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#HerStory: Threading Community Through Motherhood by Mariah Maddox

The transition into motherhood was utterly one of the loneliest experiences of my life. No matter how many guides or books you read, no matter how many classes you take or videos you watch, nothing ever truly prepares you for the moment that you’re actually in the thick of motherhood.

It may have been a little naive of me to not expect such a huge shift was underway the moment I delivered my son and we brought him home from the hospital two days later. But truthfully, there was no map that readied me for what postpartum would bring.

“I thought mothering would be full of graceful softness met with the rising sun, but it’s more of unbecoming, conversations with the moon, knitting yourself back together, drowning in the waters. And yet here we are, getting baptized in them as well.”

This excerpt from my book, “Beckoning of the Wind: An Ode to Motherhood,” describes the reality that was set before me. Mothering as a wilderness, as being out in the open of something fresh, unknown—and even partially intimidating. I felt immensely alone, like a foreigner of my own skin. I felt uprooted and dismayed—but not because I didn’t want to be a mother or didn’t love being one. Motherhood was something I had prayed for. It was something that I knew would become woven into my story at some point in my life. I welcomed it with open arms, but I was unaware of how tough it could be.

At the same time that it was divinely beautiful, it was also intensely challenging. And after months of suffering postpartum in silence, of feeling disconnected from my baby boy, my husband and even more so from myself, after later being diagnosed with Adjustment disorder with high-functioning symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety almost two years after giving birth, I knew something had to change. I knew I needed to use my voice. I had to find a way to share my experience and find a community that made me feel less alone in my story.

Because while I knew that I wasn’t alone, I felt otherwise. Possibly because of the fact that we as mothers often tend to put on a strong front while we’re actually suffering in silence. I had entered motherhood at the same time a handful of my friends and other women in the community had already entered or were preparing to enter it as well. I thought to myself, “If I feel this way, how many other moms around me are feeling this same thing?”

I first started by doing what I call Motherhood Gatherings once a month. I went out on a whim and made an event on Facebook to see if any mamas wanted to meet up at a local park with their kiddos and get their photos taken by me. The response to just the idea of the gathering was overwhelming, but the actual turnout was even more fulfilling. These gatherings went on until it became chilly out and flu/cold season picked up. Though I made a plan to start them back up once it got warmer out, I still needed a way to merge my creativity and this newfound sense of community that I had gained.

With my project “Motherhood: The Thread That Holds Us Together,” I was able to not only explore my own motherhood journey, but also share a glimpse into the narratives of six other moms within the Toledo community. This project picked apart the seams of the outward portrayal of motherhood as all whimsical and joy-filled. It went beyond the surface, exploring the real, raw, and vulnerable aspects of motherhood.

It traveled through the grit. And getting that opportunity to see firsthand some of the things we all mom dealt with garnered a collective response of each of us feeling less alone, more seen and more heard in the day-to-day of the strength, selflessness and sacrifice that mothering takes. Which led to us all feeling more connected.

Motherhood became my ministry, my calling. And now, I’m calling on other moms around me to open up. To be vulnerable, to share their stories. Because we all need to.

Threading community through motherhood has been my saving grace. We have all heard that it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to raise the mother that raises the child. Because mothers need safe havens, too. And those are forged through genuine and honest conversations about the complexities of motherhood—that while it can be so beautiful, it can also be so hard. That while you can lose yourself, you can also find a new version of yourself as well. That while you may lose sleep, time, and even the doings of your previous normal routine, you gain so much love, patience, and community throughout this journey—if only you allow yourself the opportunity to do so.

Instagram handles: @mariahmaddox_ and @viewsbyri

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