A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

How I Found My Way Out of My Past

Sometimes I look around my house and find scraps of the old me lying around and it gets me to tripping on how much I have changed since Jack was born. Priorities change. It’s such a simple sentence and concept, but when I get glimpses of how astounding an affect this has had on the way I live my life I am truly in awe of my son.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, before motherhood.

Over the weekend I took some time to dust off and store away my shoes. My husband came in saw the giant pile of mainly black platform high heels and said “wow, do you think you had a problem?” I remember these shoes as being one of the most important things to me. The way I looked was at the top of my list of priorities. I always had nice clothes. I never wore the same thing twice in a week. It took all day to do laundry because I had a system with each item of clothing. I ran 25-30 miles per week and saved my calorie intake for beer and wine. My hair was $300 every 8 weeks. Besides our rent it was our highest expense. My panties and bra had to match; had to. It was the law. My fingers and toes were always painted. My sunglasses were shiny. My eyebrows were plucked, my armpits and legs shaved and my vagina was from Brazil. My makeup was perfect. I had to have lipstick on at all times. I remember one night getting completely blasted with my coworkers. I went into the bathroom and threw up. Then I went to the mirror and reapplied my lipstick, perfectly.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, before motherhood.

I was also obsessed with my job. I worked at a residential treatment facility for teenage wards of the state. They suffered severe emotional, psychological and behavioral problems. I started working there in my late 20’s when my husband and I moved here from New York City. I made my best friends there. I discovered my true passion for social work there. It became the center of my universe. I worked alongside my best friends. I socialized alongside my coworkers. We all became emotionally dependent on each other. I decided to get my graduate degree so that I could climb the ranks. I succeeded as I did with most things related to my job. I proceeded to take on various positions and responsibilities. After about 4 or 5 years I was getting unhappy. It was a high stress job with severely aggressive kids and a weak administration. A lot of my friends had moved on to other jobs. As grad school came to an end I felt unsure about taking a new position here or finding a new place to work.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, before motherhood.

On the first day of my last semester of grad school I arrived at my research class. The professor handed me a 25 page syllabus. I was working at the residential facility part-time, doing my field placement at the police department and taking classes full-time. I was beat. I was full of anxiety all the time. The next day I arrived at work and smoked a cigarette with a coworker. She walked away. I started to feel funny. The world faded away. I opened my eyes and heard running and yelling. All I could see was this gray matter. I soon realized it was the ground in my face and all the commotion was about me. I was driven to the ER where I was told I was being admitted because they suspected I had Wolf Parkinson White, a rare but non-life threatening heart condition. They said people my age don’t “just drop like that.” I went through many tests and a very long night in the hospital. I had this gut feeling that nothing was wrong with me except that I had been pushing it too hard. They finally let me leave when I threatened to walk out after yelling at basically everyone who came near me. It was a horrible experience. I don’t have a heart condition and I was treated horribly from beginning to end. I slowed everything down and it was clear I needed to find some peace in life. It was time for me to cut ties with this agency all together.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, before motherhood.

Instead of doing what was clearly good for me I stayed at this job and took a position as a supervisor. Shortly after I started this new position I was dealing with an aggressive and delusional teenager who was upset about not being able to go on an outing. She turned to me, grabbed my hair, started shaking my head back and forth, dragged me over a bunch of chairs which knocked me down and stomped on my back. A coworker came to my rescue and we were able to restrain her. I had been attacked many times, but this time was different. I had lost all control over my body. She was in total control of the situation. She was in total control of me. She could have killed me if she so desired. I struggled at work after that. I struggled in every crisis from then on (and crises of that nature were daily). I was feeling that my days were number here, but I had no idea how to get out. I interviewed for other jobs that seemed just as stressful. I thought about just walking out. Instead I fed into my comfort at this place after so many years and took yet another position as a therapist. This wasn’t a bad position, but it was the same agency after all. Same shit, different office. One thing it did provide was an opportunity to leave the front lines of the action. And now I could try to get pregnant. And I did, quickly! I worked there until the day before I was induced. I left planning on returning after 12 weeks.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, with first son.

Instead I had serious issues getting started with breastfeeding and I spent my days and nights on the internet looking for answers. I found the answers and a whole lot more. I learned of babywearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, gentle discipline, and coconut oil to name a few of my favorites. I was a sponge for all this information and began to form strong opinions on sensitive issues. I started writing about it. I found that I had a unique perspective on things being a social worker and that there was a place for my experiences and education. By the time the 12 weeks were up I had so much emotional distance from my job that I shuddered to think about returning. I knew that Jack needed a happy and emotionally healthy Mama. I knew that he needed to be free of the stress I had been under. He opened the door for me to quit; he got me out of my hole. I called them up, “peace out, I’m a Mama now!”

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, with husband and son.

Now my high heels are in storage. My panties and bra never match; in fact I rarely have a bra on. My work outs consist of bouncing Jack around in the ring sling. I never wear makeup. My hair is pulled back with a lame 80’s style head band most of the time. I attend Attachment Parenting meetings and get emotional talking about breastfeeding. I trust my instincts. My nails look terrible. I wear ugly sandals for comfort. I buy organic produce and have jars of coconut oil in every room. I drink my own breast milk when I feel sick. I do laundry as fast as I can; if it can’t be washed on cold and thrown in the dryer then I ain’t wearing it. I take a doctor’s opinion as just that, an opinion. I always try to squeeze one more day out of my outfits and dirty hair. I have a lot more hair. I don’t get drunk and throw up or smoke until I’m hoarse anymore. I love my job now. It is the most rewarding position I could have taken. Jack is my priority now. I don’t even have to say “number 1.” He is just my one and only priority. I can’t imagine anything could make me happier.

Abby Theuring, MSW