May 6th is a special day for ALL moms, including me! It’s World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day.
I had postpartum depression and anxiety in a bad way. It took me years to understand it. And thankfully, with the right team and medicine, I was able to have babes #3 without it.
In honor of our moms, I interviewed Courageous Dreamer Serena McRae. She is working to improve maternal mental health by sharing her story and her talents.
Serena recently launched her “Affirmations Moms Actually Need” Kickstarter campaign, which fully funded it in less than 36 hours! Through her work, Serena reminds moms that they matter as much as their babies do.
Here is Serena’s full interview.
Serena left for college with big dreams. After achieving her Associates Degree, with honors, she married her husband. Soon after the struggles set in. School became too difficult to continue, and holding a job wasn’t possible. Looking back now she knows she was dealing with mental illness before she knew what it was.
During this time, Serena and her husband decided to move forward with growing their family. Attempts were unsuccessful. After a year of trying, Serena decided to pursue school again, but this time moved away from her English major and into arts and photography.
Although Serena never had formal arts training, she quickly realized her passion for it. She won a scholarship for her portfolio so she could continue her arts program in school. Everything was falling into place until…pregnancy hit.
Between the constant throwing up, dehydration, and hospitalizations, Serena quickly realized school was not an option while she was pregnant.
Serena was sure once her baby came everything would be happy and joyful again.
But that wasn’t the case for her.
After experiencing a traumatic birth, and unresolved physical pain, Serena struggled to connect with her daughter. She remembers the vivid thoughts she had about leaving her daughter in a dumpster, and walking away.
During this time, Serena felt alone and forgotten. She was uncomfortable asking for help, and felt pushed away when she did.
With the help of her husband, she was able to stay afloat. And as time passed, Serena finally felt a positive connection to her daughter. Not long after, Serena became pregnant with her second baby, but this time had tools to help her through her postpartum depression.
After all she had experienced, Serena made it her mission to ensure others did not feel the same way that she once did.
She began sharing her story. She connected with women from all over who often shared similar experiences.
As the postpartum depression fog lifted, Serena began water coloring. One day she had fun creating a leaves watercolor with a quote over the top of it. Soon, others asked for something similar that they could use as gifts. This gave Serena an idea to create affirmations that would have been helpful to her when she was in the thick of her postpartum depression.
Two years later, Serena launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for her “Affirmations Moms Actually Need.”
How Serena creates balance.
When focusing on balance, Serena considers a week-long time period. One day may consist of eating healthy and getting lots done, and the next may be eating cheerios and staying in bed.
Living this way creates long term balance in Serena’s life, as well as helps her be successful while living with mental illness.
Serena also decides her top three priorities for the day, which include something for her house, her health, and her family. She uses these three priorities to center and care for herself and for her family.
Serena’s advice to other SAH Working Moms:
Letting go of expectations was essential for Serena during this process. She does not spend time doing anything others tell her she should be doing. Serena chooses NOT to feel guilty for these things which allows her to feel great doing the things she WANTS to do.
Having an equal partnership with her husband also allows Serena to do what she is able to do. During her struggles with postpartum depression, her husband became the primary caregiver in a lot of ways. She said they have continued this partnership moving forward.
Serena also honors the time she schedules herself to work, and then communicates those hours and what she needs during them to her husband. Doing so has helped her push out of the expectations society can have for stay at home moms, and into what she truly loves.
Serena’s farewell words:
Striving for connection and appreciation for others has been key for Serena in her journey.
For example, Serena is surrounded by an incredible artist community. Instead of competing with one another, they work to build each other up.
Serena recognized that she lacked this kind of support during her postpartum depression times, so she has worked to create a supportive village for herself now as a stay at home working mom.
To learn more about Serena’s incredible work, or to order your own “Affirmations Moms Really Need,” click here.
To join a supportive community of stay at home working moms like you, click here.