Happy October! One of the best months ever…in the best season ever! The leaves change, the chill comes. My three favorite holidays exist! October is one of the best months in a year, in my humble opinion.

As I try to jump back into blogging, as I have been doing for the past few weeks, I decided it may be time to share some monthly goals again! Sharing these has held me accountable before and I hope in writing out my goals for October, I will be better equipped to actually succeed in my goals.


Share four blog posts!

I’m starting off small as we move back into blogging. Writing has not come back to me as easily as it had before and I find myself writing more personal things when I DO write. A post a week is much larger than where I’ve been at, but I believe I can make it happen! If nothing else, I have at least one that should come easily-a pregnancy update. Writing is a passion of mine though, and I need to start making more time for it.

Post on Instagram daily

Guys, Instagram has always been one of my all time favorite social medias. Mostly because, honestly, I’ve never approached it as a super intense blogging platform. I’ve always just used it more for fun and it’s grown as a blog tool on the side. For some reason though, this past month I have not loved it. I don’t think it’s the comparison game, as I honestly don’t care about how “good” it looks as long as my heart is being shared. But I NEED to start sharing more again!


Go to the Pumpkin Patch!

One of the BEST parts of autumn in my opinion is the trip to the pumpkin patch. Because of Josh’s work schedule, we are looking at some pretty hard planning on our part to make this a full out family trip. I think it’s 100% worth it to make it happen though. I love this trip and can’t wait.

Figure out the Halloween costumes

I love Halloween, but I have a problem. My kids are older and therefore have opinions on things. BAD OPINIONS. Okay, okay, not bad opinions, but opinions that do not fit into what my hope is. Halloween is a prime example. I want an adorable family costume, with all of us to a theme. Doodle, Princess, and Monkey have pretty much destroyed that hope. With Josh being kind of the worst partner when it comes to family fun things…I give up. That being said, I still need to try and have Halloween costumes ready before the 30th this year! Wish me luck because Monkey has changed what he wants to be at least five times already.


Climb Mount Greylock!

On October 9th, the 50th Annual Ramble will be happening. On that Monday the area residents and people from all over, come around and climb up to the highest peak of Massachusetts! If you’ve been around the past year, you saw our trip up. This year we are going at it again. We are still unsure of which family members will be hiking, but we’re aiming for Princess, Doodle, Josh and myself! And yes—I’m doing this 22 weeks pregnant! It’s a huge undertaking for me but I need to do this to prove I can!

Begin walking daily again

I let my daily exercise come to an end because of the heat and pregnancy. Now it’s finally cooling down and I can walk more than five minutes without feeling like I’m going to pass out! With that change, I desperately need to begin exercising daily again. I would love to remain under 200lbs this pregnancy and be healthier at the end than the other two. I worked super hard to get where I am right now and I don’t want to just let that go because there’s a kiddo growing in me.


Start a Bible Study!

In the summer, I was not able to go to bible study because none of them happened at a time that I could consistently get child care. Now that the school year has begun, Awana has come back on Wednesdays. We’re so blessed that my church also offers bible studies and nursery on Awana nights. Now I just need to get there and stay involved. It’s so much easier to drop the littles off and come home and relax.

Do a personal bible study.

I have been doing really good getting bible verses throughout the day through GoTandem(I’m not being paid to say this, my church just suggested it!). However I would love to begin doing a daily bible study on my own. I find that as a mom of six, RightNow Media and watching videos through it have been the easiest way to get it in. I love to watch a video while I’m doing dishes or folding laundry. I just need to get back into the habit of putting that on instead of trash television or Discovery Channel!

So there we have it! Our eight goals for the month of October. I’ll check back in the first week of November to let you all know how we did.

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20 Week Pregnancy Update-Lucky Bellows

Hey sweet friends! Today is my 20 week bumpdate with baby Lucky!

To get the most important thing out of the way- yes! We had the anatomy scan and baby lucky is a beautiful, bouncing baby boy! If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve probably seen the announcement and the middle kiddos reactions. Needless to say, my kids are hilarious.

Just a few disclaimers with the anatomy scan!

  1. We are completely overjoyed either way. This baby being a boy has not changed my mind about possibly calling it quits on biological babes, though as my friends in real life can confirm, about a week ago I started really questioning being done either way, so we will see what happens.
  2. The scan was absolutely perfect! Baby is measuring just right, there’s no signs of any kind of complications. My placenta is anterior which may make movement on the outside hard to feel for awhile…but it’s all good!
  3. We have not announced a name and that’s not because we’re being secretive or coy-we literally have no idea what to use for a name. It’s a problem! We come to an agreement for a day and then one of us (read me) decides something is wrong with the name and I back out. For the first time ever, we may get to the hospital without a name decided upon. I’m trying to be okay with that!


Second trimester is still being decidedly kinder to me than the first, though I won’t lie-the physical symptoms I’ve had this time are still not that much fun! Despite unhealthy cravings, too much grease makes me sick. My face is still breaking out and it’s pretty painful.

No new stretchmarks have made their presence known. My hair is growing like crazy and despite still being 2lbs under my first weigh-in at the midwives, I feel like my body is holding onto every ounce of water. Overall though, I’m feeling okay.


Life has thrown a lot our way the past few weeks, but we’ve got this. Josh, being amazing because hes amazing, has really helped hold it all together. The only real thing I’m struggling with at the moment is pretty normal and average things. Which are never fun, but not notable for metal health changes!

I’m also feeling so excited for this baby to grow and come. All our kids were very much wanted and planned, but as Bear is becoming more and more independent and James is even sleeping in his own bed some nights, another baby sounds pretty great! It’s hard to believe I used to be the lady who offered to skip any and all infants. But MY infants are different and so much easier for me. (I think it’s in the “just pop the boob in” approach I take ha!)


Older Kids&Daddy:

Well, we told Princess it’s a baby boy and her exact words were, “Why?” But in all seriousness, the boys are very excited to have another little brother and the girls are dealing well. Daddy is excited for the potential of naming another boy. He insists he knew all along this was a boy.

We’ve been talking lot about where babies come from, how they develop, and all that jazz. I’m waiting for the day Bug says uterus to some stranger.


Lucky is now the size of an axolotl, which the kids are going to be super excited about since they learned about them at VBS to summers ago! He’s about halfway done growing. And there are only 4 weeks left until viability! That’s my second favorite day in pregnancy-while I know things can happen and I need faith in God through it all, I always breathe a little easier after we hit that point.

I am trying so hard to get back to writing regularly! Writing is something I love, and I miss doing. However it can be so hard with all these kiddos and life or house obligations. I will be back!

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18 Week Pregnancy Update: LuckyBellows!

Hey friends! It’s probably about time I give a pregnancy update, huh? Since I’m two weeks away from hitting the halfway point and we’ll know the sex soon. Maybe time? Of course!


Thus far, second trimester has been much kinder to me than the first. My nausea has subsided, the exhaustion is gone. I’ve actually lost some weight which I am not complaining about! I have also found that I am starting to be able to eat regularly again. Which for me means more veggies and fruits. I’m quite pleased to see no new stretchmarks-Bear’s pregnancy they flared out, bright red, starting at 14 weeks!


I won’t lie-I’ve been better mentally. Hormones tend to make my OCD and anxiety out of control. Thankfully the anxiety has not been quite as bad as intrusive thoughts with OCD. For the time being we’re simply watching what I eat, making sure no caffeine is involved, and leaning into Christ.

If the time comes where we need to explore therapy or medication, we will, but for now it’s mostly just annoying. I get frustrated as my moods slide all over the place because for the most part it’s not an intellectual feeling. It just simply is. C’est la vie. Hopefully hormones will even out as we move along further and further…and enter my FAVORITE time of the year!

Big Kids&Daddy:

Well Bug loves to talk to my belly and Bear blows raspberries on it constantly…so they seem okay with this change? Monkey enjoys saying hi. Princess and Doodle are still rooting for a little girl and let’s be real here-so am I!

Daddy is still not 100% on board with this being our last bio babe. He seems to think he’ll be able to convince me otherwise as time goes on. I seem to think there’s a slim chance of that but hey. Who knows? However many little toes we are blessed with and however they come to us, we will love and cherish them.


Lucky is the size of a sugar glider right now. I can feel the babe kicking away though my placenta is anterior again so we have to wait awhile before anyone on the outside can catch one. Apparently babe’s hair is growing in and their ears are developing. Maybe this means I should slow the hard rap in the car? Currently we are looking at a babe coming between February 1st and 14th. We will not be announcing the exact date except to the people who are helping care for our children.

All in all, baby and family are doing great! In our next update we should be able to announce the sex!

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Life/Blog Update

Hey all! Long time no blog. Like…really long time, no writing.

This summer has been amazing! But also crazy busy. Finding time to blog between summer school, hiking, camps, and all these kids made blogging nearly impossible. I wish that wasn’t true and that I could mom hardcore and still write daily. I simply couldn’t this summer.

Now that school has started back up, I can come back though and update you all on our life again. The days off while my kids are almost all in school and I can sit nicely while eating with the littlest ones have left me able to do Bible studying and writing again. And I am PUMPED.

Before I just jump into blogging regularly again though, I wanted to share a bit of this summer excitement with you all and give you guys a family update.

Life Update:

First and foremost, for those of you who don’t know…we are pregnant with Lucky Bellows…baby number 7! As of today, I am 17 weeks and feeling a bunch better than I did in the first trimester. We still do not know what baby Lucky is, but we do have names picked for both a boy and a girl! Josh and I are beyond excited; the girls are really hoping for a baby lady.

My due date is February 13th, so we shall see when Little Lucky comes along. We are not scheduling the cesarean before 40 weeks unless something is not going well so there is the possibility of a Valentine’s Baby!

This summer was fairly uneventful except our wonderful trip to Florida! Yes, that’s right we went to Florida to visit my great grandmother. With two of my sisters, I drove to Florida with the five younger kids. (Dynamite was working, sadly!)

It was the most fun I think we could have had! We visited the Everglades, spent time in the ocean, and loved the pool. The trip there and back weren’t actually that bad, despite driving there and back. The kids were perfect in the car! I don’t know how I got so lucky… but I did! I plan to share a little bit about that in a larger blog post.

Blog Update:

I’m still struggling with this blog, y’all. I want to bring glory to God in my writing, help others, and encourage families and couples to live as happily as they can. The problem being-I feel mightily ill equipped to do those things. Why? I have no idea. Most likely it’s doubt and fear coming from the enemy. But it’s still very real. Every time I write something I feel as though it is not good enough, I am not good enough, and it’s not worth putting it out there.

I’m not sharing that for reassurance; I know many of you are avid followers who checked back all summer and have encouraged me to write. I am so thankful for you all.

Why I am sharing this though, centers around a request I have. If you could, just while you’re saying your prayers, mention wisdom, discernment, and bravery on my behalf. I want to be brave. The stories I have inside of me are all of Jesus’ doing. In Him alone can I stand here, a mom of 7 before I turn 26, a truly happily married wife, and a person whose journey to this place was met with obstacles and trials that may help others. My greatest hope is to use these stories to encourage and bring peace to others living where I have been, by leading them to the One who gives that peace to me.

I would just love prayers to continue to be brave and to become braver in sharing those stories.

I hope you all are excited to see us back and I cannot wait to share more with you all. Baby updates will begin in the next week or so and I am so pumped to share some of the things I have been learning this summer and what we’re looking forward to this fall.

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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.

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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.

helping a friend (1)

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!!*