CW: Postpartum anxiety, mental health
May is Maternal Mental Health Month, and I'm so honored to be collaborating and working with other women owned businesses to be supporting organizations doing critical work to support maternal mental health. But personally, I'm so happy to be spreading awareness because just 9 years ago, when I needed support the most, I didn't even know this month existed.
It's taken me a while to finally get up the courage to write this blog. I've been sharing my postpartum mental health story in person for a while but typing it and sharing on the internet is a new step. A step that I recognize is part of my healing, but is also my choice, and it's your choice too. You don't owe your story to anyone but yourself. I'm writing this because this is the blog post I needed to see when I was struggling but didn't. I needed to feel and see the other side of postpartum life.
I can remember the day I knew I needed postpartum help like it was yesterday. Emerson was almost 2 months old and I left her for a few hours for the first time to get coffee, and grab some groceries. She got to hang with Mike's mom and aunt, who between them have raised 8 kids, so she was safe and happy. That didn't matter, leaving her was crushing and the ever constant knowledge that I would eventually leave her to return to work was crushing.
So I first stopped at CoffeeTree Roasters to grab my favorite iced latte, and upon returning to my car, I went to get into my car when the car next to me started backing up. So I pressed my body up against my car and when the man driving saw me, he suddenly stopped, rolled down his window, and just started screaming at me. Screaming for trying to get into my car while he was backing up but I didn't know he was going to start backing up. His rage paralyzed me and I just started sobbing. Reflecting back I can remember how upset I was at his anger. Having time and perspective from the incident often reminds me that we need to give grace and recognize that we don't know what strangers are carrying with them on any given day.
Also, road rage sir, I hope you got to where you needed to go and someone gives you grace one day when you are falling apart.
After coffee I went to the grocery store. My heart was racing and my anxiety felt overwhelming. I hadn't independently grocery shopped since having Emerson and I couldn't get settled. Halfway through the store I couldn't do it anymore, I needed to get home, so I abandoned my full grocery cart. Just left in a full panic. The rule follower in me is still guilty about not returning my items or telling anyone.
That day was a tipping point for me. My view of postpartum depression was so limited and I wasn't feeling like that. I hadn't even heard of postpartum anxiety, it wasn't mentioned on my pediatricians postpartum forms at baby checkups, and I didn't have any other new moms to connect to or share.
As a first time mom I thought my worries were normal, I thought it meant I was a good mom because I was constantly worried. But my anxiety went deeper than that - I couldn't sleep unless Mike was holding her next to me, I constantly thought I could hear her crying, I struggled to let anyone help me with her, and I cried, a lot.
Recognizing and asking for help was hard, and I feel so grateful everyday for a supportive partner and family who understood. Michael went back to the grocery store with me so I could finish shopping and have a support system. I'm also so grateful for the lactation consultant who saw through my fake smile and truly cared about me.
Asking for help and admitting that I was not okay was the hardest thing but also the bravest thing I did for myself and for Emerson. I remind myself often that I'm stronger than I think I am, and you are too.
The struggle with postpartum anxiety carried into my pregnancy with my second child. I was so scared to not feel like myself again. While I didn't have postpartum anxiety after my second child, I was much more prepared to recognize the feelings and ask for support.
While I'd like to go back in time and give myself a hug and some grace. I'm proud of where I am and I'm proud to share my story. Even if it helps just one other mom, just one other woman feels connected, feels seen, feels valued - because that's motherhood for me. We are all mothers together.
If you or a mom you know needs help - please tell a loved one and call your doctor. You are so loved and strong, asking for help is the best thing you can do for you and your baby. Read more about postpartum support.
It is my hope that all moms have access to mental health and medical support. There is an undeniable inequity and disparity in access to care, resources, and support, specifically for Black women and mothers. Please visit Black Women's Health Imperative and Black Mamas Matter to learn more about their work and how you can support.
I'd love to hear your story, support you, and support organizations that are doing amazing work - please comment or reach out so we can connect.