Finding Strength and Identity in Motherhood: An Interview with Jenny Wiland

By Martelle Esposito

This week we talk with Jenny Wiland, a working mom of a beautiful baby boy and a passionate advocate for women’s rights and human rights. Jenny gets real about how hard, transformative, and worth it motherhood is, especially during the first few weeks.  

What are you most proud of being a mom and why?

For starters, being pregnant is not an easy feat. It’s so draining and full of a lot of judgments. Then there is the birth. Mine was a marathon 37-hours of labor, including three hours of pushing. And my epidural didn’t work, so it was basically like all-natural birth. But, I have never felt so strong in my life. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done, or will ever do, and I’m a different person because of it. I am so proud of that. I am also so proud of creating this beautiful person who exhibits affection, who is learning, and who doesn’t yet know of one bad thing in the world. I am just in awe of my son. The sense of privilege to be his parent is both humbling and astounding.

Can you describe an experience that brought out your mom power? 

I labored at home for 24 hours before going to the hospital (that’s when everything went to s***.) The doctors didn’t want to listen to me and what I knew was going on in my body. I had an overall rough start to breastfeeding. And, I was not getting enough support from the people I thought would back me up on my choices, even though their intentions were good. It really toughened me up for motherhood. And, once you emerge out of that “fourth trimester” and into your confident-mom stride, you feel like you can get through pretty much anything and with no sleep. I don’t even know how it’s scientifically possible. Looking back at my progress since my child was conceived, I’d say I went from a pretty strong person to a total badass.

What do you find most challenging about being a mom?

The healing process after giving birth takes a toll on you. Sleep is sparse. Anything your family says to do is easily going to upset you and make you feel like a bad mom. You feel you should be doing so much and you’re not physically capable of doing much. Showering was itself a challenge. Going to the bathroom- Woah. Just traumatizing. A whole other interview. Also, the sheer amount of things that you can and must get done within a day takes superhuman strength and a miraculous amount of multi-tasking. You’ll be holding your baby, feeding them while folding clothes, pumping one breast, and talking on the phone to your pediatrician about a rash. That’s a typical twenty minutes of a mom on maternity leave times 300 throughout the day. Then my husband gets home and asks why the house is a mess when I’ve cleaned it eight times and taken care of the baby all day, and I want to scream.

What has surprised you most about motherhood?

People will say things to you that will leave your mouth agape; unsolicited advice and really personal questions. They will intrude on your space, too.

How have you changed since becoming a mom?

I feel that I have had to assess the parts of me who are able to stay and what I don’t have time for anymore. I have been creating a new identity that includes being a mom. In the beginning, I didn’t feel like my whole self. I felt like superwoman yet a shell of myself. Eventually, I started to feel whole as I got more confident in my mom role. It sounds corny, but my child made me feel complete, and watching him learn something new or laugh is the highest high I’ve ever felt. It’s the happiest happy I have ever felt, and it all just feels so natural now.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were pregnant and starting your journey as a mom?

Hahahahahahaha! Breastfeeding is harder than you can ever imagine and harder than anyone, any book, or any class ever tells you it will be. I could. Not. Believe. The. Pain. Why?! I didn’t know if I was doing something wrong, but I soon developed blood blisters in my nipples, and I was so chapped, raw. It was awful. But you know what? Once you get through that dark chapter, it’s so worth it. The only thing that will give you the purest happiness is seeing your baby content. But, I wish people were more real. It’s going to be hell until you get over the hard parts. Then, it’s amazing.

What advice would you give new moms for finding their mom power?

First, you need a support network. For me, it was my other pregnant girlfriends or new moms that could relate. All my other friends or even my husband or mother could not empathize because it was not within their reach or fresh in their minds. Second, always, always go with your gut. You will know the difference between every cry (after a while) and no one’s advice outweighs what you feel in your bones. Whatever you think is best is okay.