The Sun Will Shine Again

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from a Warrior Mom whose experience with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders may feel triggering for some. Please only read if you feel like you’re in a safe place. But know this: The sun will shine again. -Jenna]

The Sun Will Shine Again: Panic Attacks & PPD

It was my biggest dream to become a mother. When I got married at 30, my husband and I tried to get pregnant right away. I experienced four miscarriages in a year, and we were told we would probably not be able to carry a baby to term.

Undeterred, we turned to adoption. We were matched with a birth mother and bonded with her quickly. We were in the room when our son was born. I held him in my arms when he was less than five minutes old. He had to stay in the hospital for 48 hours with his birth mother during which time we visited him often.

When we went to the hospital for what should have been the final time, we were met downstairs by a social worker who told us the birth mother had decided to parent and had left the hospital with the baby without even saying goodbye.

Since the previous three years had been very tumultuous and stressful for my husband and me, we decided to take a break from our focus on starting our family and work on healing and grieving our four major losses. Thank God we still had each other.

Well, life works in cruel ways at times because within two months of the failed adoption, my spouse’s mother, who we were both very close to, became critically ill and passed away. What should have been three happy years of enjoying being newlyweds and starting our much anticipated family had turned into a series of nightmares and heartbreak.

My husband went to Connecticut for full month to help his father deal with funeral and financial arrangements. When he returned, we slowly started to heal, together. As if an angel knew we could take no more, exactly one month after he returned from helping his father, we found out we were pregnant.

We felt cautiously optimistic at first. As time went on and my belly grew, we became more and more hopeful.

I experienced a wonderful pregnancy. I felt great and worked almost up to my due date. I delivered by c-section about three weeks early due to high amniotic fluid. I was in the hospital for five days and in love with my baby in a way I never thought possible.

During those days, I was on a “high.” I had a perfect little baby. I had constant visitors. My every need was attended to. My work issues were kept at bay. Life was good.

When I left the hospital, things calmed down a little bit, but we had a full time nurse living with us. Perhaps the “high” I had experienced in the hospital began to fade a bit, but things still felt pretty good.

The first week home, I was getting sleep, my family and friends came in and out, my husband was back at work but home at night, and the nurse was a 24 hour companion.

Then, boom.

Two weeks after the baby was born, I got “the baby blues.” I had heard so much about this that I tried to take it in stride. I had regular and frequent periods of feeling very emotional but did the best I could. Then, by week three, I was clearly experiencing something stronger.

By the time the nurse left at week four, I could barely get out of bed. I could not be alone with the baby, had frequent panic attacks, hated being a mother, and couldn’t sleep or stop crying. I had to be “chaperoned” everywhere. I went days without showering because it was “just too hard.” I didn’t eat.

I started seeing a therapist and quickly after that a psychiatrist who prescribed antidepressants as well as sleep medication, to which I quickly became addicted. The only time I felt at peace was when I slept, and I began taking more than the amount prescribed. I would run out of meds early, so I would call other doctors for more meds or steal them from friends and family.

I began to pray every night that I would die in my sleep. Though I felt very protective of my daughter, I wanted nothing to do with her. I experienced vivid fantasies of how I would end my life. I began to refer to my situation as “my private hell; cancer of the mind.”

People would tell me to snap out of it and get annoyed at my “drama,” but I couldn’t. People would tell me “just smile,” and I wanted to collapse on the floor in a puddle.

I somehow went back to work but was “asked to leave” after a few weeks. I remember one particularly difficult morning before I was asked to leave when my husband was getting ready for work and I was supposed to be getting ready as well, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t breathe, and I was panicking. I was lying on the floor with my hands locked around my husband’s ankle, sobbing, begging him not to go. He was dragging me across the floor as I clung to his ankle pleading with me to “get it together” because we needed both our jobs to pay our bills.

My hell went on for almost two years. After the first year, my sister mentioned the name of psychiatrist friend. Somehow I got myself to visit him. Slowly, over the course of the next year, the sun began to shine again, little by little.

It wasn’t all easy. There were moments, even days in a row where I regressed to panic attacks, crying fits, and so on. But little by little, things did get better. I began to make the connection with my daughter that I hadn’t made initially. I began to enjoy spending time with her, even alone.

I don’t know if it was getting off the wrong meds and on the proper meds, or meeting with the doctors regularly, or it just got out of my system. I still have not great days, but nothing compared to the absolute hell of those first two years.

I just recently celebrated my five year anniversary of no panic attacks. Today, I am wrapping up my third year back teaching full time and loving it, though I miss my daughter during the day. She is my absolute best friend and my favorite person in the world—the sweetest, most beautiful, kindest, funniest person I know. The time I spend with her is precious and means more to me than anything else.

We giggle together, tell each other secrets, read books, do special projects, and all the things I dreamed of doing with my daughter before she was born. My favorite time of day is when we snuggle in bed together before sleep time and read books to each other.

Because the “sky” was so stormy for so long, I like to say that today, the sun shines brighter for me than for other people. The grass grows a little greener. Life is not perfect for me or anyone else as I am fully aware. But compared to what I went through for almost two years, it’s pretty darn close.

I want to share my story with other people who feel so miserable they are praying at night that they die. I want to be living proof that things CAN get better. I want to be there for them in ways that people who have not experienced this can’t be because they don’t know; they don’t understand. I want to save lives because I realize more and more how close I came to losing my own.

I want to help other people see that the sun will shine again.

~Jessica Orenstein

PPD & Immigrant Life: When Your Village Is Far Away

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from an immigrant Warrior Mom from Pakistan. A practicing Muslim, her family doesn’t discuss mental health, so she struggled to make sense of what was happening after her baby was born. -Jenna]

PPD & Immigrant Life: When Your Village Is Far Away

It does not give you a warning, it does not hold back any punches, and it definitely does not allow for clear thinking. For me postpartum depression was the most excruciating, humiliating, and traumatic experience of my life so far, thankfully. I have nothing else to compare it to, for which I am constantly grateful.

I had a worry free pregnancy. I worked until the day my water broke, albeit a little before my due date. I thought I was fairly prepared and could handle this baby birthing thing. Sure, I had a natural fear of the pain and anguish involved, but I was clear in my head that I would plow through it and all will be well.

I had done my share of extensive research on pregnancy, healthy eating, development milestones, and so on, and my bedside table was piled high with books with titles like working mother’s pregnancy guide and such. When I think back on those days, I realize that all those books didn’t have a lot of information on postpartum depression; they did not seem to red flag it. Even my OBGYN didn’t feel the need to fill me in.

Perhaps I was just unlucky.

I had a painfully long, induced labor, but my son was born after only four pushes, and then, it was done. He was healthy, and I was in a daze of happiness, elation, and perhaps relief. In the recovery room, a lot of information is thrown at you in a short span of time, and you are expected to absorb it, and leave in a day to start the most important journey of your life.

For me it meant I reached home and the panic hit me. I remember looking at my tiny tiny baby and wondering, what now? My husband on the other hand seemed to be happy and excited, not panicky at all.

From that moment on, I lost the ability to sleep and eat and as a result to think straight. I would meticulously feed him, note down the exact minutes and seconds he fed, how much he spit out and how much he slept. I would panic each time he would latch on and off, worrying if he was getting anything.

I would not sleep even when he would sleep because I had to keep an eye on him. I had to wake him up every other hour to feed him just in case he was hungry. I could not leave his side, and on top of it all, I could not eat. Not one bite.

I would keep asking my husband why the baby was sleeping too much and if I should wake him up. His pediatrician recognized on our first well visit that I was definitely not okay even though the baby was thriving perfectly. She told me I needed to relax and seek help.

Of course I did not do those things since in my culture. I am from Pakistan and a Muslim by faith. Women are taught sometimes consciously and mostly unconsciously that mental health issues are trivial pursuits and even taboo topics; you just bear your burden as best you can and carry on. We’re also taught that motherhood is the most natural thing in the world, so you are somehow hardwired to excel at it, with no setbacks.

I come from a fairly liberal background and studied law not only in Pakistan but also in the United Kingdom as well. I worked in a law firm for a few years, so I was not really subject to most of these cultural nuances, but I did grow up in that society and some things just latch on to you.

My husband finally did some research and diagnosed me with postpartum depression and tried to be understanding, most of the time. It was rough for him to see me melt into this puddle of confusion and incoherence. I always had my shit together, always. But now my thoughts and fears were paralyzing me.

However on my husband’s coaxing, I did try calling a helpline once or twice and was told of resources I could turn to (reading materials and maybe therapy if my insurance covered it) once they determined that I was not suicidal. I was not suicidal; I was just not myself.

The thought of navigating the internet for resources or finding a therapist covered by my insurance seemed like insurmountable tasks. I was just so tired, too tired to think. I could not remember how to make my go-to recipes. I could not watch TV. I just just did not know how to navigate through this fog.

I finally went to my OBGYN and asked her for anything to clear my head while in tears. She on the other hand told me I needed to hand the baby to my husband, sip a glass of wine, and just sleep for a few hours (forgetting that I was a practicing Muslim and could not have alcohol). That all made sense, but it felt like she was trivializing a disorder I so clearly had.

By this time my mother in law was with us looking after the baby, so my doctor suggested I should be grateful that I had help which she never had and I should snap out of it. That conversation made me feel even worse since now I was acutely aware of the fact that perhaps I was inviting God’s wrath by not being grateful and pulling myself together. But I had no idea how to get out of the haze that seemed to follow me everywhere.

My mind has always been my strength. I talk myself out of stressful situations. I enjoyed reading. I enjoyed cooking, but now I was incapable of seeing any silver lining, any sunshine, and it was killing me from the inside.

I come from a culture where depression or any sort of mental issues are not discussed or even acknowledged, at least for my mother’s generation. She would call (from Pakistan), and I would cry and she did not understand why, saying time and time again that as long as my baby was well, there was no reason to feel this way. But I had no choice in the matter. I tried to make her see that I was trying to find a way out, that I could not help how I was feeling, but to her it just seemed I was over reacting and just thinking too much and perhaps this state of mind was somehow a western phenomenon.

She even suggested that people had babies all the time and they all turn out okay and it should all come naturally to me. At some point the people around me, mostly family, started to blame breastfeeding for my state of being, thinking and suggesting out loud that formula feeding would solve the issue. I knew it would not.

In our culture, a woman is expected to receive 40 days of absolute rest and pampering after child birth. During this time, she is fed certain foods known to heal the body (and perhaps the mind, unknowingly) and is surrounded by family members who offer all kinds of advice and practical tips for taking care of the new baby.

I did have my mother-in-law living with us who tried to help in every way she could despite the fact that she had never heard of postpartum depression, so her help tended to constitute of constantly suggesting formula as opposed to nursing so I could get some rest and sleep. I know it must have been very hard for her seeing me in such a state and not having a clue as to how she could help.

It truly does take a village and being an immigrant in a foreign country meant my village was very very far.

I want to mention here that the constant portrayal of a “perfect” new mother with a sparkling house, a smiling baby and manicured nails in the media does not help an average new mother, not one bit. We end up feeling unnecessary pressures and focusing on all the imperfections around us and in us instead of using that time to bond with our precious babies.

I chugged along in a haze of anxiety trying to hide my fears, dismissing them as irrational and crying all the time praying to God to help me feel better. I so desperately wanted to be happy and not be plagued by dark thoughts. I resorted to simply not discussing myself every time my mother called. I would hide from my mother in law and cry my eyes out. In a way I felt sad that I had to hide this way from the women closest to me just so I would not have to explain what I had no idea how to explain.

Fast forward to about three months later, my fog cleared (somewhat) in the most bizarre way. I was struggling to get in touch with the state disability office while battling engorged painful breasts by heating up a pad to place over them. I was literally in tears of exhaustion standing by the ironing board.

I lifted the iron while holding the phone in my other hand and instead of placing the phone on my ear, I almost put the iron on my cheek. I stopped in time but just about. Somehow this jolted me in a way I did not expect. Coupled with the fact that my maternity leave was ending and I had to get back to work, my mind set shifted, perhaps the hormones balanced out, or I just got lucky.

I did struggle (still do) with balancing work, pumping, nursing and a baby (notice how I did not even count a house or my husband). Now I tell my story every chance I get. I am not ashamed or embarrassed one bit. Every woman needs to know about this crippling phase, just so she doesn’t feel punched in the stomach when a baby doesn’t come with rainbows and unicorns.

To all those who suffered and are suffering, please know that this foggy version of you is NOT you. Reach out to everyone and anyone, speak about it, discuss it and know that there is help and just take each day one day at a time.

~Jehanara Haider

Steps for Mothers of Color to Improve Their Maternal Mental Health

Steps for Mothers of Color to Improve Their Maternal Mental Health

We know that women of color, particularly Black women, do not have the support and treatment they need in order to achieve recovery after suffering through postpartum depression and anxiety. We know that the system doesn’t support the well-being and wholeness of Black women. More than simply stating the problem, Postpartum Progress is committed to making changes in a system that oppresses and harms extremely vulnerable people.

Our first step to providing change is equipping Black women from all ethnic backgrounds with a tool for seeking help. Our second step is to provide access to mothers of color to tell their stories through the platform we’ve built.

We know that mental wellness happens when we are in the context of community and do not feel alone. Our Black Diaspora Checklist is designed to provide language that is reflective of the Black experience. Postpartum Depression and anxiety show up differently for Black women and women of color.

Because so much of the Black experience can include environmental trauma from systemic racism, it is vital to engage in self-care regularly. As you are facing your experience around postpartum depression, remember that recovery is a process. Below are some steps to help you as you evaluate the best way to obtain support.


Think through how feel. Many women feel increased shame once they realize they have symptoms of postpartum depression. Don’t stuff your feelings. All yourself to move through the emotions. Avoiding your emotions or assigning value to them (ex: I am a bad mom for being angry at my baby) creates internal pain and suffering. Allow yourself space to experience whatever emotions come up.


Determine if any of the things you feel require action. If you realized you were feeling deep shame while in the processing stage, does that require action? Some feeling are just feelings. Understand that they are not facts and they do not have inherent value other than to inform you of what you experienced. If emotions you experienced were linked to a need (ex: I feel angry because I am tired and drained) it may be necessary to move to the next stage and make a plan for your well-being.


Once you recognize that your emotional experience was informing something you need to take action on, it is time to plan. What is your goal? How will you achieve that goal? Do you need support achieving that goal? Create steps for yourself and make self-care through a plan with concrete steps a requirement.


This can be the most difficult step. Form a support team who can help you be accountable to your well-being. Understand that you cannot pour anything out of an empty vessel. Recognize that the well-being of your child is directly linked to how well you take care of yourself.

Get Nosy: Be Direct When Asking Moms If They Have Postpartum Depression

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from a Warrior Mom who wants us to be more direct when we’re talking to new moms about postpartum depression. Her points are very valid and very helpful. -Jenna]

Get Nosy: Be Direct When Asking Moms if They Have Postpartum Depression

Today I’m giving you permission to be intrusive.

There’s such a stigma around postpartum depression and mental health issues that people won’t even ask about it directly. We have no problem asking someone for an update on their back pain, if they have a cold when they sneeze, or encouraging them to see a doctor when sick. Why aren’t we the same way with mental health?

My challenge to you

Ask people directly. Don’t take a “step back” to let them “get settled with the baby” unless told to. Don’t beat around it by making a joke—all you will get is a nervous laugh and mistrust in return.

Here are just some of the examples of hints and jokes about mental health said to me between M’s birth and diagnosis.

“Wow, a house, baby, marriage, new job…aren’t those all at the top of some checklist of mental health stressors?”

“That’s a lot of change! Those things are all on those mental health inventories!”

“Are you feeling back to normal?”

“If you don’t feel like yourself in a couple weeks, you need to tell me.”

“It’s just the baby blues. You’ll get over it.”

None of these directly address postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders. Nor are they directly asked if I am experiencing it.

Not being asked directly made it easier for me to hide in my shame and delay getting help.

I’m sure some of you are thinking right now that as a mature, responsible adult, I’m responsible for advocating for my own needs. You are right—to an extent.

However, some people experiencing depression are not capable of self-advocacy. It’s just part of the sickness. Besides, with all the pressure to be perfect, what new mom wants to admit they don’t have it all together?!

To all the folks who may be feeling guilty for not saying anything or recognizing a loved one needed help, it’s okay. What new moms need is different for everyone, and everyone has their own way of giving support. I’m just saying next time, ask directly about postpartum depression. Here are some examples:

“It’s quite common for moms to continue to feel down, depressed, anxious, or just not themselves after giving birth. Do you feel this way?”

“Are you experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression?”

“Lately I’ve noticed *insert behavior here*. Do you feel like you might be experiencing a change in your mental health?”

Finally, when someone does disclose to you, make them feel affirmed, loved, and help them find help.

~Cassie Walizer