Dinosaur Mama

Dinosaur Mama

The marks etched into the desert landscape as viewed from my seat on the plane look as though a mama dinosaur had one too many sibling dino fights; stomping and dragging her foot back toward her body.

“He’s the only reptile brother you’re ever going to have.”

In the wake of her stomp and drag, the shape and roll, the imprint of the Earth forever changed. Like when I am rooting through my closet, on my knees and sweating, looking for my other gray shoe in a sea of shoes that aren’t gray, and I hear one more time…


I mistake the voice, one brother for the other. I’ve just sent the older one back to bed after he asked me eleven questions about California, airplane safety, earthquakes, tectonic plates, tsunamis, and Disneyland versus Disney World.

I am bone tired; I physically ache after three nights of insomnia brought on by who knows what. I parented alone all day as my husband sat with his grandmother at the hospital while his grandfather had yet another heart cath after what I count as his third heart attack since I joined the family. We launched big news at work that will hopefully help moms for decades to come. I smashed my iPhone to smithereens on the garage floor while running a quick errand. I made tacos for dinner—and didn’t have enough taco shells for myself. I ate a bowl of beans while the boys left half of their taco shells on their plates, slobbered on and uneaten. The dog ate half a Gymbuck I earned buying the boys overpriced Easter clothes the day before because I realized, too late, that I wouldn’t get home until the evening on the day before Easter. When I yelled at the dog, she peed on the floor.

I was tired. So I snapped.

“What? I thought I sent you to bed.” I didn’t even turn around at first.

But I immediately regretted my tone. I get stressed before I travel, but I hate taking that tone at any time for any reason with my sons. It feels gross.

I felt even worse when I turned and saw not our older son who had, yes, gone back to bed, but our younger son, clad in dark green fleece pajamas adorned with sock monkeys. His face crumpled in the way only his face crumples, in the way that breaks everything within you.

“I finished reading and I just wanted to say goodnight.”


This is a truth of my motherhood. My anxiety will creep up and up for whatever reason—work, busy life, fire life, homework, family, travel—and it spills out and over onto these ones I’ve been charged with care. I pulled him into my arms and apologized, asking if he wanted me to tuck him into bed. Again. He nodded. And sniffled.

I shuffled him down the hallway, scooched his butt into his bed, and pulled the covers up to his chin. His face remained crumpled.

“I’m. Going. To. Miss. You. So. Much. You. Never. Leave.” Sobbing. Snot. Tears. Arms around my neck. I held him close, a bit flabbergasted.

“It’s okay, Boo. Amanda will be here for one day and daddy the next two days and then a special day with Nina. We can text and FaceTime a lot.” I brushed his quickly growing hair out of his face, wiping tears that snaked down his soft cheeks.

I haven’t gone anywhere for work in over a year. I’ve been at home, firmly planted in close proximity to them at all times. I made choices that kept me in our shared space for specific reasons, just as I made choices to start a new job that will occasionally take me from my babies for specific reasons.

The boys know I “help mamas,” but they don’t quite understand what I do beyond that general description. They’ve heard me mention mental health, but they don’t get what my work does for others’ mental health. They know I’m on the computer and the phone a lot during the day and that I have more time in the evenings than I used to. They know I seem happier, less prone to bouts of anger or irritation, like the one LittleBrother just witnessed. But they don’t yet have an understanding of the endless work of those within the non-profit sector. They don’t get mental health stigma and the fight we have as a team to get people to take us, to take our suffering moms, seriously. While they know I take medication to make my brain work properly, they don’t understand that without I quite likely wouldn’t be here, with them; alive.

It’s interesting to be here in San Jose for the NTEN Non-Profit Technology Conference. Nearly two years ago I stood on the Grand Ballroom Stage at the San Jose Convention Center and read my Voices of the Year piece to a room full of BlogHer attendees. I stood on that stage and I talked about understanding suicide, about having been on that same proverbial bridge, of being so glad I was far from it. People called me brave for sharing my truth. I didn’t yet know that my mental health was crumbling around me, that within three months, I’d be in the hospital for getting too close to that bridge that really is any freaking bridge. That rock bottom was so very close. I couldn’t see it.

Jenna Hatfield, Voices of the Year 2014

And I didn’t know I’d be walking through the same convention hall, nearly two years later, learning as much as I can so I can help support moms dealing with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders in the best ways possible. I couldn’t see this was coming either. Maybe it would have made rock bottom easier. I’ll never know.

What I do know is that doing important work for moms makes the time spent away from my sons feel tolerable. Maybe instead, the big hole I saw from the sky wasn’t that of a mama dinosaur, tired and fed up with another day of parenting. Maybe the lines in the Earth symbolize the way our little dinosaurs step into our hearts, our lives, our souls and forever change who we are, how we see the world, and the ways in which we want to make it better for their generation.

Either way, I miss those little, loud-footed boys of mine right now. This is working motherhood; this is warrior motherhood.


A Brief(ish) Word on my Voices of the Year Reading

Standing on stage, reading those words, is probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

My Voices of the Year Piece


I mean, I acknowledge it’s a well-written piece, one I am immensely proud of having written, having pressed published, having shared, having submitted for VOTY, having won.


Sending the girl with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and bouts of depression up on stage to talk about suicide seems like a recipe for disaster. Because I would rather talk about anything that suicide. I would rather talk about menstrual cycles and puberty with boys and Calculus and the weird orange mold spores that grew on our back deck than stand in front of a group of my peers and colleagues and talk about the things I struggle with mental health wise. To talk about the times I’ve felt worthless and hopeless. To talk about the times I wanted to die.

On Stage

But there’s a reason it wasn’t my happy posts that were picked. Not a piece about mothering the heck out of my beloved boys. Not a piece about the grief and loss that come with being a birth mother involved in an open adoption. Not a piece about writing or running or marriage or love or anything in between.

It was this piece.

Because it needs to be read. Out loud. We need to talk about the bridge that is any bridge, the space that is any space, those feelings that we’re told to keep quiet, keep silent, keep hidden. When I arrived at the Grand Ballroom, nearly in tears and having been sick with nerves for an hour and a half prior, Elisa Camahort Page took me aside and told me that my piece, well-written, had been picked because just as people needed to read it, people needed to hear it. Out loud. And then I tried not to cry some more.

And so it is my honor to have stood before you and shared those words with you tonight. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your tweets, your photos, your Facebook statuses. Thank you for coming up to me and saying, “Well done.” But mostly, thank you for sharing your stories. We are not alone in this. We are never alone in this.

With My Piece

It is also my duty to tell you that if you are struggling with suicidal feelings, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone. And, like we’ve seen plastered on our mirrors here this week: YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You Are Enough