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Real women. Real stories. Part 1.

Intro by Liz Kent: I am beyond excited for this blog post and I'll tell you why. Awhile back I asked half a dozen women I know who have powerful stories from experiences in their lives to share them on my blog. These are women who are moms (and wives, sisters, friends, employees, etc.) and have experienced circumstances and situations that I haven't. Their stories resonated with me, not only because they're powerful and demonstrate strength and resilience, but because they are just ridiculously encouraging. I don't personally know the ins and outs of some of these trials these women have experienced, but I know from my professional and personal experiences that many women suffer in silence, in whatever they are experiencing and I am thankful that these women are courageous enough to share their stories over the next 6 months with you. I hope that their voices embolden speak out about your own be a support to someone else going through a situation you've never just show some empathy and kindness to someone-because we're all just trying to do our best. And with that, I will introduce the amazing Raina WIlson. I worked with Raina at Kennedy Krieger way back in the day. Raina is a mom of two boys, a wife, and an all around great person. Here is her story.

My name is Raina Wilson and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 19. I’m a mother and wife who is successfully parenting despite my condition. When I found out I was pregnant with my first son I was afraid of what was in store. I was excited about my pregnancy, but nervous about what would happen to me psychologically through the wild and crazy hormonal changes that pregnancy brings.

I did everything I could to maintain my mental, spiritual, and physical health during my pregnancy. I labored for thirty hours medication free because I feared would happen to me mentally if I took medication during labor and delivery. Despite doing everything I could, I still experienced post-partum depression.

I’ve learned that post-partum depression is more than a depressed state. I experienced the anxiety sideof the spectrum. I tried to convince myself that I was fine for the first weeks after I gave birth, but I was struggling. My anxiety manifested itself through perfectionism. I took detailed notes about my son’s sleep and feeding schedule. I breastfeed around the clock, read everything I could about raising a newborn, and even had an abacus that I used to track how many times I was going up and down the stairs because I was bleeding past the point I should. I should have known that things were off when I started using graph paper to plot and predict my son’s actions.

I did my best to be what I thought was a perfect mother despite all that was going on. An amazing nurse at a local hospital hosted a support group for new mothers and it was in that group that the she recognized my anxiety was a red flag for post-partum depression.

It took time for me to accept that state of my mental health was jeopardizing my ability to navigate daily life. I didn’t recognize how bad things were until I was swinging my five-month-old son on a sunny and crisp fall day at the playground and contemplated what would happen if I walked away. The despair I felt in that moment was my wake-up call that I needed to seek help.

The anxiety side of post-partum depression is not something people discuss. Despite being flagged as someone at risk for post-partum depression in hospital, I didn’t receive the education I needed to prepare me for what could happen in the weeks and months post birth. It was through weekly therapy, a medication change, and adding regular exercise to my routine that things got better. Accepting that I was ill was the hardest part of my journey.

If any part of my story resonates with you I encourage you to keep seek the help. There’s no room for shame in motherhood. Recognize that it’s okay not to be okay and please get the help you need. I am now an abacus and graph paper free mother of two amazing sons with the ability to parent in a way that is healthy for myself and my sons. There is more to motherhood than crafting carefully curated pictures depicting that you’re living a perfect life. Motherhood has its ups and down and being a mother sometimes come with a side a good medication and seeing a therapist. Things do get better and there’s hope on the other side.

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