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.”

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.

Warrior Mom Strong with Cotton Babies

Image: Cotton BabiesOnly a few weeks ago, almost 200 Warrior Moms recently joined together in Atlanta for the 2nd Annual Warrior Mom® Conference, showing the world they are #warriormomstrong, thanks to the support of companies like Cotton Babies.

Inspired by our courageous community, Cotton Babies not only debuted a new video (which has already reached over 82,500 people with its message of hope), but they also brought along samples of their brand new line of clothes and gifts, STRONG. Cotton Babies is a great friend to us here at Postpartum Progress. They support our mission and our work, and they were one of the very first to sponsor the Warrior Mom Conference®.

I had the honor and pleasure of attending the conference this year and last year. I’ve seen what #WarriorMomStrong is. It’s women buying tickets for something that is almost a year away in the hope that they will learn more, create stronger connections, and be better able to help other mamas in their communities.

It is moms with anxiety reaching through the fear and out to each other. It is pictures taken on airplanes by women who are shaking, but resolved. It is pictures taken in cars packed with moms making this journey together.

image: Amy DinglerThis is the strength that comes from finally seeing in person a sister you made online. It is strength born of tears on shoulders and the tightest of hugs.

#WarriorMomStrong is also some women realizing that they were not ready to be with us, for many different reasons. It is women giving up their tickets and wishing us well from afar. We felt you.

Strength like this is generous. It is the generosity of time – of volunteers and of attendees who constantly ask, “How can I help you? What do you need?”

Strength like this is brave. It is speaking your truth to a room of almost 200 women.

It is kind. It is offering a shoulder, or a hug, or a handkerchief.

It is bold. It is telling the stranger in the elevator what conference you are in the hotel for, and doing it with your head held high.

It creates a sisterhood. It is groups of warrior moms spreading all over Atlanta to get tattoos and others going just to hold their hands.

credit: Miranda WickerI am still amazed at the strength of warrior moms. For some this was the very first time they had ever left their children, or been on an airplane, or met the people they were roommates with, or ridden public transportation, or been to any type of conference at all. Being surrounded by these women for a few days in October has given me the strength to come home and fight on. It has fueled my fire.

At Postpartum Progress, we are proud to be #WarriorMomStrong and grateful to Cotton Babies for seeing our courage and supporting our work to help all moms feel like the good moms they are. Tell us what makes you or someone you love #WarriorMomStrong, and don’t forget to check out the STRONG gift series from Cotton Babies.

 

Image Credit – Cotton Babies

Image Credit – Amy Dingler Photography

Image Credit – Miranda Wicker

Rise Up With Postpartum Progress

I have no words that can make this any better or more beautiful than it already is. Just watch this incredible PSA for maternal mental health and Postpartum Progress.

 

Thank you thank you thank you thank you to the immensely talented Jill Krause of Baby Rabies. Thank you thank you thank you to Cotton Babies for being a brand that truly cares about maternal mental health. Thank you to BMG Gold and the writers of “Rise Up” Jennifer Decilveo and Cassandra Monique Batie, and performer Andra Day. We are so grateful.

Together. Stronger.

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photo by Amy Dingler