You're not just a mama, you're an inspiration
Introducing Jessica Urlichs:
A Kiwi mother of two under two.
Jess is a New Zealand writer who captures poignant, raw and beautifully honest pieces on motherhood. Jessica's pieces have featured on Motherly, Love What Matters, The Motherhood Project, Her View from Home, Scary Mommy, Babycentre, Kidspot and more.
Her book, 'From One Mom to a Mother' is written in a refreshingly honest tone that will touch the soul of so many on this same beautiful, yet challenging journey.
We chat to Jess about what "Not just a MAMA" means to her, self-care and her own postpartum journey; the highs, the lows and the magic in-between.
What comes to mind when you hear "not just a Mama" and what are those other identities inside you that you want to champion?
When I first think of “not just a Mama” I think of the woman behind the mother, the one that might feel as if she’s faded into the background of her new story, faded behind the profile picture and simply just feels a bit faded!
It’s about finding the ‘me’ in Mum because you were someone before you were their Mum, and that person matters. It’s remembering that person is still there but she’s evolving and she’s becoming. I said in one of my poems "I believe the pieces of the puzzle go back together from the inside out because two people were born that day".
I also think "not just a Mama" means exactly that. The word ‘Just’ dulls down some of the hardest and most rewarding “work” you will do in your whole life. You wear so many hats and even though you can’t put it on your CV, it’s the one ‘job’ that comes with a fulfillment like no other: DEPLETED yes, COMPLETED, always!
What does motherhood mean to you?
This is such a hard one to answer, so I’ll just share a piece of mine that sums it up for me in this season I’m in.
“I want to tell you everything I know,
Carry you and guide you.
Yet somehow, as your tiny finger points to things in wonder
And your eyes meet mine
The paradigm shifts.
I once thought I was to show you the world
When all along, you came to show me.”
Can you tell us a bit about your postpartum journey, both physically and mentally?
My Mental Health Journey
I suffered post natal anxiety and I didn’t even realise it until much later postpartum. Probably because I hadn’t even heard the term, no one talked about it and I honestly didn’t open up a lot in the beginning because I thought what I was going through was simply me just not coping and I was afraid to admit that.
After months of feeling like I had failed I finally began to heal and realised the circumstances I had been faced with had nothing to do with my worth as a mother, but it was a long journey to get to that point.
I was the first out of my friends to have a baby and I felt like no one understood, I felt like no one opened up about the hard parts of motherhood and only shared the good parts.
When I became pregnant with Holly unfortunately the feelings started to return. I could have had a room full of support but I still felt alone. I started to have really intrusive thoughts, seeing a dog off a lead on a walk would be enough to have me shaking with fear because I thought it would run up and maul Harry in his pram, or horrible thoughts that Harry would stop breathing in his cot. I just couldn’t shake these types of thoughts from entering my mind. It became very debilitating and I knew it wasn’t normal. I finally opened up to my husband and my Mum about how I was feeling and spoke with my doctor and sought counselling. While it may not be normal to feel prisoner by thoughts like this, it wasn’t uncommon. I was given coping strategies and tools to help get through and things started to look up from there, I’m really glad I opened up and asked for help, I felt so much lighter and so much happier, as a mother and within myself.
My Postpartum Journey
I have an incredibly supportive husband who is an amazing father and a close family so despite me going through post natal anxiety I was lucky to always have support close by. I chose to have two close together, my two are a year apart, so when Harry was 4 months old, you guessed it, pregnant again! We wanted to have them close in age for many reasons, we liked the idea of them growing up close, keeping the phases together (think nappies and sleepless nights), me not returning to work for a while.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy, even being heavily pregnant with a baby who constantly needed picking up (while pregnant with a large one I might add) was tiring and that was before the real fun began! While two under two is amazing, it also caused me post natal depletion. Two back to back pregnancies and then breastfeeding Holly for 14 months, and just the physical and mental load of it (and I don’t have children that well… sleep!) It took its toll on my body, but I saw a nutritionist who helped me, I think its important all new mothers speak with one who specialises in post natal depletion.
Something I realised early on was to surround myself with those who filled my cup and didn’t drain it. I went into motherhood with some old friends that I now no longer see, but I also made new friends that I am so blessed to have in my life. I needed those mum friends who I could laugh with, cry with, the ones who understood the significance of the first roll over milestone. Postpartum is such a journey so be selective of the ones who you take on it with you because your energy is so so precious.
How to be a mum but also make time for yourself and your other passions?
In the beginning, I found for me personally this just couldn’t happen. I immersed myself right in motherhood so I could be there for my baby, it wasn’t that I forgot about myself, well maybe a little… but I wanted to be there for him.. I feel like the message “sacrifice does not equal love” to be true in some ways but also confusing because you will make sacrifices in motherhood, and they will be worth it. It doesn’t mean you have to give up ALL of you though. It doesn’t mean you have to become a martyr and wear a badge saying I haven’t showered in 3 days. It just means you need to be realistic about the fourth trimester. It can be a bit of a blur and sometimes you’re shoving food into your mouth while you’re breastfeeding standing in the kitchen. It won’t always be like that, but it can be the reality.
Honestly, I didn’t even know what my dreams and passions were until Holly was about 5 months old and then I started up my blog. I sort of fell into writing for publications and my book through my Instagram platform, which was originally just a place to just make sense of motherhood. I never thought it would eventuate to what it has and with me writing my book of poetry ‘from One Mom to a Mother’.
It was so cathartic for me to express myself this way but also to see how many other mothers resonated with my words and how many corners of the world my words reached. It didn’t happen overnight though, I had little spare time with two under two so I worked during their naps and late into evenings or on weekends when my husband was home.
It’s important to remember that even if you don’t know what your dreams and passions are right now, it might come to you tomorrow or the next day. I don’t think motherhoods the barrier, sometimes it’s the catalyst. It was for me and it certainly helped me find my voice.
Advice for other mums/ first time mums?
Self care looks different for everyone, sometimes its blasting music on the way to groceries or taking some time out to have a wine with a friend. But if you get some time to relax, don’t try to be productive by dusting at the same time (like me), relaxing actually is productive!
Also, not everything you see online is real, sometimes the mess is swept out of the frame. There’s so much information out there and its all a bit noisy. Follow those that guide you to be guided by your heart. Trust in your baby, trust in yourself, you know them best.
Her book, 'From One Mom to a Mother'
can purchase her book directly through her via her Instagram HERE.
Subscribe to her blog HERE.
Not just a Tee
We have designed a tee that celebrates the fact that you're not just a mama, and we are donating $5 from every PIAP MAMA Tee sold to Children's Ground.
Children's Ground is a not-for-profit organisation creating a different future with First Nations children, families and communities experiencing the greatest levels of disadvantage.
From infants to Elders, they work with entire communities over a 25-year period to make real and lasting change.
Celebrating culture, recognising talent, inspiring hope, delivering excellence and creating opportunity, Children's Ground is an evidenced-based approach, designed with First Nations leaders to achieve radical reform.
Read more about Children's Ground HERE and the noble work that they are doing.