Mental Illness and Motherhood

Preface: I know motherhood is deeply personal and therefore a touchy topic. Please know as you read that I am speaking only from my perspective, of course, and have no intention of being tone deaf toward the very real struggles of motherhood, listed and unlisted below. I know there are women who are unintentional mothers, women who are dying to be mothers, and women who’ve perhaps made the tough choice of not having children despite all the pressure, chatter, shame, and invasive questioning that surround women aged 20-50 in general. Inside of each of these circumstances, I know there are women who are fulfilled, women who are heartbroken and, most likely, women who fall somewhere on the sliding scale between the two extremes.

Even without children yet, I believe that motherhood is the hardest job in the game. I am amazed and in deep admiration of my family members, friends, and mothers of the world who work this job 24/7 with no pay, no time off, and no 401(k), dammit! You are the true MVPS, the true queens.

I know that there are single dads and stay at home dads, too, but for this particular post I’m focusing on women because I am one and, again, can only speak on my perspective. I’d never presume to speak for men and their feelings on parenthood. But, in the immortalized words of Pamela Anderson, men can’t fathom the pain of squeezing something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon. :)

Anyway, I ask that you proceed with grace, knowing that I’m making myself vulnerable to share one point of view with the lens of mental illness.


I’m a 31 year old woman married three years, so it probably won’t surprise some of you that having children is something I think about a lot.

On paper, I think I’d make a good mother. I live my life with unwavering integrity, welcome nuance, am tender with loved ones (I’ve been told), have higher education, keep a sense of humor, cook great-tasting, healthy food, and have had life experiences that have prepared me for a child who experiences bumps in the road. Big bumps. I’m ready for ’em.

I have the usual hesitations, too, wondering if I’ll actually be a good mother in practice instead of in theory. I wonder if I’ll have the patience my child deserves for the minutiae of their infancy, toddler days, childhood, and the inevitable tween / teen years when they’re toots because they haven’t yet realized how much their parents have done for them (See: me. I was the worst, and that was on top of everything Alex was serving back then. Send Keith and Staci flowers.) I wonder if my body’s going to be unrecognizable after pregnancy and breastfeeding and if my and Rick’s marriage will stay strong. I wonder what will happen to my writing and professional ambition in general. I wonder whether the very real possibility of pre or postpartum depression will effect myself or Rick, cracking the foundation of what we’ve worked so hard to build. Will I resent my children for irrevocably altering my life? Will I resent Rick, after the fact, because he wanted children without waver?

There is so much I wonder about.

Everyone says “it’s different when it’s your child,” but on top of typical hesitations I suppose all mothers, potential mothers, and those who’ve decided not to be mothers experience, the issues with my mental illness are layered into the decision-making dough like crappy chocolate chips.

I am my mom’s “worrier,” as she’s always said. I worry about things that could happen, things that are unlikely to happen, things that will never happen, things that certainly will happen- all at inappropriate times. It’s exhausting. I wear myself out with anxiety-driven worry, and everything is put into overdrive in regards to motherhood. I’m working on leaning into a “let ‘er rip lifestyle,” as Rick would say, and it’s going… okay. My generous self-assessment will make Rick laugh, but I really am working on relaxing.

But, my friend Bailey (not some kinda weird usage of third person, this is an actual other person named Bailey) said that having a child is like having your heart live outside of your body. I feel like I’d never sleep well again after having a kid. Those who know me know how critical copious amounts of sleep is to my health and general life performance. Anxiety is clicking up a rollercoaster just thinking about it.

Will my touch of OCD short-circuit with a house strewn with toys and crumbs, the endless sticky hands, and the perpetually messy cars? Will I feel unusually sad for and guilty about my golden retrievers getting demoted after years of them been so critical to my mental health? Will I even be able to afford and have time to take care of golden retrievers anymore? Will my anxiety be able to stomach the inevitable vomit, and lots of it, kids often come with due to stomach viruses? THE GERMS. I think about germs a lot: hands on fast food restaurant floors, subway poles, public bathroom door handles. And then that same unwashed hand housing a handful of goldfish, lips to palm. At least, that’s how I eat goldfish. (Pepperidge Farm, please sponsor Bummed Out Baker)

Smaller items aside, the mental illness related consideration most important is the fact that if I am to carry and breastfeed, I would have to be completely off medication. This means no more mood stabilizing Lamictal, depression-warding Wellbutrin and Prozac, or Klonopin for emergencies. It also means no more Spironolactone for my skin, which may sound vain, but this is a part of the wonder of whether my body will ever be or look the same again.

How will this lack of medication effect my marriage and relationships? Will my loved ones be terrorized by me for the duration of conception to weened baby, only to repeat it all again when the second child comes around? I’d have to taper off meds first, then conceive, then a year or two later, I imagine, I’d have to stair-step my way back up to the pre-pregnancy dosage. It’s all very Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, except no one will be having fun. I know one option is to carry and then not breastfeed in order to get back on my meds sooner, but I imagine that’d still be a mini rollercoaster, like Judge Roy Scream instead of the Texas Giant at Six Flags. In writing this I’ve discovered that motherhood is likened to theme park rides in my head. Is that an accurate assessment?

A year after Rick and I got married an aunt asked whether we planned to have children, and if so, when. It’s important to note that I did not find this invasive as she is family and it was in an intimate environment. I knew she’d accept me for whatever I said.

“I don’t know, maybe in ten years, or so.”

She raised her eyebrows. “You’re going to start having children at 40?”

My in-laws had Rick at 41, so I suppose I hadn’t thought of that being terribly late. Starting a family in early 40s is very New York City. (Side note- the fact that Rick and I got married at 28 is practically seen as a child-bride situation here. Rick was the first of his friends to take the leap, so to speak.) Now, I had new feelings to go home and drop on Rick for us to discuss.

At my last annual physical, my GP asked whether I plan to have children and, if so, about the game plan. I told her that I planned to graduate with my MFA, publish the sibling memoir I’m writing about my brother, and then Rick and I will begin talking about family planning.

“Okay, so we’re talking about a geriatric pregnancy,” she replied.

Yesterday I was 24, and now I’m looking at a geriatric pregnancy? I laughed.

She knowingly rolled her eyes, knowing what she just said sounded ridiculous. She continued. “There’s a higher risk of complication and birth defects. Now, plenty of women have successful pregnancies post-35, but I have to tell you this information so that you and Aldy can plan accordingly.”

Yeah, she calls Rick “Aldy,” which I think is hilarious. But the subject matter in that moment was not.

“Well, hell,” I said, wide-eyed and shaking my head, my favorite mock-serious response concluding our conversation. Again, I left a place with a lot of feelings to hit Rick with.

Anytime I get frazzled about family planning, Rick is very relaxed about the whole thing. He always says some iteration of “we’ll figure out the right thing for us when we’re ready.” I’d love to be more like Rick and less wiggy. What a life!

Rick is gung-ho on parenthood. He likes to joke that he’d like “school bus full of children,” which of course both my vagina and sanity have vehemently declined. If money became no object, though, I’d love to adopt and foster, not a school bus full, but a big family full of children. The idea brings me great joy. From what I know, teenagers, especially teens in the LGBTQ+ community, are the least likely to be adopted. I think I connect best with young people 12+, and would love to use my affluent white lady privilege to provide emotional and financial stability to young people with complex parental histories / guardian relationships. I believe Rick and I would make great pillars for these young, at-risk folks to always fall back on while navigating high school, then college, and then their own adulthood. In addition to their bio family or not, we’d cheer them on all the way.

A pro of my mental illness is that I’m better suited to identify it in a young person, but then my thoughts lead to the idea that if my child suffers from mental illness, will I feel guilty for bringing them into the world? I’ve warded off that rabbit hole, though, by remembering that mental illness can happen no matter whether we adopt or have bio children.

This has been a doozy to write, typically something that just runs through my head as I silently fold laundry or stand in the shower, or something.

I know I need to see a therapist who specializes in issues of family planning fo sho! Please don’t worry, I’m not going to just crowd-source my and Rick’s familial future on Bummed Out Baker, but your thoughts are invaluable to me. Like mental illness, the secrets and stigmas of motherhood should be explored, and the more open we are, the less shameful I think we’ll collectively feel.

All mothers, but especially mothers with with mental illness, I’d love to hear from you. If you’re feeling bold, it’d be awesome to leave a comment on this post to contribute to the conversation. If you prefer to keep your thoughts private, please message me.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Communicating Mental Unrest
Mental Health: My Lowest Point in Eleven Years
Mental Health: Weight Gain and Mental Medications


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If you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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A Change Has Come to Bummed Out Baker!

After 63 consecutive Mondays of recipes, I’ve made the decision to cut recipes back to every other Monday. I put so much TLC into my recipe posts- from the grocery shopping to the cooking to the photographing to the cleanup to the photo selecting / editing to the post drafting, and each recipe post takes about one full day of work to put together. That’s 63 days of my life spent lovingly working on this passion project in hopes of drawing people into a supportive, unguarded, sometimes funny (I like to think) community and, while I’ve enjoyed it, I realize I need to reclaim some time to work on my book / thesis and my budding home organization business, Tidy B Organizing. More importantly, for those seeking community, I can now focus more energy toward my mental health posts, which seem to interest and resonate with readers most.

This is not some kind of slow decline until BOB slides off the face of the earth, rather quite the opposite! I’m in the throes of designing a fabulous new website with Kiki + Co. and have recipes that are both delicious and a bust (lol remember, honesty is my policy) queued up for the rest of 2019, even some for 2020. I’ve also been dreaming up and brainstorming the approach to something super exciting I have in mind for a Friday feature.

As BOB evolves organically to better suit readers and myself, the aim remains the same: to champion mental illness and discuss it openly. It’s imperative to destigmatize something that every person has been touched by in some way, and I look forward to continuing the charge.

Thank you, readers, for all your support so far!

Mental Health: A Regular Ole Tuesday

Tonight on the way to dinner I’d barely hit the road before I felt strong anxiety coming on. I gripped the car wheel tightly at the top and, when that didn’t feel just right, moved my hands into different arrangements that never felt secure. The AC was blasting in my face and I took deep breaths over and over. I pictured my mom sitting in the kitchen eating the roasted artichokes I’d just made before I left and thought Well, that was the last time I’m ever gonna see my mom because I was about to have a seizure followed by an aneurism, swerve off the road into a guardrail and die. I don’t even remember what my dad was doing. Why didn’t we hug bye? How’re they gonna tell Rick I’m dead? I rifled around in my purse for meds at a stoplight but couldn’t find any. I’d run out. I forgot to restock. Shit. I mashed the gas and raced to my destination, knowing if I could just get to where I was going my anxiety attack would subside. I was meeting three friends for dinner – a low pressure social situation. But it was in public! There would be people there! I might ralph everywhere and humiliate myself! There might be extremely bothersome fluorescent lights! There would! There might! This is it, sorry for wrecking your Lexus mom and dad, bye mom and dad! Did I just begin to drift? No that’s my imagination. No, no, no. Am I here? Is this it? Thank god. I pulled into a parking space, concluding an experience that was not unlike the Willy Wonka boat ride from hell.

If booze is handy when my meds aren’t, I cruise into the self-medication zone. When I get a cocktail down, usually my anxiety-induced nausea subsides and my heart slows down. When I ordered a drink with my friends tonight, though, it didn’t work. I put my forehead in my hands and ran my hands across my head and over my hair over and over. I fiddled with my fingers. I told them I couldn’t relax. I admitted I self-medicate w booze. They understood my plight and, while it’s not great, I do what I can to survive when I genuinely think death is imminent.

My mental unrest never receded tonight. Even as I type I feel jumpy and my brain seems to be 1-2 seconds behind my actions, which alarms me. What’s wrong with me? At the same time, my body is exhausted, completely spent after being tense for so many hours, unconsciously holding my muscles tight while in survival mode.

A regular ole Tuesday, folks, imagining the last time I’ll ever see my parents over and over and over. With artichokes!

Written on Tuesday, July 9, 2019.

Related on Bummed Out Baker: 
Mental Health: No, You Don’t “Have Anxiety”
Mental Health: Psychiatrists
Mental Health: Compassion Fatigue and Hyper-Empathy


Subscribe at the bottom of Bummed Out Baker to get my mental health musings and recipes emailed to you directly – Follow on Facebook for mental health articles and discussion – Follow on Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: No, You Don’t “Have Anxiety”

I’m gonna try to keep my cool here because, if you’ve been reading BOB for a while, you know I get fired up about word impeccability.

I’ve known about word impeccability ever since I read the book The Four Agreements ten years ago. It essentially champions saying what you mean and meaning what you say, something that’s not as simply employed as it seems. It remains on my nightstand as a reminder to this day.

I learned about the nuance of word impeccability as it pertains to specific people while working at Special Olympics International down in D.C. People first language, such as “Tabitha uses a wheelchair” versus “Tabitha is wheelchair-bound” and “Frankie has autism” versus “Frankie is autistic” gives agency to the person being described and also eradicates the physical or intellectual disability from defining the person being described.

Shortly after adopting this language I realized its parallels to the mental health community. “Sarah has Bipolar Disorder” versus “Sarah’s Bipolar” or “The psychiatrist says the man may have borderline personality disorder” versus “the man is borderline”. It’s essentially the use of “is” (defining) versus “has” (one descriptor).

Alright, now, where word impeccability gets personal is with the flippant use of the word “anxiety”.

When I was 13 years old, the summer before I went to high school, I went with my family to a sold out showing of a blockbuster. Every seat was filled and the movie was original, visually arresting and, for me, an absolute terror fest.

I was seated next to my mom right in the middle of a packed row mid-theater, ideal seats for most. Except I began to experience anxiety that I would not be able to quickly exit the situation. If I did, I’d upset people by making them have to stand up to let me by (this was long before recliners) and then upset them again by side-stepping back to my seat in front of their view. And then, what if I had to get up again?

Wait, is that an urge to pee? No, wait, I’m going to vomit. Yep, I’m certainly going to vomit and ruin this movie for everyone in seats around me.

My body became drenched in sweat despite the generously air-conditioned theater. I slipped around in my seat and gripped the arm rests. I began to panic, and my mom glanced over me and saw my white face. She had no idea what to do, and couldn’t open up a conversation in the middle of the movie to do a deep dive on what the hell was wrong. She asked me if I was okay, and I couldn’t even open my mouth to respond. If I did, I’d certainly vomit.

What if this is my last moment? Oh, god, I’m going to die in this movie theater. This is it.

My body turned rigid.

Isn’t this how a seizure begins? I’m going to die here in this velour seat with popcorn stuck to my sweat after I fall to the ground. I’m going to choke on my tongue. This is it. This is it. This is it.

My mom pulled papers out of her bag and began fanning me. She didn’t know what to do, either.

What was this?

I might as well not have been in a theater, because my thoughts were solely on survival. My thoughts had literally turned to death. When the fanning cooled me off, my heart began to slow, but the terror of leaving my seat made me stay in my seat until, finally, the movie ended. When the credits rolled people began to leave their seats, the bottoms springing back up to meet their seat backs with a thud, clearing the aisles. As they exited the theater, my body began to relax. I was physically exhausted and dazed as I walked out into the merciless sunlight. Instead of jabbering excitedly about a great movie, I was just working to get my body to the car.

On the way out I saw one of the “hottest” guys from school and we waved at each other. I gave him a weak smile. I was so relieved to be seeing him then instead of when I almost hurled in the theater. Don’t even get me started on dealing with undiagnosed mental illness in the throes of the social stressors of puberty…

People, that is a panic attack.

An anxiety attack is like a panic attack’s more reasonable cousin, as the former usually has an identifiable source. Panic attacks come out of nowhere and I’ve been absolutely plagued by both of these experiences since childhood.

It really upsets me when someone says they’re having anxiety and it doesn’t have anything to do with mental incapacitation. It downplays the experiences of people who truly have anxiety or panic disorders. It downplays the plight that trails me everywhere I go like some hungry, stray dog. It downplays true suffering and further hurts those afflicted.

Being anxious is a normal feeling fueled by cortisol that is a part of our survival mechanisms as humans. It comes and goes in appropriate situations, like job interviews or first dates. You can be anxious, but you’re not having anxiety. You’re not having an anxiety or panic attack.

You. Are. Simply. Anxious.

Someone who actually has anxiety is like their internal jug of cortisol gets dumped over in unsuspecting, often inopportune moments that deteriorate quality of life. In the 90s and 2000s I didn’t have language to describe what I was going through and felt completely isolated. Now that there’s common language for these disorders, people throw it around like a frisbee. Now, when I tell someone I have anxiety, it’s written off because “everyone” has it. That’s incorrect and, again, downplays the very real mental illness I suffer from.

It’s a blessing and a curse, really, the growing commonality of language pertaining to mental illness. While I’m glad people are able to talk more openly about their issues, others casually adopt the wording to describe every day feelings.

As I work hard to linguistically respect others with descriptors instead of definers, I wish to receive the same respect, myself. Please, work hard to respect people by using the correct wording. Everyone deserves that fundamental consideration.

I know this is going up the day before the 4th of July so, as Kevin G and the Power of Three would say after an aggressive performance, “Happy holidays, everybody!”

Mental Health: Depression Suppression!!!

On Wednesday I got bilateral foot surgery for boring, non-urgent reasons – basically something that was going to get worse with age. My insurance and timelines aligned and I decided to just go ahead and knock it out. I’m set to have my full mobility back in two months, a couple weeks before school starts again.

Before the surgery I did as much as I could physically and tried to postpone all stationary activities for post-op. I raced around to finish a job for Tidy B Organizing, I cooked ahead of schedule for Bummed Out Baker, I went and got ~the final pedicure~. For the first week of recovery I wasn’t meant to walk more than to the bathroom or maybe to the kitchen to grab something (definitely not to stand around to cook), and not much else. Stationary was compulsory. Stationary was good.

The day after surgery, I woke up and relished relaxing in bed all day, watching bad TV, lolligagging on my phone, and housing the cupcakes my sister in-law and brother sent me. On Friday I felt an inkling of stir crazy coming on. How long was I gonna be in this bed, again? By Saturday the dishes had begun to pile up around me and remained far longer than typical me would ever allow (Rick was in charge. Rick is relaxed. Be like Rick). Unwrapped packages littered the desk, random shoes weren’t put away, and clothes were slung over the chair. I’ve never been a clothes-over-chair-slinger, and it was painful to look at. When I managed to hobble into the kitchen while Rick was away working, I was aghast at the damage done without my religious dish-doing and counter-wiping. I hustled back to my bedroom as fast as a foot-bound, drugged up person can and shut the door, hiding away like Quasimodo. I got back in bed and looked around me. Picked up a book, set it back down. Opened Instagram to find nothing new from ten minutes before, swiped up to close it. Got tired of Gilmore Girls, so I just slept. And slept, and slept, and slept. I’m famed among my friends and family for sleeping suspicious amounts, which my psychiatrist has pegged as my emotional escape mechanism, so you’d think this would be my dream (see what I did there). At first, it was. But then I got tired… of sleeping. The pinnacle of my emotional spiral was when Rick made an innocent joke and I burst into tears. #PoorRick

There is no busy work I can do, no collecting Rick’s damn Nicorette wrappers that seem to infiltrate every crevice of everywhere, no bathroom sink to wipe off. I grew terribly depressed in a matter of days and then realized the depression wasn’t new, it was simply emerging from the mountain of unnecessary tasks I typically bury it with. Instead of scuttling around the house doing things that don’t really matter, I was forced to write on Bummed Out Baker, brainstorm marketing for Tidy B Organizing, workshop fellow writers in my collective, organize my digital photos and analog notes, read, write, and reckon. I was being forced to reckon with myself and what’s going on in my head. When there is no choice, there is no excuse. I lean so firmly on busy work to numb my mind that being forced to take a literal seat for weeks at a time has left me with some interesting tea leaves at the bottom of my cup, if you nom sayin’.

these Mickey Mouse feet crack me up every time

Written on Tuesday, June 18, 2019.

Related on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Depression Lies to You
Mental Health: Guilt and Golden Retrievers and Headaches
Mental Health: Weight Gain and Mental Medications


Subscribe at the bottom of Bummed Out Baker to get my mental health musings and recipes emailed to you directly – Follow on Facebook for mental health articles and discussion – Follow on Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.