

I don’t believe this will eradicate maternal mental illness. I’m well versed enough in mental health to know there are so many factors to mental illness. I am also well versed enough to know this would help so many mamas I know. It would have helped me. Below I have a few concrete ways to help instead of making comments on a Facebook post!

And mamas, if you find yourself identifying with the mama who isn’t being very helpful, give yourself grace. You can and WILL do better.

To the Mama Who Dreads Mother's Day

To the Mama Who Dreads Mother’s Day

To the mama who dreads Mother’s Day

I know what this weekend brings. Your emotions are probably in overload. Maybe there’s guilt, because you don’t want to erase their first mom. Resentment because you would love the Mother’s Day they talk about in mom groups. Annoyance because holidays should be easier than they are in your life. Heartache because you know it’s not only you having a hard time. Jealousy because you really just want a year where it’s actually about you. And shame-because you shouldn’t be feeling all these things.

Maybe this is your first year as a mother or your tenth, but for some reason Mother’s Day never feels as good as you were promised. If you came from a healthy nuclear family, you probably remember Mother’s Day with some fondness. You made your mother a card or bought her a gift and celebrated the woman who kept you alive as a child.
If you came from a blended family, or one that was unhealthy, that’s probably not the case. It may bring up old feelings of betrayal, confusion, or more shame at what your family looked like. If you’re struggling with those on top of what’s going on in your life today, I am truly sorry.
Nevertheless we had expectations for what life would look like when WE became mom on Mother’s Day. We give our children our all, each and every day of the year. Every sports meet, every extra curricular, every dinner.

We were going to be moms who were worth celebrating.

But instead of what you pictured as a perfect celebration of your parenting, Mother’s Day is uncomfortable. It’s triggering. It leaves you feeling shame, guilt, jealousy, heartache, and pain. Sometimes, if you’re like me and so many other trauma mamas out there, it leaves you feeling helpless and broken as your babies struggle to cope.

If you’re an adoptive mama, or foster mama(and maybe even step mama, I’m not sure because I’ve never been one!) chances are Mother’s Day is not all flowers and breakfast in bed.

If you’re anywhere on social media by now, you’ve seen the memes and videos about what moms really want on Sunday. Sleep. A clean house. A moment alone without their kids. Moms all over are sharing these posts and laughing together. Well maybe not all moms-because what I want for Mother’s Day is a little more complex, yet less intense and easier. Or one on the outside of adoptive and foster parenting would think.

I want my children to not feel the weight of choosing between two mothers each and every year. Because if they celebrate me, does that take away from their first mom? (Correct answer, no. And celebrating their birth parents does not take away from us. Stay tuned for more on that)

I want to wake up to “Happy Mothers Day” instead of screams and sobs about how horrible I am.

I would love for the week leading up to be given flowers from the garden or even a smile instead of punches and kicks as they attempt to cope with feelings they’re still having trouble understanding.

What I wouldn’t give to not have to comfort my crying child as she holds tightly to flower for her other mama. Every year she takes one for her and the past two, it’s been left sitting on our table until it finally wilted. But do I tell her she can’t take it?

I need to make sure those living outside this realm of reality understand, I do not feel threatened by celebrating my kids birth mother. She is their mother as well and giving her that honor on Mother’s Day will not take away from who I am. Just like we can celebrate grandmothers and aunts and if you’re a member of our church, every female in the building.

But because it’s such a complicated relationship, we can’t just invite her to brunch too. We can’t call her up and say “Hey Happy Mother’s Day.” My kids have so many emotions in their tiny little bodies and sadly this day is one of those holidays that really bring them up.

And this day is one of emotion and conflicting thoughts for me as well.

I know I’m not the only mother out there who is on their way into a weekend that can go two ways. Maybe my kids have come to terms with their past or are going to cope really well. Or maybe it’s going to be a war zone in my house, as we all fight for the same thing. A feeling of security, the love we crave and the love we want to give. We’re not actually battling each other, but sometimes in their little minds, they don’t know the difference between battling each other and their memories, emotions, and pasts.

So, mamas, if you’re like me and coming up on a hard Sunday: I see you. You are loved. You are worth breakfast in bed and flowers on your table and longing for what simpler family relations give. I am so sorry this day is about to be difficult. I’m sorry if your week has looked like mine and behaviors have already spun out of control. I can’t stop that.

But I see you. You are loved. And you are mama.

It’s easy to forget in the mess of things that truth. You are parenting these kids because you love them. And chances are, they love you. These overwhelming emotions and thoughts doesn’t change the basic fact that one thing holds you together. Love. Even when they’re screaming they hate you and would rather live with their “real mother”.

Sweet friends, be gentle with yourselves this weekend. Take the moments you need to recuperate. Hold tight to the Gospel truths, that your worth is not found in who brings you flowers or even simply smiles at you on Mother’s Day, but in the knowledge you are doing Kingdom works and are exactly where God called you to be.

And friends who are on the outside of this battle, please remember. We chose this. Most of us knew exactly what we were walking into when we signed up. I was well educated

And, I would choose it all over again.

Allow us a little grace. Give our children some too.
It’s hard, even when you’re fully prepared, to deal with the days that bring up turmoil and heartbreak. It’s hard, even when you’ve been trained thirty hours by the state, to know exactly how to handle it all. Harder still, even when it happens every year, to cope with the fights and insults thrown your way. It’s hard when that coping has to come second to helping your children cope first. And it’s hard, even with the knowledge of psychology to not allow yourself to feel hurt.

Be kind. Let our kids celebrate or feel whatever it is they need to feel. They made a letter for Mama S? Fine. Great. It truly is okay with me. They tell stories about the nice things she does? AWESOME. They’re remembering the positives. Taking that right from them will only hurt us at the end of the day. Let them be human. Allow them the feelings the have.

(For more tips on how to behave on Mother’s Day, read here!)

And please, give them grace.

They truly do not want to meltdown any more than you or I want them to. Our kids want a good day. They just can’t control what’s happening inside them all the time. Please be gracious about their struggles. And remember, you know some of their story, but not all of it. Trauma is long lasting and hard to handle as an adult now. I can attest to that. I can’t imagine as a child who may lack the vocabulary to properly convey their feelings.

Hug a mama you know who may be going through this. Love on us a little extra this weekend. I wish it was easier, I truly do. But until it becomes easier, I need a little extra loving.

And mamas, a final note for you.

You are loved. I see you. And you are mama.

I’m praying for all those mother’s out there who are going into this weekend feeling broken down and worn out. Please, if you have a specific prayer request, let me know. Don’t feel guilty for not loving this weekend like the world thinks you should. Parenting complicated situations is…well complicated.

tlaking to friend about PPD

EN&MH: Talking to a Friend About PPD

Hey sweet friends, today we’re going to dive into Maternal Mental Health Month a little further and we’re going to discuss something very near and dear to my heart-when someone you love is struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety.

The first person to come to me and tell me things felt off was my husband. He was there day in and out, watching me struggle. Since he’s met me, Josh has watched me battle a hundred battles for my mental health. When I began to present signs of postpartum depression and anxiety, Josh was the one who brought it up. Without him pushing me I’m not sure I ever would have sought help.

I know many of you reading this today are biological mothers. My survey from this spring showed that. Some of you may have struggled through postpartum mental health issues, others maybe not. The chances are that even those of you who are not birth mothers will be around someone who does give birth are pretty high as well. I believe it’s always important to be vigilant and there for these new (and OLD) mothers! Here are some ways you can try help a mother struggling with postpartum mental health issues.

Know the signs.

The first and most important part of this is to know what you’re looking for. Postpartum mental illness can take on many forms. It doesn’t always look like what we picture a severely depressed person looking like: unable to leave their bed and crying constantly. Sometimes a person dealing with this goes on able to function the exact same way.

I wrote about how to recognize postpartum depression before, for mothers who just gave birth. This information though could be great for any of their friends and relatives. I also urge people to remember the many different forms mental illness can take postpartum.

Know the facts.

A person can develop postpartum depression after one baby and not any others. They can have four without it and then one with it. The woman can have a huge history of mental illness or they can be one of those people who have never had any mental health issues. (Those still exist, right?) Not all moms with PPD are dangerous-but yes, some can be. This isn’t about having “more faith”; it’s a mental illness. Whether a woman becomes pregnant on accident, or has been trying for years, it may develop. If she’s virtually alone with the baby or has the best support system ever.

Know the facts! It’s imperative you are educated not only on the signs but also on the facts surrounding maternal mental illness. Being aware will give you more power as you to help. Knowing the facts about it will also help you…

Know your personal bias.

I don’t say this out of judgment sweet friends. We all have some personal biases. I have a very good AND EDUCATED, friend who once said to me “What do I even have to be depressed about?” She never once questioned my depression. But when she was diagnosed with it she didn’t want to accept it because she had a good life. There was no trauma and nothing to be depressed about.

Sweet friends, sometimes there’s no trauma or outside contributing actors. A mental illness is a mental illness. Like cancer, it can occur at no fault of the individual. But also like cancer, there can be things that happen in your life that cause it to develop. Postpartum depression is not excused from this comparison.

Unlike cancer though, we as a society want something to point at and say “This is what caused it” when it comes to mental illness. That “this” isn’t always there.

Sometimes the mental illness just is.

Why do I share this little spiel? Because we all have personal biases. And that’s okay. You shouldn’t live in them-you should work your bottom off to rid yourself of ignorant biases. But the time to work on that is NOT when going to a friend in the midst of a struggle.

Before you approach a new mama you think is struggling, make sure you have yourself in check. Did you think “well she’s wanted this for so long, what does she have to be upset about?” That’s not something to say to a new mom. Do you think “It’s normal to check a child’s breathe 60 times in the night, unable to sleep because you’re so anxious?” Also don’t say that.

Be aware of your own personal biases and do not force the ones you have on a struggling parent.

(Some cute babies to lighten this hard topic!)

Know what to ask. (AND LISTEN)

Once you have all the things above done, it’s time to approach this mother you love. Please, please, please, for all things that are good and holy, do not just come out and say “I think you have postpartum depression.” Instead, ask things.

“How are you doing?”

“Have you been sleeping/eating/getting out?”

“How do you feel?”

“What can I do for you?”

These are all examples of open ended questions you can ask the mama you’re worried about. After you ask them, really and truly LISTEN. Hear what she has to say. It’s possible she’s overjoyed and is just hormonal so happy people make her cry. It’s possible she’s getting no sleep but coping with that well. (That was me after Bear.) Listen to what she’s saying.

And listen to what she’s not saying. Body language doesn’t lie. Is she making eye contact? Is she crossing her arms, which means she’s closing herself off? Does she seem uneasy while telling you how she is?

Be aware of what she says and what she doesn’t say.

Know when to speak.

This one is tricky. You don’t want to cause discomfort for a mom but you also want to help. I get that. After asking her questions and listening to the answer, you may still be worried. That means it’s time to speak up. Speaking up and “confronting” her may feel terrifying. But it’s important to remember you are doing this out of love, not anger or judgment. (Go back to number three and make sure there’s no judgment!) Some ways you can openly ask her while not making her feel attacked:

“Hey, I noticed you haven’t been feeling great, have you talked to your midwife about it?”

“You seem really down lately. How can I help?”

“I’ve seen you struggling lately, do you think talking to someone would help? Can I help you find someone?”

Other mamas reading this-THIS is when you would speak up if you’ve been through it. There’s something so comforting in knowing we are not alone. The first time I shared about my personal struggle with PPD, I had a friend message me on Facebook. She was also struggling and felt empowered to talk about her emotions with her spouse because I had just shared mine. (If you ever wondered why I share so intimately and honestly about my mental health-this is why. Because no one should ever feel alone in it.)

Know when you need help.

A little rawness here, because what else am I ever, know when you need help. I share this not only in relation to maternal mental health, but all mental health. I’ve lost friends to suicide. A few. I’ve also been the person calling them, anxious that they are going to commit suicide. There have been days of my time I sat in emergency rooms with friends who didn’t want to be there, but I couldn’t convince them to be safe.

Know when you need to reach out to the family members, spouse, other friends for help. Talking about someone maliciously is never okay, but talking about someone to keep them safe. Be aware of your limits as a person.

I hope this helps sweet friends. Loving people who are struggling can be hard, but you wanting to help is such a blessing.