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Confessions of a Buena Madre: ‘I Should Have Listened When My Son Kept Telling Me His Stomach Hurt’

“Mamá my stomach hurts.”

Growing up I had a lot of unexplained stomachaches and headaches.

“Maybe you just have to go to the bathroom,” my mom would reply to me every time. I was a scrappy, smart, sensitive child, and I could tell that there was something about the way she said it that felt as if she was repeating someone else’s words. As if, someone had said the same thing to her when she was growing up, maybe her dad, or her grandma Lupe. Maybe it was the far-off tone, the way she avoided eye-contact, or maybe it was the the tinge of worry in her voice. It was the way she always sounded when she thought there might be something wrong with me that she could do nothing about.

Still, she did take me to see a doctor at one point who told me that there was nothing wrong. That “it could just be stress.”

Back in those days, in a small town, and growing up on welfare, there was little my mother, or I could do about stress. Kids were not going to stop bullying me at school for being Mexican, “shabby,” or poor. And they would not stop saying things about the color of my skin. Adults were not going to stop asking me “what are you?” We were not suddenly going to have more money or not be living below the poverty level. My mom wasn’t going to stop being sad about how her mom had left their family when she was five, or about having to leave the rest of her family in Los Angeles to escape my dad who beat her and kidnapped me.

Just stress.

We went home from the doctor’s appointment without any practical advice about what to do about the stress.

images need credit here.

The doctor had given it a name, and now I was expected to move on.

I continued having stomachaches and headaches, what we now know can be somatic symptoms of stress or anxiety, but back then because the doctor had said there was nothing wrong with me, my mom thought I might just be a hypochondriac.

But according to a Harvard Health Publishing article from 2010, the relationship between stress or anxiety and stomach pains is easily explained:

“The brain interacts with the rest of the body through the nervous system, which has several major components. One of them is the enteric nervous system, which helps regulate digestion. In life-or-death situations, the brain triggers the “fight or flight” response. It slows digestion, or even stops it completely, so the body can focus all of its internal energy to facing the threat. But less severe types of stress, such as an argument, public speaking, or driving in traffic, also can slow or disrupt the digestive process, causing abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal symptoms.”

Still, despite my own experiences, when I first started hearing, from my son I  copy/pasted my mother’s reaction.

You might think that I would have kept my own experiences of dealing with my own health and anxiety would have prepared me for when my own child began complaining of the same, but it didn’t at first. “Mama, my stomach hurts,” became a common complaint I heard from my son over the years, and somehow, even though I’d experienced such aches and had known them to be very real, didn’t totally or always react the way that I should have. I did encourage him to talk about his feelings and helped him role-play how to handle difficult situations at school, but I often felt or reacted in the same way about my son’s stomach pains in the way that my own mother did to mine: worry, avoid and sometimes dismiss.

As a parent, I made fun of myself for asking my own child if maybe he had to go to the bathroom when he complained of stomach pains, but I also knew that the feelings of nausea that he had those first days of kindergarten and first grade were indeed stress. The kind of stress, as a former pre-school teacher that I knew how to deal. So, when I dropped him off for school on those days that caused him anxiety, I drew on my training as a childcare worker. I spoke with the teacher. I worked hard not to allow him to feel like his anxious feelings about school were bad or wrong, and I let him talk about his feelings until it was time to make a clean break and leave him for the day. I reassured him that I’d be back, and I come back on time.

And yet, my eagerness to be attentive was not always applied or pursue so thoroughly or possibly with enough vigor.

Often when I heard complaints from my son about his stomachaches, I neglected hunting for answers. On occasions when the words “Mama, my stomach hurts” came out of his mouth, I didn’t ask him why? Or question him on whether or not he was feeling anxious or fearful about something. And while I did bring up his recurring stomach pains in the context of doctor’s visits, I did not take him to medical visits for these pains specifically. Mostly because I attributed his pains to his stranger anxiety and complications with making transitions.

What I did not realize at the time, was that stomach pains, or other somatic symptoms of stress, can lead to anxiety disorders and/or depression if left untreated. I also was not aware that there are ways, some that don’t cost money, that are capable of reducing stress and minimizing its effects. And simply knowing that the stomach pains could very well-be stress could minimize the stress and re-direct a family to take steps to reduce or treat stress.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, there are several psychological interventions that can be enacted to reduce stress and ease gastrointestinal pain. These include cognitive-behavioral therapy in order to “recognize and change stress-inducing thinking, relaxation techniques to calm the body, and gut-directed hypnosis, which combines deep relaxation with positive suggestions focused on gastrointestinal function.”

Recently, an article by Awareness Act titled “Children Won’t Say I Have Anxiety, They Say My Stomach Hurts,” caught my eye and motivated me to reach out to my circle of friends about their experiences of dealing with anxiety as parents. Many of my friends commented about how accurately the article described them as children and quite a few pointed out that oftentimes children will complain of being tired or having a headache.

As parents we often find ourselves wishing for a chance to pry open our children’s heads and see just what’s going on inside of their thoughts.

For parents of teenagers, this thought process can be especially true when our children become more quiet and insular and often even withdrawn.  Still, now I realize that sometimes as parents we’d do better to listen and watch. After all, how often do we as adults become withdrawn, tired or evens so filled with nerves in our stomachs that we become irritable and withdrawn ourselves? Over the years I’ve learned que mi hi’jo was trying to tell me how he was feeling all along: anxious and in need of my help.

If he were little again, I’d listen and take him to talk to a professional about his anxieties sooner. I’d also sit with him every day and tell him to close his eyes, take some deep breaths. Then I’d rub his tummy and say quietly, “Sana, sana, colita de rana, si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana.

Latinas Are Opening Up About Their Experiences With Dealing With Postpartum Depression And It’s The Most Important Thing

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Latinas Are Opening Up About Their Experiences With Dealing With Postpartum Depression And It’s The Most Important Thing

When it comes to having a baby, there’s no doubt that parents will experience a wide range of emotions. From pride and joy to fear and excitement, having a baby, whether it’s for the first or the ninth time, will undoubtedly trigger all kinds of feelings you haven’t felt before. For many, giving birth can also produce a feeling that others would not anticipate: depression. 

According to the  Mayo Clinic, postpartum depression can occur not only in women but in new fathers as well and it is defined by mood swings, anxiety, sadness, crying and feelings of overwhelm. Many new parents will also experience irritability, reduced concentration, appetite problems and trouble sleeping. But the truth about postpartum depression is that it isn’t just unique to the feelings, in fact, the mood disorder can cause quite a bit of shame and isolation. After all, having a baby should be marked by a period of joy and happiness. But in reality, this isn’t always the case. Despite the fact that many expect new parents to be nothing but elated and a little bit starved for sleep around this time, in reality, PPD is not only very real but also perfectly normal to experience. In fact, according to Postpartum Depression Statistics, “approximately 70% to 80% of women will experience, at a minimum, the ‘baby blues’. Many of these women will experience the more severe condition of postpartum depression or a related condition.”

To get a better understanding of these feelings of depression and how Latinas deal with it in their own circumstances, FIERCE reached out to Latinas for their experiences in dealing with depression after they gave birth and how they learned to deal.

When it comes to PPD, you might feel too ashamed to reach out but there’s no one that will help you quite like your community.

Of course, like anyone dealing with depression, there is often a sense of shame tied to your sadness that will likely prevent you from reaching out at first. After all, when it comes to mental health (particularly in the Latino community) the world has a lot to learn and a lot of coming around to do.

“I am so so thankful for the conversations starting to happen! When I got diagnosed with PPD even though I had resources available to me like therapy and doctors it wasn’t until I found my community of other moms in similar situations that I felt not alone. Community is everything!” – twistedforsugar

Opening up to family can start the healing process.

No doubt about it, reaching out to your amigas, BFFs, and mommy groups will likely help you find the kind of support and love you need to climb the mountain of depression you might be experiencing. But it’s also important to remember that sometimes receiving comfort from your family can be way more helpful than you might have expected. After all, you know who else has likely either dealt with PPD or experienced it first hand for themselves long before you did? Your mama and your papa.

“I was the first to be open about my partum depression in my family. (Prior to that my family didn’t believe it existed). But, now we get to talk about it and it’s so healing!” – karlasturtz

Take a vacation and remember that even though your kids might see you as Wonder Woman, you’re also a real woman with real concerns that should be taken care of.

Yes, mama, you deserve as much attention and love as your newborn too. Don’t worry about reshaping your post-birth body right now. Jump into your favorite bathing suit, head off to your favorite ski sights and do you girl.

“Swear this made me cringe on how I did it twice and big freaken S/O to all those mommas that did it with 5+ kids!! Y’all need a damn holiday named after you wonder women!” – yes.its_still.me11

Just remember, yes you have a baby now so things are different, but you’re still deserving of love, light and a whole lot of patience and self- love.

You know how on flights, attendants always tell you to put your mask on first before you put on someone else’s? PPD kind of works that way too. Of course, you never want to neglect your little one but be sure to be kind to yourself just as you are to your newborn. 

“Yea i was definitely NOT prepared for my stomach to be big, and saggy for the first few months after” – thebitchyhippie559

Above all, get professional help.

Self-treatment is never really the most effective or safest way to go. If you think that you have postpartum depression, be sure to reach out to a support group. Postpartumdepression.org has a ton of resources for you here.

News Outlets Are Flooded With Terrifying News, But Here’s A List Of Really Good News That Is Affecting Latinx

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News Outlets Are Flooded With Terrifying News, But Here’s A List Of Really Good News That Is Affecting Latinx

We Are / Getty Images

Every day, television, print, and social media news bombard us with the worst of the world’s major updates and reports. From news of global warming and racism to accounts of mass shootings and political in-fighting, it’s hard to see any good news in these daily publishings. It can get overwhelming and downright depressing. It begins to feel like there is nothing but negativity and bad news in the world. 

However, we know that isn’t true. No matter how bad it seems, there are daily triumphs that we should celebrate as sources of positivity and hope in our world no matter how small these wins seem. We asked our FIERCE readers to share with us some of the good news that is happening in their lives. Hopefully, their stories of success will rejuvenate you and remind you of your own personal victories.

1. Dad deserves some rest and relaxation.

Instagram / @securedretirementradio

“Dad told me today he is preparing to retire in December! This man, like many of our fathers/grandfathers, was up every day at 5 AM working hard to make sure I had everything – now he can relax and let me (try) to make sure he has a nice retirement ❤️” @mianoel18

2. They grow up so fast.

Instagram / @mainan.anaktoys

“My two-year-old started preschool today. The regional center is paying for 2 days. It took a lot of work to get to this point. I’m a single mom ❤️” @xochitl_esperanza

3. An educated Latina.

Instagram / @nataliemcortes

“Graduating with my Ph.D. soon. Proud First-gen Mexicana ❤️ !! ” @ana_kaboom

4. You are worthy of good things.

Instagram / @thecleverbabecompany

“I’m currently applying to medical school and my imposter syndrome was hitting me pretty hard but after my first interview, I’m excited about the rest. (I got interviews at schools I thought would flat out reject me)” @elizpicazo

5. Making her dreams come true.

Instagram / @johnmarkgreenpoetry

“This 43-year-old mother of two just passed her first-year law school exam! Less than 20% of those who take it pass. In three years I’ll be taking the California bar exam! It’s never too late to go after your goals!” @mujerlaw

6. Congrats, you’re a homeowner!

Instagram / @abbieimagine

“Officially done paying my house as of this month 🙏🏼😭🙏🏼😭🙏🏼” @teresasole48

7. A reunion worth waiting for.

Instagram / @donia_artwork

“I haven’t seen my best friend in two years and she bought her plane ticket today to join me for Thanksgiving and I am SO EXCITED 😍😍😍😍”   @katie.i.cannon

8. Pay it forward.

Instagram / @deepalshah01

“A job opportunity at this place I volunteer for opened up and I’m really excited about it. I applied it’s a legal advocate position to help innocent victims of all crime. I just really want to pay it forward and be who I needed when I was younger. I’m just asking for prayers and good vibes this way 🙏🏽”   @pieldecanela__

9. Get that bread, girl!

Instagram / @j.duh

“I am starting my first job after college on Monday! I will help in launching a Latinx outreach program! I am so excited” @bookwormweirdo

10. Support those Latina-owned businesses. 

Instagram / @lovelyeventsbyvon

“My gringo esposo and I started a Paleteria @gringojakespaleteria and we entered a competition to win our own shop with free rent for a year! 👏🏽👏🏽 Even if we don’t win, we’ve learned so much and conquered our fear of public speaking! 💗” @oliviamsal

11. A multitude of blessings.

Instagram / @roccaboxuk

“I just graduated from UW-Madison (just announced #13 public university in the country). I am a first-gen college student so I am so so proud of myself. Still looking for a job (accepting all prayers/good vibes thx 😊). My parents have been looking for their first house for months and are set to close and move in at the end of the month!” @april_rose13

12. So much to be thankful for.

Instagram / @the.sarasa

“I nailed the audition for @tedxevansville and will be speaking about our Latinx community on November 8th! I just moved across the country too, and I both my company and myself are starting new projects and getting more business 🙏🏽❤️ @officiallawtina also my parents are opening the first authentic Latin American restaurant (Serving 9 countries’ foods) in September 17th in a small town where it is finally starting to diversify more and become more inclusive, and this is a HUGE step for the community!” @cindypetrovalfaro

13. Celebrate Latina creators.

Instagram / @weallgrowlatina

“My film @hyphenfilm is hitting the film festivals! Even up for a film star award 🙂 @riaservellon

14. Travel feeds the spirit.

Instagram / @evolution_of_spirit

“My Ma and sis got to travel to Spain 🇪🇸 🙏🏽 We are not rich rich so to us this is Amazing!!!! @jjj259 @essjayyvee 💕 have fun love you!!!” @jayyvee_xo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4n-R07zlz1g