Hello friends! I hope you have been enjoying this series on motherhood I've been working on. When I decided to work on a personal project, I immediately thought of working with some local moms because I have a dear place in my heart for mamas. I wanted to use this space to hear different perspectives on what it's like to be a mom.
I'm involved with a local group for moms, and one of their hashtags for this year is #thisismotherhood. I loved that line so much, and have been honored to be a part of a group of moms who embrace their differences, embrace each other, accept each other just as they are, and our group is really a non-judgmental place for moms to get together. I reached out in my group to see if anyone would be interested in sharing part of their motherhood journey, and I was blown away with the responses I got. I have been able to start meeting with the moms who I'll be working with, and I get to sit down with them for an hour, take some photos, and listen to them share. It's been so beautiful and such an honor for me.
Because I'm sharing parts of the stories of different women who have voluntarily sat down with me, I'd ask that you approach reading these posts with respect and an understanding that these stories are sacred. Please honor this space. The moms I'm interviewing all have a unique and different story of their journey to motherhood. No two will be alike, and that is so beautiful to me. Please honor these women and listen to their story free of judgement, assumptions, or negativity. We deal with enough of that already, right?
Please accept these stories as parts of the bigger picture of being a mother and being human, and recognize how rich that makes this world. Thank you for taking the time to read and listen.
With much love,
Cynthia lives in Ingalls with her husband Patrick, and her 4 children, Cole (7), Aurora (almost 4), Payton ( almost 3), and Logan (almost 1). She works at East 91st Street Christian Church Preschool in Indianapolis. She is working towards finishing her Child Development Associate degree and desires to become a lead Preschool teacher. If that all goes as planned, she also has plans to work on her personal training certification. Cynthia is quiet, kind, and during our session wasn't afraid to be completely real, which is a quality I admire so much. She welcomed me into the very real life she leads with her family of 6, and made me feel right at home in their routine. I really enjoyed hearing Cynthia share, and I hope you enjoy reading through her story below.
Tell me a little bit about your journey to motherhood.
"My husband and I met in high school, and we got married when we were 19. I was going into my sophomore year in college and Patrick was going in as a freshman, so we didn’t have plans to start a family right away. I’ve always wanted kids, I grew up around kids, I babysat a lot. In my family you got married, you had kids, and that’s just what you did.
I got pregnant with Cole the beginning of my senior year of college. And I was so sick, couldn’t keep anything down and lost a lot of weight during the first part of that pregnancy. I experienced preeclampsia with his pregnancy, and enjoyed all the side effects of water retention and feeling swollen. That was really hard because aside from having to deliver early, and even though we were only an hour from family it was just far enough that we couldn’t have much help. Cole was in the NICU after he was born at 35 weeks and 3 days. He was only in the NICU for 10 days, and did really well. He was tiny, but perfectly fine. He was born the week before finals week at college, but thankfully I had really great professors who were flexible with my exams and it was really awesome.
With all that went on, delivering early, being away from family, being the first baby, and having the NICU experience, it triggered some pretty rough depression. It took me about 9 months before I really did anything about it, and the only reason I went in was because I kept experiencing bleeding after the birth. So I figured while I was in there, I’d talk with them about the depression. I started some antidepressants after seeing a counselor, and Patrick was really against it at the time and wasn’t very supportive in the beginning, so I actually took myself off the antidepressants. In high school, I was diagnosed with Dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder, which is only slightly different than clinical depression, but I still had periods of feeling low. I actually lied to my doctors about my diagnosis when they asked questions ahead of time during my pregnancy. I was afraid to talk to anyone about feeling depressed because I was scared that CPS would be called on me, or they would take my baby, because you hear so many stories of really severe cases of depression where it’s hard for moms to care for their babies. So because of the depression and the traumatic period around Cole’s birth, I feel like I missed out on the bonding time with him, and I feel like he is closer to Patrick because of that.
We ended up having to move back in with my parents, Patrick was in between jobs, I was working two jobs, and we found out I was pregnant with our second child. Patrick later got a job in Noblesville, so we had moved from Muncie to this area. My friend was in the hospital in labor at the same time I went into labor with Aurora, and she was born only hours apart from my friend’s daughter. They had the same doctor, so that was fun.
Aurora was 5 months old when I found I was pregnant with Payton. There’s so much repenting that has gone on through that experience. I’m incredibly impatient, so I always find out when I’m 4-5 weeks along. I had gone out with my MOPS table for a mom’s night out, and another mom said how she always feels phantom kicks when she’s first pregnant, and I said how I was feeling the same thing. My cycle had been inconsistent, so I decided to pick up a test on my way home thinking it would be no big deal. I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t wait until the morning, so I got up in the middle of the night to take the test. And after I took the test I think I said every bad word you can probably think and probably made up some and I was every emotion you could feel. I felt panic, a tinge of excitement because it was a baby, but mostly panic. I was trying to think of how to tell Patrick. I had to wake him up and tell him and his response was “great.” So we got through that and had our baby girl.
Then with Logan, he tried to come out a few months early but with the help of medication and the doctors we were able to keep him in until 37 weeks. He was in the NICU for a few days and is doing so well now. So that’s kind of how my journey has gone."
What is one of the things you love the most about being a mother?
"That no matter how much I mess up, they still love me. Especially with anxiety which made me so stressed that I would yell. There were rough moments, but at the end of the day, the kids were patient with me and showed me such unconditional love."
What has been one of the hardest things about being a mother?
"Functioning with the lack of sleep. Having kids takes sleep deprivation to a whole new level, and I’ll even have to call friends while I’m driving to stay awake. I forget things a lot. I have a heart condition which makes me fatigued anyway, but the sleep deprivation just got a whole lot worse and made me feel so much more tired after having kids."
How do you maintain a sense of who you were before you had kids?
"Growing up in the family that I did, where everyone just got married and had kids, I always knew I wanted to have lots of kids. Four is good, by the way. :) I did a lot of babysitting and was always around kids growing up, so this is who I always was, I think. I mean sure, sometimes I’d love to go out and see a movie and not have to worry about a $20 movie ticket, and $50 for babysitting and having to organize it all ahead of time. I think the only other thing I did before kids that I don’t do very often now is read. We have to schedule time for me to read because I’m not one to only read a couple chapters, I get into the book and end up reading it all. So I would love to have more time to read someday."
What is something that makes your motherhood story unique?
"Anymore, I think it’s the fact that we started so young. As far as my friends from high school go, some are just recently married or getting married soon and there are no kids, and I have 4! But as far as my family goes, my grandma got married at 15 and had my mom when she was 16. My mom got married when she was 18 and had me at 19. I got married at 19 and I had just turned 22 when I had Cole, so we’re progressing out. :) So with my family, it’s perfectly normal. But as far as my peers, I’m just apparently way ahead of the game."
What is one of your biggest dreams that has yet to be realized?
"So I know I said 4 was enough, my body is done, but I’ve always wanted to adopt. We want to obviously wait until these kids are older and until it would work out financially. I’d love to adopt sibling groups or older kids. It’s definitely something that we want. Patrick’s joked before as we’ve driven past a hotel that if we bought it I would want to fill every room with kids."
What would you say to your younger pre-motherhood self now if you could?
"The dishes can wait. That’s one of the things I really stressed over with Cole and Rory. I wanted to have a straightened up, not necessarily spotless, but somewhat presentable house. It was probably in a MOPS group, somebody said ‘What do you want your kids to remember, that your house was clean or that you played with them and did crazy stuff and had fun with them?’ So as you can tell, I’ve really embraced that. The dishes don’t have to be done every night, and as long as there’s no mold growing on the dirty dishes, we’re good! Patrick is really good at helping me and doing the dishes. We’re a family of 6, so after one meal, the sink is full! So we try to not stress about it too much."
In what ways has motherhood changed you?
"I think it’s forced me to stand up for myself a little bit more. I was always shy as a kid, and always tried to avoid confrontation. But now, if someone even looks wrong at my kids, I’m ready to throw down. And it translates to me with jobs and other interests too, and I don’t have a problem saying no to things that won’t be best for me in the season I’m in."
What’s something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?
"To just try and not to worry about what’s on Facebook or tv, or what other people say. As long as you’re doing your best for your kids, it will all be ok. When I was pregnant with Cole and was so sick, I’d watch shows like Bringing Home Baby, and I wanted to learn as much as I could. But now, as long the kids are fed and taken care of, I don’t stress about all the other stuff."
What is one thing you expected to be true about motherhood but turned out to be different?
"I thought that I could balance being a mom and keeping the house together. My grandma had 5 kids, and her house would always be so put together. I figured it was no big deal, that after the kids went to bed you just tidied up and it would be great. That is so wrong! My heart condition does make me more tired and I need to log more hours to get enough rest, but even people who don’t have that, it’s just this season with young kids. You can’t get anything done unless they’re asleep. I feel like I can’t even load the dishwasher without my kids getting into things, drawing on the walls, stuff like that."
What’s something about motherhood that you wish everyone would be honest about but maybe not many people talk about?
"The postpartum mental illness struggles. If I hadn’t felt like someone was going to come in and take my baby away with Cole, I’d have gotten help much sooner. And I think I would have had more time to bond with him. With Logan, I was stretched to the max and I kept an eye out for signs of signs. I experienced postpartum anxiety with him, and got on top of it and got on medication to help. I would have experiences of feeling shaky, like someone was sitting on my chest and like I couldn’t breathe, and couldn’t talk to people. And people don’t understand, and they just figured I would be in a bad mood. I was able to up my dose after a follow-up appointment, and even though I still get overwhelmed, I don’t get as panicky. If people talk about mental illness, I feel like they talk about it in such a negative way, that it isn’t helpful. I wish we could talk more openly about it and in a way that doesn’t make people feel bad."
What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten about being a mother?
"I know it sounds cheesy, but the saying ‘they’re only young once.’ Because I feel like I missed out on so much of Cole’s younger years, it feels like he is growing up so fast. I think that experience has helped me appreciate my kids and realized that there is something to enjoy at every age."
What is your favorite way to wind down after a long day with your kids?
"Well we don’t keep wine in the house. :) I think its just finding somewhere quiet, even if it’s just for 5 minutes to let my ears stop ringing from all the yelling and the noises. Just a chance to regather my breathing and find some calm."
Tell me one thing you love about yourself as a mother?
"With me wanting to be a preschool teacher, I feel like I do a good job teaching my kids. We get a lot of compliments that Rory can speak so well, so it makes me proud that I can teach my kids well and prepare them."
Tell me one thing that scares you about being a mother?
"I get angry a lot and can default to yelling. So that’s one thing that we’re working on and finding ways to help me get grounded. My dad was verbally abusive and I come from a long line of people who get angry, and that’s not something I want to continue".
What would you do if you had a whole day to yourself?
"Sleep! I would go somewhere and sleep in a freshly made bed, with blackout curtains, and room service, and of course somebody else footing the bill. That would be my dream."
Who has been your biggest inspiration/mentor/go-to someone as you have journeyed through motherhood?
"It would be my grandma. It’s hard for my mom to understand sometimes because she only had me and my brother, and my grandma had 5 kids. So I feel like she and I relate in that way. I’ll call her all the time and ask her for advice. She never makes me feel like I’m burdening her when I call."
What are ways you find time for yourself?
"I don’t, but it’s something I’m working on. Right now Patrick works seconds and I work days, so it’s hard to find time. I do try at least once a month to send at least 3 of my kids to a family member’s house to get a small break. And I try to sleep when I can get some extra time in. Patrick is a big help with reminding me to take time for myself when possible, and helping with the kids."
How do you describe #thisismotherhood in your own words?
"The good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m not sure those are my own words, but it’s relevant. It’s not just those picture perfect moments, but it’s also not just the bad stuff. It’s the messes, it’s the tired, it’s the beautiful, it’s the when things go right, it’s when you’re kid has been having an attitude all day and that night tells you he loves you. It’s all of that."
What makes motherhood beautiful to you?
"We’re responsible for these tiny little souls and we get to impact them in so many ways, and meet their needs. I think it was at the IF Gathering where they said it’s possible for a lot of stay at home moms to feel like they’re not doing enough. But you get to spend 24-7 with your kids and have the opportunity to lead them to Christ. I can be the hands and feet of God to them and show them how to do the same for others someday."