You’ve probably at least heard of the show Teen Mom, even if you haven’t watched it. Recently Catelynn Lowell talked about her battle with postpartum depression after the birth of her second child; she placed her firstborn for adoption on the show a few years ago.
I’ve followed Catelynn’s story closely over the years, even though I don’t normally watch or enjoy reality type television. I also placed my firstborn for adoption, so I watched with interest regarding how the show would portray birth parents. It’s not often the media shows those who relinquish their children in a positive light, so I felt encouraged when they showed some of the good aspects of the young couple. I especially appreciated how they showed both Catelynn and her then boyfriend, now husband, Tyler, as they struggled to say goodbye to their baby girl.
My Story with Postpartum Depression and Open Adoption
When I got married and my husband and I decided to try conceive—his first, my first since placing my daughter for adoption—I thought my emotions and grief concerning my daughter’s placement were all in a “good place.” I didn’t feel overly sad anymore, though I missed her every single day. During my pregnancy with my oldest son, I felt exceedingly happy, though anxious about health complications and actually becoming an everyday parent. I felt excited that I would finally be recognized as a mother. Being pregnant without an adoption hanging over my head felt like a dream. I documented my belly as it grew every week. I loved every (complicated!) moment of being pregnant with my oldest son.
However, when my son arrived, the anxiety immediately took over. I experienced a panic attack the night after his birth while my husband took a quick shower. Within two months, postpartum depression and anxiety quickly overwhelmed me, both of which were exacerbated by issues I’d never known to discuss with a therapist after the birth of my daughter. The facilitator which proctored our adoption didn’t offer me post-placement counseling, and so I didn’t have a clue about any of these previously unaddressed feelings that slammed into me day and night.
Thankfully I found a therapist in my area who dealt not only with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders but also worked with adoption issues. It was a long road but a necessary one. I took my medication and did a lot of hard work in therapy to get through that difficult year. Even with all the work I did then and after the birth of our youngest son, again experiencing postpartum anxiety, I still see a therapist to this day regarding my feelings of loss, guilt, and grief over the placement of my daughter. Oh, and my perfectionism and anxiety to boot.
Over the years, watching my sons play with their sister helped me heal in various ways, just like Catelynn said in an interview:
“We went to the beach, so we were feeding ducks with bread. Carly just wanted to hold Nova immediately and be like, ‘Can I feed her? Can I hold her?'” Lowell told People magazine of the first time Novalee and Carly met, adding that Carly “kept showing Nova to everybody and saying, ‘This is my birth sister.’ It was so cute… After that day, I felt perfectly fine again.”
It gets a bit trickier as the kids get older and start experiencing their own sadness, grief, and frustration over the situation. I always feel a deep pang of guilt when my sons tell me that they miss their sister or that they wish she could come live with us now that I’m no longer sick. But I’m continuing to work through it, showing them healthy ways of coping and grieving. It helps that technology brings us together with things like FaceTime. It also helps that I stuck it out in therapy and have the knowledge and verbal ability to help them through their big feelings right now.
I’m proud of Catelynn for talking about postpartum depression and the anxiety she has experienced over the years. I think it’s especially important that her story will reach a younger demographic. Early parenting is a risk factor for postpartum depression. Additionally, letting younger viewers, men and women alike, know that postpartum mood and anxiety orders exist is a step forward in the goal of educating people. Kudos, Catelynn (and her husband, Tyler)!