May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, so I've relaunched my "Momma Interviews" series--This time with an extra special set of moms. These mommas also work to support other moms and their families during the transition into new parenthood and beyond. I'm calling it the "Expert Edition", but I think you'll find that while these women definitely are experts in their work, parenthood has a way of making a beginner out of everybody. Even experts get surprised by the unexpected and learn new bits of wisdom while in the trenches!
This series is all about their experiences with motherhood, in the hopes that it provides you with some validation and new tips to try. Because for all the many different ways there are to be a mom (and there are definitely MANY ways to do it right), it's so amazing how much we moms all really have in common.
Mommas, I'm so excited to share this interview with Nikki Reeves with you!
Today, Catherine O'Brien, LMFT interviews Nikki Reeves. Nikki is a mom to two boys, an advocate for moms everywhere, and the founder of the incredibly successful Facebook group, Maternal Mental Health Support.
Scroll down to watch the interview, read the transcript or learn more about Nikki.
Get to Know Nikki:
MY UNIQUE FAMILY MAKE-UP:
I have been married since 2011 but we met in 2008. We have two young boys ages 2 and 4 years old.
Most moms I speak to say there are moments when they are ready to throw in the towel. Can you describe a time you felt this way? What got you through it?
In 2016, my husband worked 80 hour weeks which left me to raise two babies at home alone. As defeating as it was to never have a break in sight, it always helped me to pick up the phone and chat with an adult. I craved social interaction!
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed, overstretched, or less than?
Taking time for myself never hurts! Sometimes, you have to be intentional and schedule it, otherwise it won't happen!
How has your relationship with your friends, family or support system changed? How has it stayed the same?
My support system consists of other mommy friends. The local and online peer groups I created in 2017 have blossomed and I now have a tribe of support from those who get the struggle! It is so nice to have a ear to vent to without judgment. They are my rock!
What is your favorite quote that inspires you as a mom?
There is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a great one. -Jill Churchill
What is your favorite maternal mental health resource?
Watch the Video:
Catherine: Hi, welcome back to one of our other mama interviews. This time, I'm here with Nikki Reeves who is a Postpartum Support International Georgia chapter, and she's on their programs and education committee, as well as many other amazing things that I will have you share with us, Nikki, but thank you so much for being here.
Nikki: Thank you.
Catherine: I'm excited to speak with you.
Nikki: Me too.
Catherine: So, tell us what compelled you to get involved in this larger discussion around maternal mental health?
Nikki: Well, I struggled, not knowing what was going on, but was struggling with motherhood. Just the lack of knowledge, I didn't know that it was anxiety, and then it turned into depression. Really, the lack of resources once I did get diagnosed, there was just none in my area. I knew group support would be the best thing for me, I knew I needed to talk to other moms about this.
Nikki: So, I created my own in my area. It really worked out well. We did a library thing, and that was slow … all groups are hard to grow. But, we kind of turned it into a mom's night out therapy, to make it a little more fun. That's been much more successful.
Catherine: Okay, okay. I love that. It is, there's not … I wish there was more resources out there, and I think there's more and more are happening, but I love that you're like there wasn't, so I created my own, and that you were able to do that. That's amazing. Yeah, that's cool.
Catherine: What would you want all moms to know about maternal mental health?
Nikki: I guess just that you need to take care of you, because I think I felt that I had to run myself into the ground trying to be selfless, but I needed a break. It's okay to take that. Just that it's okay to be selfish, because you can't pour from an empty cup.
Catherine: Very true. And I think … It's not selfish, right?
Catherine: Because you can't pour from an empty cup. You have to do self care so that you can give to your children, that you can give to your partner, to work, to whatever you're doing. You have to take care of yourself first, and I think that unfortunately people feel like it's a selfish thing. Like, oh, well I went to work now so I shouldn't be taking this time for myself. Where I'm like no, you went to work and you're at home with your kids, you need to take time for yourself, too.
Catherine: So how do you balance being a mom, and running your support group work and stuff like that, and just your relationship roles?
Nikki: I have a lot of help from family. My husband's a teacher, so coming up this summer he'll have a lot more time off. Just having a support system in place. Always, always, always spend time with friends. At least once a week, because my kids have another someone to play with, a friend, and I have someone to talk to about the struggles and the realities of motherhood. I really look forward to that.
Catherine: How would you say, because you said you started your own group, how do you go about doing that? So, if there's a mom out there that's like yeah, there is nothing around here but I would like to start my own thing. What steps did you take to do that?
Nikki: It was really intimidating at first, but I kind of had to have the location, and then I started promoting on Facebook, I started a group, and it was really not just Georgia specific. It was kind of everyone, but we did have a big group local. Just kind of trying to advertise on there. It was slow to start, but I think I have 2,000 members.
Catherine: Wow, that's amazing.
Nikki: [crosstalk 00:08:46]-
Catherine: And clearly not all 2,000 come to your [inaudible 00:08:51], but yeah.
Nikki: Eighteen, our largest event was 18 moms, which-
Catherine: That's awesome.
Nikki: Was amazing.
Catherine: Yeah, and I think that online support is really key, but I think having the in-person support takes it to a whole 'nother level, and having the face-to-face … Yeah, that's awesome, love that you're doing that.
Catherine: What do you think is your greatest lesson you've learned as a mom?
Nikki: I guess, again, just take care of you. Because, I struggled so much with that, and I wish I hadn't, you know.
Catherine: Yeah, like feeling guilty, like you're-
Nikki: Yeah, the guilt and just trying to be perfect when there's so many was to be perfect. I compared myself to others, and it's hard. Especially with Facebook slamming all in your face when it's not really always showing the whole picture.
Catherine: True, very true. I was talking to somebody else, and we mentioned all those same things, and I think it's … I think it is hard, and you're not a bad mom for feeling like it's hard, because we all have our different struggles. It might not be the same struggles, but definitely it's hard for I would say everybody. But, I think having a good support system is so key to getting the help that you need.
Catherine: What do you think is the greatest lesson you've learned as a mom?
Nikki: I guess just to go easy on yourself, because we're all doing our best. The fact that you worry about being a good mom shows that you are.
Catherine: Yeah, yeah. I love that you said that, yeah.
Nikki: Don't beat yourself up. We all have good days, we all have bad days, and that's okay. That doesn't mean you're doing it wrong.
Catherine: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, because it's a constant learning process, I think, being a mom. Because they change, our kids-
Nikki: As soon as you-
Catherine: Grow and change. As soon as you think you've got it figured out, they throw you a curve ball. And you're like what?
Nikki: [crosstalk 00:11:22] The time change, or you are traveling, and-
Catherine: Right, right. Yeah, yeah, that's very true.
Catherine: What do you feel is your, and you've kind of shared a little bit about this, but what do you feel is your greatest personal struggle with the experience of motherhood?
Nikki: I guess just the anxiety. It was so bad for a while, I really wasn't enjoying it because I was always expecting the worst to happen, or … And, I was exhausted. I wasn't sleeping when the babies were sleeping, and it was just a really hard time.
Catherine: What are some of the things that were most helpful for you, to cope with the anxiety, or to get better with that?
Nikki: I went to therapy, and that gave me a lot of techniques that helped in the moment. For a while, I couldn't leave the kids, so having that self-care time was so non-existent because I couldn't. So.
Catherine: Yeah, yeah. And it's been easier? Like, that's gotten-
Nikki: Oh, yeah. I can leave them now, and I enjoy leaving them now, but it was a process. It was baby steps, and-
Catherine: Yeah, and you couldn't leave them because of the anxiety? Or because, that's what-
Nikki: Yeah. Fearing something bad happening if I couldn't protect them. It was exhausting.
Catherine: Right, right. Yeah, yeah, that is exhausting. Because, you have twins? Or-
Nikki: No, I have a four year old and a two year old boy.
Catherine: Oh, okay. Oh, okay, so that was a long process, then?
Catherine: Oh, wow, yeah. Yeah.
Catherine: Okay, and then … what is one piece of advice you'd like to give other moms. I know you shared lots of wisdom today, but what's-
Nikki: I guess make sure you maintain your identity. You are still a person, you're not just a mom, and I think having that separation is a good thing.
Catherine: Yeah. Yeah, that's a hard one, I think, for a lot of moms, is feeling like they lose who they were before once they become a mother.
Catherine: Or, feeling guilty because they want a piece of what that was, and it's like-
Nikki: Yeah, and it's really you're just grieving your past self. That's okay, to miss the way things used to be, the freedom. But, this is a different stage, and there will be another stage when I get that freedom, but it's not now.
Catherine: Right, right, right. Grief, yeah, I think that's a huge piece, is that, and then it's okay to grieve that, so.
Catherine: Good. Well, anything else that you want to share? Do you want to tell us what's your Facebook group that you have?
Nikki: It's called Maternal Mental Health. I have a public page and then also the private group that gets a little more personal. We're all survivors, advocates. I think there's some people that are fully recovered, some people that aren't diagnosed. Everyone's so supportive. We've had such few instances, and I just love how non-judgemental it is. Really, everyone just powers together and gives you not advice, but just encouragement.
Catherine: The support, yeah. Encouragement and support that you need, right? That we need on this motherhood journey that we're on.
Nikki: [inaudible 00:15:38] Advice doesn't help sometimes, we just need to be heard.
Catherine: Yeah, yeah. Because I think it's like we're not typically looking for advice, we just want that support, and that feeling like we're not alone, like we're not crazy for feeling this way, we're not the only one that's in this. Or finding it hard, or a struggle, or anything, so. I love that you offer that, that's great.
Catherine: Well, thank you so much for being on, and I'm … enjoy talking with you.
About Nikki Reeves:
Nikki grew up in Georgia and was a Cum Laude graduate of Georgia Southern University in 2010. She studied education and taught three years in Atlanta. After birthing her two sons she discovered her passion for educating and supporting moms. She herself experienced anxiety, depression and trauma during pregnancy and postpartum. With little to no resources local to her, she began her own peer support group in 2017. Maternal Mental Health Support blossomed and she continues volunteering her time and knowledge. She is highly informed on maternal mental health and is certified with multiple trainings. In her spare time, she enjoys advocacy projects and fundraisers for maternal health.