What Do Postpartum Anxiety ‘Aftershocks’ Feel Like? This Mother Explains.

Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Jen Bullett, who lives in Chicago.


By Jen Bullett

Hours, days or weeks after a major earthquake hits, the world braces itself for the impending lesser shock known as the aftershock. The tragic nature of the earthquake is drawn out. We wait to see if the aftershock is truly destructive or more of an inconvenience.

If you have experienced any number of challenges with trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, dealing with loss or postpartum issues, you probably know a thing or two about aftershocks. They come in so many different forms and appear at the most unlikely of times.

Like when you are filling out a form at a new doctor’s office and it asks you how many pregnancies you’ve had, followed by how many of those pregnancies resulted in live births. Then there’s the one that asks whether or not you’ve been hospitalized or had procedures. I don’t know whether a D & C is considered a noteworthy procedure. I put it down, just in case, and then cringe a little while a doctor glosses over it. “I see you had a D & C after a miscarriage.” Aftershock.

And then there are the times when marketers, having purchased your name from one of the many pregnancy apps, decide to send you formula in celebration of your soon-to-be-delivered baby. I guess their database didn’t inform them that there was no baby. I remember having to log into the pregnancy tracking site, and choose the setting that noted that my pregnancy was not successful. It was the only way I could stop receiving notices saying my baby was the size of a grape or a nectarine. Aftershock.

If you’ve experienced loss or complications with pregnancies, you may also be hyperaware of other people’s situations. Your heart aches when a friend, colleague or acquaintance has a loss, or complication, or postpartum struggle. When this happens, I remember exactly how I felt in those moments in my own life. I would give anything for this person not to have to feel this pain or sadness. Aftershock.

The author and her son.

Finally, there is the question, “Did you just love your maternity leave?” When someone asks that, the blood drains from my head to my toes. If by “love” you mean I felt like Sisyphus most days and I often felt so anxious I wanted to claw my way out of my own body, then yes. I love my son. He is literally the sweetest little boy ever and he makes me smile pretty much every second I am around him. It was all worth it and yet, I will never forget my lonely and scary maternity leave. Aftershock.

Over a year after the birth of my son, with the accumulation of aftershocks, combined with the normal stresses of life, I got hit with a real whammy. Turns out my postpartum anxiety decided it needed a sequel. In May, I found myself in the familiar spot of feeling panicked, struggling with insomnia, battling a racing mind, and coping with a constant physical buzzing through my body. How did I get back here? Only months earlier, I had cavalierly transitioned off medications. I was cured. But bad habits creep in when you are living your life. I forgot to take care of myself. I forgot to take time to be healthy. I tried to be tough through every aftershock and I never asked for help.

The thing about most aftershocks is that they aren’t as strong as the first shock. Yet it’s a double edged sword — you’ve already pulled yourself out of it once, so you know how to do it, but you also know how bad things can be. When you know what hell feels like, you are petrified of finding yourself back there. You will do anything to prevent that. You might be like me and begin a quest to find a quick fix.

But there isn’t a quick fix. The only path is to start again from the beginning. You make goals. You celebrate small accomplishments. You give yourself a break. You ask for help. You put yourself first. You climb up. You rebuild. You construct an even stronger foundation and reinforce supporting structures so you’ll be ready for the next aftershock.

Aftershocks are going to happen. This is a reality of life. Nobody means for them to happen. If you do find yourself in the middle of an aftershock, I hope that you have the good fortune, as I did, of being surrounded by a spouse or partner, family, colleagues, bosses and experts who are compassionate and supportive. And don’t forget: There is an end. As noted by Winston Churchill, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

Princess Diana Spoke Candidly About Postpartum Depression And Self-Injury In 1995 Interview

(Photo credit: Paisley Scotland)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. She remains a vivid icon, remembered for her charisma, grace and tireless activism. Now, thanks to footage and transcripts from a 1995 interview with BBC1 Panorama’s Martin Bashir, we see another facet of the late princess—her courage to talk about things no one else was talking about.

In the interview, Diana spoke candidly about her experience with postpartum depression and self-injury. She was honest and reflective, and even though us commoners can’t fathom the unique pressures of royal living, her struggles as a new mom are surprisingly relatable.

Here’s what we learned from their conversation.

Diana had PPD with her son William, but didn’t know it until later.

BASHIR: How did the rest of the Royal Family react when they learnt that the child that you were to have was going to be a boy?

DIANA: Well, everybody was thrilled to bits. It had been quite a difficult pregnancy – I hadn’t been very well throughout it – so by the time William arrived it was a great relief because it was all peaceful again, and I was well for a time.

Then I was unwell with post-natal depression, which no one ever discusses, post-natal depression, you have to read about it afterwards, and that in itself was a bit of a difficult time. You’d wake up in the morning feeling you didn’t want to get out of bed, you felt misunderstood, and just very, very low in yourself.

BASHIR: Was this completely out of character for you?

DIANA: Yes, very much so. I never had had a depression in my life.

But then when I analysed it I could see that the changes I’d made in the last year had all caught up with me, and my body had said: `We want a rest.’

She received treatment, but lacked community support.

BASHIR: So what treatment did you actually receive?

DIANA: I received a great deal of treatment, but I knew in myself that actually what I needed was space and time to adapt to all the different roles that had come my way. I knew I could do it, but I needed people to be patient and give me the space to do it.

BASHIR: When you say all of the different roles that had come your way, what do you mean?

DIANA: Well, it was a very short space of time: in the space of a year my whole life had changed, turned upside down, and it had its wonderful moments, but it also had challenging moments. And I could see where the rough edges needed to be smoothed.

BASHIR: What was the family’s reaction to your post-natal depression?

DIANA: Well maybe I was the first person ever to be in this family who ever had a depression or was ever openly tearful. And obviously that was daunting, because if you’ve never seen it before how do you support it?

BASHIR: What effect did the depression have on your marriage?

DIANA: Well, it gave everybody a wonderful new label – Diana’s unstable and Diana’s mentally unbalanced. And unfortunately that seems to have stuck on and off over the years.

BASHIR: Are you saying that that label stuck within your marriage?

DIANA: I think people used it and it stuck, yes.

It became so painful that she would self-injure.

BASHIR: According to press reports, it was suggested that it was around this time things became so difficult that you actually tried to injure yourself.

DIANA: Mmm. When no one listens to you, or you feel no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen.

For instance you have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you’re in the media all the time you’ve got enough attention, inverted commas.

But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales.

So yes, I did inflict upon myself. I didn’t like myself, I was ashamed because I couldn’t cope with the pressures.

BASHIR: What did you actually do?

DIANA: Well, I just hurt my arms and my legs; and I work in environments now where I see women doing similar things and I’m able to understand completely where they’re coming from.

BASHIR: What was your husband’s reaction to this, when you began to injure yourself in this way?

DIANA: Well, I didn’t actually always do it in front of him. But obviously anyone who loves someone would be very concerned about it.

BASHIR: Did he understand what was behind the physical act of hurting yourself, do you think?

DIANA: No, but then not many people would have taken the time to see that.

Yet she still performed as the Princess of Wales. The public was unaware of her struggle.

BASHIR: Were you able to admit that you were in fact unwell, or did you feel compelled simply to carry on performing as the Princess of Wales?

DIANA: I felt compelled to perform. Well, when I say perform, I was compelled to go out and do my engagements and not let people down and support them and love them.

And in a way by being out in public they supported me, although they weren’t aware just how much healing they were giving me, and it carried me through.

The interview reveals how brave Diana was at a time when there was a strong stigma of mental illness. She helped start a conversation, and for that, we have respect.

Hiring A Night Nurse Isn’t Lazy or Indulgent. Here’s How It Saved Us.

Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Samantha Konikoff, who lives in Bellingham, Washington.   


Eva Amurri Martino and her son. (Photo credit: Eva Amurri Martino on Instagram

While browsing through Facebook this week, I saw a news story about Eva Amurri Martino—the actress, blogger and daughter of Susan Sarandon—who was coming out about the trauma she experienced after a night nurse accidentally fell asleep and dropped her infant son. Thank goodness the baby is just fine.

Without even clicking on the article or comments, I knew that (mostly) women would be throwing stones at Eva because she had a night nurse, a professional hired to care for a baby throughout the night. And sure enough, they were. Commenters scoffed, writing that she is a celebrity and can afford to have someone else raise her baby while “us normal people” do it all on our own.

But why is having a night nurse shunned?

I am not a celebrity. I am middle class. And yet we had a night nurse once a week with our second child. It was the best decision my husband and I ever made, and I believe it helped my mental health.

For five glorious weeks, a night nurse named Nancy was at our house from 10 p.m. on Thursday night until 6 a.m. on Friday. She stayed in our daughter Emma’s room, and when Emma woke up, our nurse Nancy would feed her, change her and rock her, and then leave me notes about it to read when I got up in the morning. We bottle-fed so I didn’t need to be woken up for feedings. If our son (who was 3 at the time) woke up, that was our responsibility. Since she was up all night, she also offered to fold my laundry. Yes, you read that right. When morning came, POOF! Baskets of folded laundry.

When I had my first child, Evan, I experienced postpartum depression/anxiety. One of the triggers was not knowing things and becoming overwhelmed in trying to find the answers. Three years later, when Emma was born, I immediately knew it could happen again. At one point, both kids had colds, and we weren’t sleeping. We needed help.

My mom had a night nurse when I was a newborn in the late 1970s, and she always said how sad she was the day the woman left. And I remembered my friend talking about this amazing night nurse who helped with her twins. My husband and I had received a check from a family member for our daughter’s birth, and we decided this is how the money should be spent.

We hired Nancy when Emma was about five weeks old. She was amazing. She had been doing this for over 25 years and was a kind and sweet and caring woman. During one of her visits, we talked about the postpartum depression I had with my son. She said that with new moms, she always keeps her feelers out for depression, and had dealt with it before.

For the five weeks that Nancy was with us, I had her knowledge at my fingertips any time I needed it. I would call her and ask her about feeding schedules, how to drop a night feeding and whether it was the right time, and how to get the baby to sleep less during the day and more at night. I had an expert at my disposal and that was worth its weight in gold.

I wish that when moms are sent home from the hospital or birth center, or at least at their baby’s first doctor visit, they should be given a list of night nurses.

It truly takes a village to raise our children, and if you can get a postpartum doula, night nurse, family member, or friend to stay up with your baby for a night here or there, I’d say take the sleep. Your mental health may depend on it.

Introducing Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support Forums

postpartum progress online peer supportThis has been a long time coming, mamas, but we’re thrilled to introduce Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support Forums!

When I started out as the coordinator for our Warrior Mom® Ambassador program, the one thing I wanted was to create online peer support forums for Postpartum Progress. Today, this dream becomes a reality.

Thanks to Facebook and its groups capabilities, we’re now offering EIGHT(!!) regional support groups for moms suffering from postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis, and postpartum PTSD.

Our online peer support forums have been divided and assigned based on geographic regions because we realize that resources and postpartum need varies around the world. Yep. World.

In addition to offering US support, we’re also opening Canadian and International support groups to reach moms around the globe.

Why Facebook for Online Peer Support?

Well, why not? Facebook boasts more than one billion members on the platform, and it’s where many moms find us and their place in our community. We believe in reaching moms where they are and making it easy for them to find support when they need it.

If a mom is online at 2 in the morning, feeding a baby, or unable to sleep, we want to give her a place to go, and chances are, she’s already on Facebook, scrolling through the newsfeed. Now she’ll have a safe space to say what she needs to say about what she’s experiencing, or she’ll be able to read the experiences of other mothers and know she’s not alone.

What About Smart Patients?

Our Smart Patients postpartum depression forum will continue to exist and operate just as it always has. In fact, we believe we’ll see growth there as we’re better able to refer moms who need a little extra support from Heather, our forum moderator, and the Smart Patients staff.

We just believe there can never be too much support for moms, so now we’re offering both.

What Can I Expect?

Our online peer support forums will be moderated by volunteer Warrior Mom® Ambassadors who have completed Mental Health First Aid training. They’ll be the frontline contact for moms seeking support.

Moms will request membership into the group for their geographic region. Our WMA volunteers will reach out to them to provide a copy of our guidelines and welcome them to the group.

Posts will be held in moderation until they can be reviewed by a forum moderator. We want to make sure we protect moms in the forums from potentially triggering information. We believe this will allow us to maintain a spirit of trust and safety in the space.

We know that some of these groups cover large territories, and our plan is that as the groups grow, we’ll subdivide as necessary. For now, choose the group corresponding to your state or geographic region and request membership! (Please only join the group corresponding to your state or geographic region!)

Where Is My Group?

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Northeastern RegionConnecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and DC

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Southern RegionAlabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Southwest Region: Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – West Coast Region: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington State

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Midwest Region: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Rocky Mountain RegionColorado, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Canada

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – International

The research is clear: peer support works to help people overcome their battles with not just maternal mental illness, but mental illness in general. There is power in sharing our lived experiences with others.

At Postpartum Progress, we believe in being innovators, and we know that online peer support is just as relevant and important as face-to-face.

In fact, everyone who works for Postpartum Progress, every Warrior Mom® in our community, every leader for Climb Out of the Darkness, we’re all here because of the Internet. We know the collective power of online communities for support and healing and we’re excited to have you on this new journey with us.