Lindsey Breitschaedel: When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Lindsey Breitschaedel: When Things Don't Go As Planned | 8th Annual Mother's Day Rally for Mental Health -postpartumprogress.com

postpartum depression, mother's day rally, maternal mental healthDear new mama,

What I want to say, in a nutshell, is go easy on yourself. If you’re anything at all like me (i.e. a type-A teacher) you want to be great at being a mom from the get-go. Maybe you have read books about the nifty schedules you can put baby on, or maybe you want to be the kind of mom who goes from moment to moment and just sees what baby needs.

Whatever way you are planning to go, if it goes differently, forgive yourself. Know that you are still doing an awesome job, even when it feels like you have no idea what you’re doing. Try not to punish yourself for being upset or disappointed, overwhelmed or frustrated.

It seems like society and the media put so much pressure on us to be happy and joyful, in control and just doing a fabulous job taking care of the baby (and ourselves!) right from the beginning. But your body and hormones are going through a huge shift, not to mention your lifestyle. It can be an easy and smooth transition, and I wish that for you with all my might.

In case it’s not, though, it’s ok and you are absolutely not alone. I think for most of us it’s harder than we will admit, especially on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. Whether the birth goes differently than you were hoping or the first few weeks or months are difficult, it’s not your fault in any way. 

These are the things that nobody told me, and when my baby refused to stay on the schedule I planned for him and the birth I wanted turned out to be incredibly traumatic for me, I didn’t know it was OK to be upset about it. I thought (and I was told) that the problem was ME. I let things spiral and worsen for months because I had no idea that motherhood could be so difficult or that there were complications like mood disorders and genetics and my own difficult childhood that could cause me to stumble on my own journey.

But you don’t have to do that, mama.

You can start by forgiving yourself right away for having negative thoughts and feelings, and if they overwhelm you, you can ask for help and know that it’s the best possible thing you can do for yourself and your baby. You’ve got this. You’re not alone.

We mamas are right here with you. 

Love,

Lindsey

The Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit that raises awareness & provides peer support for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. To see some of the ways we provide moms support, visit http://postpartumprogress.org/community/.

Melissa Anderson: When Your Smile Isn’t a Lie

Melissa Anderson: When Your Smile Isn't a Lie | 8th Annual Mother's Day Rally for Mental Health -postpartumprogress.com

postpartum depression, mother's day rally, maternal mental healthDear Momma,

You just gave birth. You did it. No matter how that baby entered this world, you were amazing.

Your mind is probably racing. This baby with soft, wrinkly skin, 10 fingers and 10 toes, and a grin that can break and then heal your heart all at once is yours.

Your heart races.

Your tears flow.

Your stretch marks are still there.

Your body aches.

Your heart aches.

And then it’s weeks later and you wonder when you’ll stop crying every day. You wonder when this heaviness, this sadness in your heart will go away. When the panic attacks will stop. When the terrible nightmares will quit playing on repeat in your head all. day. long. When this guilt will stop eating away your heart. When you’ll stop feeling like a failure because you couldn’t breastfeed, you couldn’t give birth the way you wanted, because you’re not able to be the mom you dreamed of being. When the regret will stop yelling in your head. When the shame will end.

No matter how hard you try, it won’t stop. Won’t go away. Won’t end.

And then you realize you can’t do it on your own. You make that call with hands shaking and heart breaking and ask for help. It’s a brave and courageous decision. You get on a treatment plan to help bring you back. To smile and laugh again. It takes time, but it’s working. It’s working. It’s finally working.

Those stretch marks? Your battle scars.

Those tears? Your battle cry.

And that smile on your face? No longer a lie.

Love,

Melissa

The Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit that raises awareness & provides peer support for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. To see some of the ways we provide moms support, visit http://postpartumprogress.org/community/.

Jasmine Banks: Prepare to Bloom

Jasmine Banks: Prepare to Bloom: 8th Annual Mother's Day Rally for Mental Health -postpartumprogress.com

Dear New Mama,

I love flowers. I especially love peonies. Do you know about these beautiful flowers? They don’t make much sense to me. They grow in these massive green bushes. Before their buds appear they are awkward and kind of ugly. Their buds start out as these long and pointed green pods. The pods give no sign that one day they’ll round out into beautiful buds preparing to bloom.

If it rains or there is moisture in the air the bush will completely collapse. The peony bud is so top heavy that it will fall over without adequate support. Sometimes the eventually round buds are so compact and heavy they snap right off of their stems from the weight.

Oh, but when they bloom! I check on my peony plants daily to await their bloom. All the propping up and fussing and tending result in a magnificent moment of deep beauty when then buds release and open. Peonies have magic and history, they come in a lush collection of colors and shapes. The beauty of the peony is altogether arresting and simultaneously tender and fragile.

Peonies are a constant reminder to me of what motherhood looks like. After giving birth to my son, Isaiah, I couldn’t recognize a single beautiful characteristic of this thing called motherhood. I looked around and saw so many other women who were held up and flourishing. I wanted to be beautiful, like them. Hell. I just wanted to feel okay.

Had I failed at being a mother? Wasn’t I supposedly born endowed with what I needed for motherhood? Did failing at a being mother mean failing at being a woman; at being a good person?

I wanted to be good at this motherhood thing, but try as I did I felt so unable to hold myself up. Eight years ago I found myself so awkward, heavy, and kind of ugly. I felt like the slightest emotional wind or rain could topple me over, or even snap me right off of my stem. I wilted without support.

You might feel the same way. You might feel like there nothing good on the other side of the weight and heaviness of what you are suffering through. You don’t feel beautiful. You don’t feel lush and full of magic and history.

I am telling you now, sister, you are simply waiting to have enough sun, support, and hope release.

You are striking and fragile. You are full and soft. You are arresting and powerful.

You, dear one, are more than these fleeting moments of heaviness that seem to point to nothing worthy at a all. You are moving through. You are transforming. One day, without notice, you’ll erupt into splendor. You are worthy of all the propping and fussing and tending. You are mysterious. You are mother.

You are waiting to bloom.

Love, Jasmine

The Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit that raises awareness & provides peer support for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. To see some of the ways we provide moms support, visit http://postpartumprogress.org/community/.

Mariah Warren: Jedi Motherhood

Mariah Warren: Jedi Motherhood | 8th Annual Mother's Day Rally for Mental Health -postpartumprogress.com

postpartum depression, mother's day rally, maternal mental healthDear New Mama,

How are you?  Yes, YOU.  I really want to know.  I’m sure everyone else has been cooing over your new little one, as most people do, but not me.  I’m here for you.  Personally, I’d rather not be around a screaming newborn.  Or a newborn in general.  Yes, I’ve said it.  And I’m a mom- can you believe it?  Can you believe that I’ve admitted it, that I don’t like babies?  In fact, babies fill me with anxiety and dread, they make me want to run.  You, too?  It’s okay.  I know you’ve gotten the subliminal message that becoming a mother is an instant path to bliss, that the switch gets flipped the minute your child is born and the angels start singing and the scent of roses fills the air… but I’m here to tell you: for some of us, that is a fairy tale. 

Some of us- at least 1 in 7 new moms- experience the dark side of the postpartum period, without those secret Jedi Mother skills we expected to be downloaded along with our newborns.  We are the Warrior Moms, navigating the rough waters of postpartum depression/anxiety/OCD/PTSD and psychosis.  And we’ll be your Jedi Knights while you seek to find your bearings, master new skills, and enter into the light.  We all have different journeys, and they follow different schedules, but rest assured, we’ve been there.  We know those thoughts that are running through your head, those feelings of shame, failure, guilt, fear- you name it, we’ve experienced it.  And we won’t stop until your head is above water and you’ve grabbed a lifeline.

Lest you think I’m making this up to coddle you, let me tell you a story.  There once was a “mature” woman who had put off motherhood out of fear of the changes it would bring.  At age 37, she decided it was time to grow up, to graduate from wife to mother.  She had a history of severe depression and anxiety, was already working with a psychiatrist, and so had an inkling of the possible emotional complications of motherhood.  Yet the onslaught of anxiety following her son’s birth still hit her like a ton of bricks. 

How could anyone be so anxious around a baby? 

“It’ll get easier,” said well-meaning family and friends. 

“Your hormones are still out of whack.” 

“What’s so scary about an infant?”

None of these words eased the fear she felt, the sense of being trapped, the need to run away and never look back.  In fact, they only increased her sense of failure and her guilt over not being the mother she wanted to be for her son.  That mother was me, in 2012. 

My story has a happy ending, but as most stories go, the road to that ending was not a straight line.  It was more like a roller coaster.  Initial meds took effect and lifted the cloud hanging over me, for a few months.  I felt more in control, less afraid… and then, WHOOSH! The roller coaster plummeted down an unforeseen drop, leaving me at a place where all I wanted was to get off the ride, even if it meant danger to my physical self. 

Anything would have been preferable to the intensity of my emotions. 

I needed some time away, a safe place to begin my journey back to level ground, and so I willingly entered short-term in-patient psychiatric treatment.  Definitely not a four-star hotel, but a place where I could focus on my well-being without the constant pressure of an infant.  And slowly, I emerged from the darkness.

I’m not saying you need hospitalization; our stories all vary.  But, with time and treatment, we all arrive at a better place, one where we can look back and breathe a sigh of relief that we’ve made it this far.  All of us Warrior Moms are living proof that it does, indeed, get better, and we’re here for you, every single day. 

So take a deep breath, exhale, and tell yourself “I’m a good mom.”  You’re here, and you’re trying.  And we’re standing behind and beside you every step of the way. We’re the Force.

Peace,

Mariah

The Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit that raises awareness & provides peer support for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. To see some of the ways we provide moms support, visit http://postpartumprogress.org/community/.