I met my husband Kasper in 2007 while studying abroad in Plymouth, England. We were both international students (foreshadowing our future cross-cultural life!) and we spent the next few years following our opportunities around Canada & Europe, while we finished our undergraduate and graduate degrees. We ended up both working in Switzerland for a couple of years while we travelled, saved, and got married. We were really lucky and got pregnant quickly, my daughter was born in December 2014.
This was a major life event for us, and while Switzerland is a beautiful country full of opportunities for us as professionals, it was quickly apparent that it wasn’t a great fit for what we wanted for our family or in terms of work-life balance. The systems there just aren’t set up well for two working parents, and we had both worked hard to build our careers and didn’t want our society to dictate our choices.
So, I took a job opportunity in Denmark. It was also important to us that I learned Danish, so the timing made sense for us. We also envisioned life would be easier for us living in proximity to my husband’s family.
I’ve been pregnant 3 times, in 3 different places. During my first pregnancy, I think the overall theme would be that I felt strong, active, and confident - but also wrestled with all the normal first-time Mom feelings. I had a lot of doubts about delivering in a foreign country, it helped a lot that the healthcare system in Switzerland is privatized and honestly, exceptional. I felt the standard of prenatal care is better than I had ever envisioned, and I had a lot of opportunities to air my concerns with my gynecologist. The labor was good, and all went well. My only regret during this labor is that as I started feeling my instincts, telling me HOW I wanted to labor and HOW I wanted to push, I let the midwives direct me (away from this instinct). When it finally became too overwhelming for me to do things their way, I just said (in a very stressed out voice I’m sure), ‘’Please let me TRY MY WAY’’. That moment and shift, where I took control and listened to my own body FIRST, dramatically changed how things were progressing. I know they were trying to give me confidence in their ‘authority’, but by listening to myself and my own voice, I was much more empowered to work through the pain and deliver my daughter. I listened to that voice in my next two labors, learning to trust myself and my instincts was such a major lesson for me. I was able to deliver my healthy baby girl unmedicated, as I’d hoped for, with no complications. My son was born almost exactly 2 years later, in Denmark. The health care system here is also great, and again I was healthy and active beforehand. I was more tired, for sure, chasing a toddler and juggling the demands at of a fulltime career. I got a head cold the week before I went into labor, so I was unfortunately exhausted before the labor began and not able to breath properly through my nose which really made everything harder. Overall, this labor was a lot more exhausting, and there were many more moments of doubt, even though it moved a quicker and was progressing well. I found out years later that my son was anterior facing as I delivered him, or a ‘stargazer’ as they say here, which meant that he was rotated upwards instead of facing down in the birth canal. This means the labor can be a lot more exhausting and painful, and I hadn’t been informed during the labor. We can’t know for sure, because my husband isn’t familiar with this terminology if they had told him – but I was dumbstruck when I discovered this information, years later when I read my medical report. How could I have not known this?
This really hammered in a feeling I’d had all along, that it is hard to give birth in a foreign country. Even when you speak some level of the language, delivering a baby is a primal experience. I just don’t believe you have the bandwidth to navigate language barriers at the same time. Information gets lost, no matter how well you prepare, and that is a tough reality for me. I WANT to know what’s happening, feel informed, and believe every choice I might need to make will be the best one I can make. This labor taught me to remain strong, even while deep in the unknown.
In 2018 I found out I was pregnant for a third time; we had moved to a different part of Denmark, so it was again a new hospital and community for me. I was excited to be the most confident, experienced mother I had ever been. Maternity leave with my son had felt so peaceful and confident - I wasn’t a rookie mom anymore, I had strategies and tactics now!
When I started bleeding at 6 weeks pregnant, just before Christmas, I cried. I was sure this was me losing the pregnancy. I prepared my husband, we got childcare, and went in for a scan to confirm. I was devastated; I hadn’t had any problems in previous pregnancies and just didn’t believe a miscarriage could happen to me. When the doctor asked us if we wanted to see the screen, I was sure he was trying to help me process what was happening and wanted to show me what was going wrong.
When he pointed out that there seemed to be TWO babies embedded in my uterus… my husband and I were thunderstruck. The doctor also informed us that because of the bleeding, he couldn’t confirm if both were viable, one was viable, or I was having a complete miscarriage. The next three weeks were awful. It was Christmastime, and we didn’t feel comfortable sharing what we were struggling with.
Three weeks later, I was scanned and both babies were viable. I cried, again. So, I stumbled out of my ‘confident Mom’ expectations and into the terrifying, high risk category or ‘pregnant with multiples’. I was scared and felt like a first-time Mom again. Could I be active? Can I play with my 2 & 4-year-old? Can I travel?
Thankfully, the pregnancy went well. I worked hard to take care of myself and take life as slowly as possible under the circumstances. I was induced at 38 weeks, which was traumatic for me. I knew it was the healthiest choice for the girls, but I had gone into labor naturally the first two times, so it felt so unnatural to have my waters broken – and like I was evicting my daughters before THEY were ready to be born. This conflict, making a choice between scientific logic and maternal instinct was really, really difficult. I was also worrying about my breech second baby, and whether I could successfully deliver them both without needing an emergency intervention. In any case, the girls were born just as healthy as their siblings, and our life as a family of six began.
With my singletons, I feel the hurdles and learning curves were relatively normal. I learned to breastfeed, navigate life while exhausted, and reorganize my schedule around baby rhythms and routines. When my twins were born, I was committed to giving them exactly the same standard of care and attention I had given my singletons. I didn’t want them to suffer in any way, because they were sharing my attention and milk supply. So, this time, I didn’t get as much joy in my breastfeeding journey. I loved the closeness of it, but there were so many more logistics to nursing twins, and the frequency is enough to break anyone…. Let alone someone whose body has just carried and delivered two tiny humans into the world. I was relentless with myself, eat, rest, breastfeed. I didn’t cut corners, and when my girls were slow to gain weight because they were lazy, sleepy eaters, I regimented the routine: eat, rest, breastfeed, pump, eat, rest, breastfeed with supplemental pumped milk, repeat. It was more than exhausting, and with so little sleep, I felt myself losing my marbles.
One evening when the girls were 4 months old, I remember wrestling the girls to sleep for hours and sometime around 1 am they fell asleep. I remember praying, PLEASE give me just two hours of sleep. When they woke me after 20 minutes, I felt myself break. I remember collapsing on the bed in tears and waking my husband desperately.
Something changed in me that night. I was a broken woman, and I can’t think of any other moment where I felt more defeated, or like a failure. That’s a word I have never thought so frequently as I did in this last year. I felt like I was failing motherhood. Why can’t I get these babies to eat enough? Why can’t I pump more quickly? Why can’t I figure this out? All of this, and I only saw my older kids at a distance from the couch, from my messy, milky, exhausted vantage point.
If I was a friend to myself, I would have said: “Failure? Are you KIDDING? You created two healthy babies in your body at once. You brought four healthy babies into the world within five years and they are all thriving and growing! You STILL have a husband you love, and a home you are happy in, you are acing life, Mama!”But I was not a good friend to myself those days. I judged the messy home, how little I helped my 2 & 4-year-old, and how rarely I could pull myself together. I would change my clothes and tidy the house when my midwife would visit, and rush to tell her all the things I’d been working on, like she was checking my homework. She would finally get me settled down on the couch with the girls, and ask, “How are you?’’ I’m almost crying just thinking about it. I also cried then, more than once. Honestly, I had been a strong mama bear with my singletons, and when these girls showed up, I felt more like a water balloon. A tiny puncture, or moment of kindness, and I was set to explode with the waterworks.
Overall, motherhood has truly made me a more connected person. I have discovered my instincts, I am more in tune with my own body, and I have discovered such deep joy while raising my babies. I wasn’t sure how you could love more than one human the way I loved my daughter, then I did when my son arrived and again with the twins. I’ve felt my heart grow new spaces as these bundles of pure love have arrived in my life. I have never wavered in that respect; it was immediate love when each child arrived. My struggles have primarily been in believing that I am ENOUGH for them. I am often battling doubts about whether I can be strong enough, protect them enough, teach them enough, and the list only grows as they do. The mental health aspects of motherhood have been becoming more and more present in my life. For me, being exhausted and completely drained physically meant that I was less capable of dealing with my mental weaknesses. Fear of failure and self-doubt are things I can easily handle when I am physically strong - but run rampant when I am giving everything to caring for babies. I think this is why I wound up in such a lonely, destroyed place mentally. I was far away from friends & family that could support me, and I wasn’t being honest with myself, let alone anyone else, about how much I was struggling with motherhood. I kept thinking that as a seasoned mom, I should have this figured out by now.
As I struggled in motherhood this last year, writing was an outlet for me. I processed some of my frustrations and overwhelm by making light of common stress points with rhymes about motherhood. When manuscript started to take form, and my husband could see how much it was lighting me up, he suggested I pursue it for ‘fun’. Once I got going, a fire was lit in me.
I kept thinking, if I can remind Moms that they aren’t alone in motherhood in this one little way, and lighten the burden for even one woman, this will all be worth it.
The draft for this book was already in motion when the pandemic hit, and I can’t know for sure how much it impacted my own mental health, but it certainly put pressure on my circumstances. As the twins were settling into a nice rhythm and I started to think about re-emerging into the world, the world went into isolation. I was suddenly home for months with 4 small kids, while my husband was getting busier and trying to work from home. It was messy. The more I read about postpartum depression/anxiety in Moms, the more alarmed I became. The pandemic was having a dramatic, negative impact on maternal mental health. The health measures are basically cutting women off from health services they need and necessary social communities to support their social and mental wellbeing. It’s such a scary combination of events and safety measures. I joke about it, that I was too busy to be worried or notice that I might be losing my mind, but those months in early 2020 were extremely stressful in my home.
So, I took one step after another, and now I have a book! ‘The Lovely Haze of Baby Days’ is a playful, rhyming book, which features relatable illustrations and honest, candid writing for both mothers and babies.
It gives little ones an early and age-appropriate introduction to language. For mothers, it is a companion piece to help them get through the tough days and the sleepless nights.
I made the decision early on that I wanted to partner with an artist who was passionate about motherhood. I found Mie Frey Damgaard on Instagram while looking for illustrators who drew about motherhood, and I stumbled across a pregnancy journal she sells and created while she was pregnant. It’s a really lovely tribute to pregnancy, she has some really beautiful work done inspired by the motherhood and being female. She also does work for a women’s magazine here in Denmark that I found extremely relatable and clever, and I wanted her to bring that creativity to my book.
The Business Developer in me always thought about how I could achieve the most positive impact on the most Moms, and that meant making business decisions about how to approach this job of getting it published. I decided to self-publish so I could control the timeline and creative approach to this book. I have really loved having my hands on all the moving pieces of that process.
Using Kickstarter, which is a funding platform for creative projects, made a lot of sense to help get the book off the ground, because it is a great way to get visibility for an important message like this one and to do a condensed amount of marketing in a short amount of time.
I launched the Kickstarter on September 15th and set a deadline of October 8th – with an ‘all or nothing’ goal – which means that the book will only be published if I reach the set amount of funding by the deadline! The Kickstarter campaign is set up with various suggested pledge amounts which correspond with various ‘rewards’ options. For example, a copy of the book in print or digitally, and additional products like postcards and a tote bag also designed by the illustrator of the book, Mie Frey Damgaard. People who want to support the project, also known as ‘Backers’ select the pledge amount and rewards they want to receive for that purchase, and their credit card is only charged if the project meets its fundraising goal by the deadline.
While time is not a resource I have, I appreciate the efficiency of the defined timeline baked into a Kickstarter campaign – and so far, the project has received incredible support! As of today (September 29th) I have nearly reached nearly 80% of the fundraising goal!
My first goal is to get my Kickstarter funded, so I can finance the first professional print run of this book. Once my Kickstarter rewards are fulfilled, I will list the books on Amazon in the US and Canada. My plan is to personally fulfil any orders in the EU from my home in Denmark.
I would love for this book to be a symbol of solidarity for mothers on their bookshelf. My dream is that this book could be given from one mother to another as a reminder in her home, that she is loved and supported – and that she should reach out when she’s feeling overwhelmed.
My big vision is encouraging this book as a tool to support maternal mental health in a way that will be used, and present in everyday life. (i.e., not a pamphlet in a drawer, but a book that will be seen and read).
Many of my friends suffered from postpartum depression or anxiety and weren’t able to admit it until years later. I live abroad and felt a lot of guilt for not being a better friend to them. I wish I had been able to lighten their load and support their mental health as they transitioned into and through motherhood. I know deep down, part of my desire to bring this book into the world – is so I can help other women in a way I wasn’t able to support my friends. So much love and support has been built into this project, I hope this board book will help us (as mothers) be more honest with ourselves and each other about what motherhood looks like. More broadly, if this project is successful, I would love to see if there’s room to develop other books inspired by life as parents of young children. I love the idea that books can serve two audiences simultaneously in a clever, playful way - they can be entertaining for kids and also deliver supportive messages to parents.
Motherhood is an odd mix of emotions. It changes your life forever but there is no one way to do it right. Even with easier access to information online, it can be overwhelming and exhausting. The intent of this book is to remind mothers struggling through the ‘baby blues’ that they are not alone. This is a simple yet very important message because if unchecked, these ‘baby blues’ can develop into postpartum depression.
Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that “about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression.” This figure is even higher for women in developing countries—15.6% during pregnancy and 19.8% after childbirth.
Depression is not just a silent battle for mothers. It has long-term impact on children’s growth and development, as it affects the mother’s ability to respond to their needs.
With the ongoing global health crisis due to COVID-19, the likelihood of maternal depression has increased because of forced physical and social isolation, according to a recent study. The researchers found that the number of women experiencing moderate to high anxiety increased from 29% to 72% during the pandemic. Those with depressive symptoms also increased from 15% to 41%.
I see this as my way of supporting fellow Moms by making them ‘feel seen.’ There’s still some stigma on how mothers should feel about having a baby, many people still assume that because it is a natural part of life, we’ll cope eventually. And most women do.
But if we can make that journey easier even in the smallest of ways and reduce the risk of long-term mental and emotional health problems, why not do it? We need all the help we can get.
- Lindsay Madsen, Mom of 4, Denmark -
Read more about Lindsay’s Kickstarter campaign and The Lovely Haze of Baby Days and pledge your support for this motherhood inspired project before the deadline on October 8th, 2020!
Follow Lindsay’s journey in motherhood and with this book on Instagram