Stories Within: Heather Smith Kinnard
I'm starting a new two part storytelling series. The first part of the series is this, writing blogs about moms in my community. The other part of this series is a monthly event where women gather together to listen to the oral stories of other women. My intention behind this series is to give women, specifically mothers, a platform to be seen and heard. I'm interested in finding ways for mothers to step into their fullest self.
Since I'm a mom and I work directly with moms I feel like I understand the stories of mothers. From my perspective mothers are pretty invisible. Not only do mothers see themselves as "Jack's mom" they also tend to see other mothers as "the stay at home mom,' "the breastfeeding mom," "the soccer mom," you get the idea, we loos our identity. Often many moms end up putting self limiting labels on their self and other women. I think these labels create division, not connection. So, it is my intention to help moms to see themselves in other moms whom they think they don't share much in common. I hope that each story told, heard, or read brings an understanding that we are much more a like, sharing similar fears, triumphs, struggles, and joys.
For my first Story Within I had the pleasure of meeting Heather. Heather is a mother to two children ages 1 and 4. She works full time at the hospital as a registered nurse and runs her own business Fit4Mom. Heather and I have been Facebook friends for a while now, but have never meet in person. I was struck by how sweet, open, and engaging Heather was. Talking with her felt so natural and easy. Her willingness to allow herself to be seen really touched me. If this interview is any indication of the potential of what this series will be I am super excited because this interview really touched me.
How long have you lived in Bend?
We've lived in Bend for about 2.5 years.
Where did you move here from?
Southern California. We lived in the high desert Victorville/Hesperia area our whole lives.
What brought you to Bend?
We were looking for a better place to raise our kids. We loved being near our family. We loved the weather and the beach, which is what we miss the most about being here. But, we were looking for a slower pace and we had family here. We came to visit and just loved it.
Are you happy with the move?
Yes! Absolutely! It's been difficult. We've had a couple bumps along the way. I think we are coming out of that now. We are feeling like we belong here.
With moving you lose your community. How has it been building a community here?
When we first moved here, within the first 2 weeks of being here I found out I was pregnant with our second. It was really hard. I had a brand new job. I didn't really know anybody. Didn't have as much family here. It's been difficult.
In the last couple months I started my own business. It's called Fit4Mom. We are doing exercise classes. That has helped me to start creating my own space and help other people to create community as well. It's helped me create community for myself and given me a purpose here. So that's been good.
It's been hard. It's hard to move to a new place, we don't know anybody and with a new baby. I'm still working on it. It's a work in progress.
It is. Do you have at least a couple close friends?
I would say so, yeah. It's help it to feel more like home. But, having kids is hard and it can be isolating, even though we don't mean it to be. I think about how we have tiny babies and we want to stay home because we don't want them to get sick or whatever. When what we are actually doing is making it harder for us to be healthy by keeping everybody inside the house. So, it's been a good experience for me to learn how to make friends. And to seek people out who I normally wouldn't ask for help or say, "Hey can you meet me somewhere because I had a rough night. I didn't sleep and I just need to see an adult."
Do you consider yourself an extrovert? Is that easy for you to do?
No, not at all. I'm absolutely an introvert. The way I recuperate and rejuvenate is with alone time. So it's hard to say, ok , well I have a little bit of time and I need something, I need some self care. To say, well I have been in the house with the kids all day, or I've been alone. What I have to say is what I really need is adult time with another human. Even though I like being alone and that's something I need I feel better in a sense it is also important to have connection. That's been definitely since being a mom that that's changed. I have to actively say, ok this is what I need to do today,.I need to connect with another person. I need to connect with other moms. Other people who have been here and felt these things, it's been incredibly helpful for me.
What inspired you to start your Fit4Moms business?
I'm a nurse. I've been a nurse for about 8 years. I naturally like to care for people. Since moving here, having kids and having another baby I became really passionate about women and especially new moms. I went through postpartum depression and anxiety with both babies and I am still struggling with that. I was thinking about something I could do to help moms and to be able to reach out to create something to help them be healthier. This just sort of fell on my lap. At first I was really nervous because I was like I don't look like a fitness instructor. Are people going to look at me and say her muscles aren't big enough? It was a lot of confidence issue for me. I really had to work through some things and I kind of got over that. It's been a way for me to help moms to connect with each other, which is really awesome for me to see. I get to make meaningful connections with the moms that come. They get to connect with each other and that is really awesome for me to see. I think also to create a space where we say sometimes we're a mess, it's not always perfect. Life isn't as nice as our Instagram feeds are. It's ok to show up and be tired and to walk while the rest of us do our work out. That's ok to feel sad sometimes. It's ok to show up and say I'm not here 100%, we're going to carry you along the way. It's empowering to say we are here for you no matter what. Not being an extrovert and not one of those people who say, come into my space and let's hang out. It's really nice to feel that for the first time., to be able to witness that. So, it's kind of transformed itself into something different. It's another way to take care of people besides being a nurse in a different way. It feels good.
It sounds like another way to take of yourself.
Absolutely! Yeah, we're coming together for a workout obviously. We're getting outside. The babies are playing with each other. The kids get socialization and fun. They sing songs and they have a good time with each other and they make friends. It's community too.
How many ladies do you have show up usually?
We are just starting. Usually between 4-10 a couple days a week so far. We've had moms with 6 week olds. My four year old is usually the oldest. So a big age range, but we're in the same place in life. It's really nice to meet with other ladies in the same spot as you and they understand what you're going through.
You go to work everyday, you're around a lot of people who don't understand why you so tired. Well it's because I got up 14 times last night. I'm tired today or I'm just not feeling super happy today and that's ok too. Especially have struggled with postpartum depression. I'm really passionate about not making it taboo to talk about.
Can we talk about that?
I would love to hear a little bit of your experience with postpartum depression. You had it with both kids?
Both kids. First one I had a really hard delivery and a really hard recovery. Coming out of that I don't know I recognized the symptoms as early as I probably could have. Being a nurse I sort of feel like I can handle it myself. When I did go to the doctor and they ask you those perfunctory questions. You know, how are you feeling and all of that. I knew what she was asking and I knew what I was answering wrong, but I gave her the untruthful answers purposely.
So you would seem ok?
Absolutely because I wasn't willing to admit that I wasn't feeling like I should. I felt guilty like 100% guilty. I have this baby we are both happy and everything is great and I shouldn't be feeling this way. So I struggled for a long time kind of quietly. It took a while, but I came out of it. Everything kind of worked itself out.
How did you come out of it? Can you tell me a little bit about that.
Time and realizing what was important for me for self care. That's been really big with both kids for helping myself to heal. Figuring out what helps me to feel healthy and really keying in on those things. For me it's sleep. Sleep is really big. Eating better, getting some exercise, and alone time. Those things I just know I need to feel my best. It wouldn't have taken so long if I would have asked for help. If I would have known it was ok to say, "I'm not ok."
The second baby came and I immediately knew what was going on, but it was much much worse, much more severe. She slept a lot worse, so I wasn't getting sleep. Having two kids, living in a new place where I didn't know anybody and working full time. It was bad, but I was willing to ask for help the second time. I knew what was going on. I think being in a different place and me being stronger in who I was, or just being able to say , I'm not willing to feel like this for as long.
Knowing what it felt like to be a mom and be happy, I knew that it (PPD) was not a normal feeling. Having already felt what it felt like to be happy and adjusted as a mom, that was helpful. I also had a couple friends that had been through it also, so we were willing to talk about that. They were encouraging me to talk to the doctor. For me that was what was helpful in the end. Getting more sleep, eating better and exercising, getting alone time, taking warm showers, all those things, but also for me medication has helped.
Yeah. I'm glad you said that.
Yeah and it's not taboo. It's ok to take medicine for a little while. Just a little while, it doesn't have to be forever. Even if it is forever, ok that's fine, but there's no shame taking medication. Help yourself to feel better because I'm a mom now and I can be a better wife, friend. I can love myself better with a little medication. It helps me to be able to move forward and find those other ways that help myself feel better. I think it's really a two part thing.
It sounds like the medication gave you the strength to do what you wanted and needed to do?
Absolutely, yeah. When you are kind of in the thick of it, you're in the valley and it's really hard to see how you are going to pull yourself out of it. So, for me the medication helped pushed me out of that just enough where I could see light. Ok, now what I am going to do today is I'm going to go to my husband and say I'm going to go to the gym for an hour while you are with the kids. I'm going to take a shower, you take this one. You know to just ask for what I needed. To be strong enough to take what I needed. Instead of giving and giving all the time. I say this is what I am going to take.
How has practicing these skills changed you?
I think it's made me a better person. A more adjusted and happy person to say this is what I need too. It's made me a better mom because I think I can teach my daughter to be ok with saying this is what I need. Your whole life doesn't have to be about everyone around you being happy for you to be happy too. I think it's changed how I interact with other people. I think it's made me be able to encourage other women and other moms to do that too. That's been good.
Sounds like that would be helpful in the work you are doing with moms?
Yes, I hope so. I think in a sense what we are doing is self care. We all are going to meet and we are all going to work out because it's important for us to get outside and it's important for us to move. So that's a good way. Hey just come work out with us. Whatever you can bring today, just bring that. However, it's important to decide what you need and do it. That doesn't mean you have to be kid free. Sometimes we don't have the option to be kid free. That's ok, so we can bring our kids with us. they can have a good time and we can also get what we need.
It sounds lovely.
It's fun, it's been good. My youngest is almost two and it's taken a long time. I still take medicine
It's taken longer to balance after your second?
Absolutely! I think being in a space of not having a community when she was first born made it a lot harder. So, if I can create a space for women when their babies are born, just a place to come and hear that other people have been what they've been through and to make it not something we don't talk about. It's ok to say I'm not feeling very good. I'm not feeling like I should and it's ok to say that and to say that to somebody else and to have them say, "I've been there too let's talk about it."
The more you share your story you are giving other women the courage to be vulnerable in their own story and their own experience in it. That's powerful.
To find out more about Fit4Mom check out Heather's website.
If you want to be featured in a Story Within write up please email firstname.lastname@example.org