Moms and mental health during COVID: an interview with Barb Egan and Third Space Life Charity
I knew when I walked out of the hospital after having my third baby in March 2020 that my world would be changed forever. I did not know that the rest of the world would also be changed, and to what extent.
As a mom, I love working with other moms. In fact, most of my counselling appointment times are during my kids’ nap and bed times, so that often coincides organically to work with other moms. My graduate school research was on maternal mental health, postpartum depression and anxiety, and what we called “the birth of a mother.” We often focus on the birth of a baby (which is incredibly exciting!), but there is also an entire new birth of an identity as well: the birth of a mother. We walk into the hospital one person and walk out a completely new one; one who is continually growing each day as we are not “born” with all innate knowledge of how exactly to do this incredible, but challenging calling…yet. In fact, we need help and support.
In my own journey of becoming a mother, I had a very difficult transition into motherhood. After two days of labour, and 10 days over due, my first baby needed an emergency c-section. The physical recovery was one thing. But the emotional recovery was the real challenge. I was all alone; my husband worked away, my family in the U.S. I was alone yet never alone at the same time. Everything was new to me and I was not used to everything being unknown, all at once. It was overwhelming. It was disheartening. And everything is worse on little sleep!
People always say, “Oh it goes by so fast!” Now, with some time, perspective, and three kids later I know that deeply. But, that is not what helped me in the midst of my own birth of becoming a mother. What helped me was someone walking with me. This can be a friend, family member, spouse, or even counsellor.
What helped me? Community. People coming along side of me. Counselling and support. I joined a mom’s group and got to walk alongside of women in similar seasons, and learn from ones who have gone before me. I then got to lead these groups and help other moms, especially as it focused on managing stress, relationships, and parenting. And I will never forget two things wiser moms told me:
You will never regret holding your baby too much
You are hand picked to be this child’s mom. Yes, you!
Three kids later, life is more hectic, but so much more full. My difficult transition into motherhood makes me appreciate and enjoy the little things so much more; from baby snuggles, sighs, and the awe, wonder, and busy of a pre-schooler and a toddler. It brings me so much joy experiencing life through their eyes, and watching them grow into the little people they are created to be. On hard moments, I try to remind myself that I am handpicked to be their mom; my unique flaws and strengths will help shape them more than any other person on the planet.
I also try to give myself grace, permission to take a break, and have a community of support. I had to throw out a lot of those baby books because they drove me crazy. But, I did have my own professional life as an asset. One of my supervisors was the head of a prestigious organization for Marriage and Family Therapy in Canada, and Attachment Theory. This spurred my passion into learning more to help myself and others, and encouragement that we really are doing a great job!
I love supporting moms and their mental health because it never just ends there. We are always pouring out. It is a lifelong ripple effect into our children, spouses, coworkers, our friends and their friends, and more. Empty cups cannot pour. I love getting to help moms manage their unique stresses so that their cups get full and it spills out to those around them, especially their families. What a legacy you are leaving!