Real Women. Real Stories. Part 4.
Intro by Liz Kent: I am honored to share this story from my friend, Sarah. Sarah and I went to college together, so we've known each other through lots of big life changes-first jobs, getting married, and having kids. Sarah is funny, genuine, and loyal, all of which make her a great friend. She's a first grade teacher, wife, and mother to two young kiddos. She wanted to share her story to give other mothers hope. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Hello! My name is Sarah and I’m hoping that by sharing my story of PPA and PPD, that it might make someone who is struggling, feel less alone. My whole life, I have dealt with varying degrees of anxiety, but it wasn’t until starting my family, that it became something that felt out of my control.
A week before learning I was pregnant with my first child, I experienced my first panic attack at work. Seeking answers, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment, and decided on a whim, to take a pregnancy test. In hindsight, the way I was ushered into pregnancy (and motherhood) should have been a good indication of what was to come. My daughter’s pregnancy was riddled with cyclical panic attacks and I started medication at 28 weeks because I felt I was losing the ability to complete “normal” tasks. After she was born, while also managing a death in the family, I knew I probably felt more anxious and “down” than other moms. But I was new to this, and grieving a loss, so I expected this is how I might feel. Eventually, and with time, life resumed to a new normal. Two years later, I became pregnant with my son. I was resolute that this would be my “do over”. I would know more, would worry less, and was determined to enjoy this experience. I didn’t realize that placing so many expectations on this postpartum period would make the fall even more devastating. The birth of my son left my hormones in the basement (or whatever is below the basement), and with my son at 5 days old, we returned to the hospital in the middle of the night because I knew something was very wrong. I had stopped sleeping, stopped eating, and could not rest (physically, emotionally, or mentally). I made a follow up appointment with my midwife 2 days later where I was (not surprisingly) diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and anxiety.
Though I was not new to anxiety, I was new to this experience. Postpartum anxiety and depression was much darker and heavier. Postpartum mental health issues are also compounded by the fact that you are “supposed” to be enjoying this time. The fact that you aren’t, adds to the internal battle of “what kind of mother you should be”. But I believed my doctors when they told me that as scary as it was right now, I would not feel this way forever. Especially if I took some very necessary steps. The following months were marked by hard work, MANY tears, and slowly changing my mindset about motherhood. I restarted medication, ended a breastfeeding journey, attended group therapy, attended individual therapy, and cast my net wide to family, friends, work colleagues, and anyone who would listen.
I want other moms to know that with every birth of a baby also comes the birth of a mother, and this transition is completely and uniquely your own. While this transition for me was incredibly challenging, it still only seemed “acceptable” to talk about motherhood in very romantic terms. Know that you deserve your “judgement-free” zone, and actively seek out the people in your life who will do that for you. Know that you deserve to maintain dignity over your healing, and the ways in which you choose to proceed. Know that you shouldn’t feel ashamed. Know that there are just so many other moms feeling the way you do. And most importantly, know that there will be a day when you are reflecting on these feelings in hindsight – that you will get there! I just celebrated my son’s 1st birthday and I truly believe that parenting through the worst times, has made me a stronger mother, partner, friend, and most importantly, better for myself. Best of luck!