By Brianne Herrman
I wanted to share my motherhood journey in hopes that it will help other women feel less alone who may have experienced the same things that I did. Let me start with my pregnancies. I was very fortunate to have two easy pregnancies, without any issues. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I loved being pregnant. In fact, it was quite the opposite. When I was pregnant with Lexi, it was my first time experiencing all of these changes to my body. Some of them were easier to deal with than others. I’m petite in size, so putting on the pregnancy weight was not fun, because by month 9, I had so much back pain it was hard to walk. The good thing was I was able to take an early leave from my job and had an entire month to relax before the arrival of little Lexi.
When I was pregnant with my son, I then had a toddler to chase around all day, so it was much harder to deal with. I didn’t have much of an appetite with that pregnancy either because nothing quite seemed that appetizing! (With Lexi I was craving sweets- so I actually started most days with a giant bowl of Lucky Charms cereal and ended my nights with a tall glass of chocolate milk!) I was also getting a lot of sinus infections during my pregnancy with Justin, which was not fun at all either. And just not having much time to rest the second time around was tough. But overall, no issues with this pregnancy either, aside from the fact that I kept telling my OBGYN that I felt like this baby was going to be a big one.
Which leads to my deliveries. With Lexi, I woke up one morning having mild contractions and what I thought was my water leaking. Since this was my first pregnancy and we lived 45 minutes from the hospital, I made my husband rush us there to beat the morning traffic. Once I arrived they actually ended up breaking my water for me. I hung out for a while until the contractions became too much to handle and asked for my epidural. After that, it was pretty much a day of me resting and relaxing in the delivery room until I was finally dilated enough to push around 9pm. After about 45 minutes of pushing (and feeling beyond exhausted) Lexi arrived around 10pm that night- and on her due date!
With Justin I was almost a week late and I was beyond ready for that kid to be out. I had gained much less weight the second time around, but I felt like the baby was much bigger and heavier. I was supposed to be induced on a Thursday, but my water actually broke on Tuesday around 4pm. My mother was at my house to watch Lexi, and my husband rushed home from work to get us to the hospital. I thought for sure this delivery would be a quick one. Well- I was wrong. I also had an epidural this time around, and I was dilating very slowly. It wasn’t until 6am the next morning that I was actually ready to push. And though it was only 20 minutes of pushing, I didn’t realize how scary my situation was until my husband told me months later. Turns out I was right all along, my baby was big. He was born 9lbs 11oz. Even my OBGYN was shocked at how big he was, despite the many times I had told the doctors I felt like he was a big baby. At one point, I was pushing as best I could, and Justin was actually stuck. Just his head was out. My husband had later told me that he was terrified watching the doctor trying to twist and wiggle the baby out. I was pushing, she was turning the baby all different ways, but he wasn’t budging. Finally, she managed to get him out and all of us were relieved. I saw them carry him to the corner of the room to be weighed and all I could think was “he’s huge!’ My doctor and the nurses were all shocked. But I really wasn’t surprised. I was more disappointed that no one had listened to my concerns at the end of my pregnancy. And just thankful he was healthy and safe now. This also truly taught me that women need to really be their own advocates when it comes to their health and the health of their children. Now I always go with my gut. And if my doctors and I don’t see eye to eye, then it’s time to find a doctor that will actually take the time to listen to my concerns and help me figure it all out.
What came after my deliveries was the hardest part. After Lexi was born I had postpartum anxiety. I wasn’t diagnosed until after a year from her birth. I had always struggled with anxiety from when I was young, and I thought a lot of it was just from being a first time mom. But sometimes it was crippling. I had finally decided to start seeing a therapist again a year after she was born and I joined a group for mothers that had postpartum anxiety and depression. It helped so much to know I wasn’t alone in this, and that other moms had all the same fears, worries and feelings.
After we brought my son home, things just felt really off for me. I was dealing with a toddler, who had gone from being our only child, to now having to share her parents with her brother. She wasn’t excited for her little brother to be home, and she really started to act out. My heart broke because I felt like I destroyed her world. Aside from that, my husband only took one week off from work, so once he left us to go back, I felt like a dark cloud came over me. I would dread each morning. I was overwhelmed with anxiety when it was just me and the two kids alone. And the crying…it never stopped. Every day I felt like I was drowning deeper and deeper. I would kiss my husband goodbye every morning and fight back the tears. He would ask what he could do to help me and my response was always “I don’t know. But I’ve never felt this awful in my life.”
All I could think was I never should’ve had children. I was the worst mom. My daughter hated me now. My son was so fussy (which we later found out he had a milk allergy and reflux). I regretted having another child because I truly felt I was not cut out to be mother of one kid, let alone two. I wanted my old life back. I felt like I didn’t know who I was. I cut off all contact with friends. Even my parents said they had never seen me like that. And finally, they begged me to get help.
I decided to contact my therapist again. After my first appointment with her, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I had never been on medication for depression before, and I was a little hesitant to try it. But I knew at this point, I needed to get myself better, for my babies, my family and myself. So we agreed on a low dose of anti-depressants. At same time I had continued to see my therapist. I had also decided to join my father at the gym and train with his boxing trainer. All of these things helped in different ways to get me through my postpartum depression.
Eventually I was able to wean off the medication and just continue with therapy. I had gotten through one of the toughest times in my life. My kids and I found our new routine and were finally in a great place. I still have my struggles with my anxiety, especially throughout the pandemic, but between my husband and I (and my support system of my family) we get through it together.
Motherhood is absolutely the hardest job I’ve ever had. There is nothing that can prepare you for all that comes with being a mother. Children go through so many stages and they all have their challenges. I’ve had many days that I feel like I lost a bit of my identity and I am simply just “mom.” The one who changes thousands of diapers, cleans up all the toys and gets snacks all day long. Some days I miss going to work, and having adult conversations, and going to lunch with co-workers. Sometimes I wish I had more time to pursue my hobbies and interests, because with two kids under 4, there isn’t much time for those things right now.
But on the other hand, I feel so lucky to be home with my children and to get to experience all of their milestones and special occasions with them. I have watched them grow from day one. I was there for their first steps and first words. We have had so many days that were tough, but also so many days that were so incredible I will remember them forever. I watched my first little baby become a little girl, with a feisty personality of her own. I’ve seen her teach her brother how to do things. I’ve been blown away by the way he watches his big sister do everything and how easily she makes him laugh and smile. We have made so many memories already and I can’t wait for all the memories we will continue to make together.
I want all mothers to know that we are all amazing mothers, even when we don’t believe that about ourselves. There are so many challenges that come with motherhood. Never hesitate to reach out for help. Whether it's reaching out to a therapist, a relative or a friend for support. We should never feel alone in this. And while there are so many mom shamers and mothers that judge other mothers, the best thing we can do is support one another. To build a community where all moms aren’t afraid to admit when they are struggling. Where they don’t have to feel ashamed to say they are having a bad day or even a bad week. A place where we can all look out for one another and lift each other up. Women are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for, and when we come together, we are truly an unstoppable force.
I’m Brianne Herrman and my family and I live in New Jersey. I am currently a stay at home mom of two. My daughter, Lexi, turned 4 in June. My son, Justin, will be 2 at the end of October. We also have two crazy dogs named Jack and Bailey.