Why Your Mental Health Before and After Baby Is So Important

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Women who are pregnant for the first time will likely spend most of their pregnancy learning how to care for their baby. But what about learning how to care for themselves?

There are three words I wish someone had talked to me about while I was pregnant: maternal mental health. Those three words could’ve made an incredible difference in my life when I became a mom.

I wish someone had said, “Your maternal mental health might suffer pre- and post-pregnancy. This is common, and it’s treatable.” No one told me what signs to look for, risk factors, or where to go for professional help.

I was less than prepared when postpartum depression hit me smack in the face the day after I brought my baby home from the hospital. The lack of education I received during pregnancy led me on a scavenger hunt to get the help I needed to get well. 

Had I known what postpartum depression actually was, how many women it affects, and how to treat it, I would’ve felt less shame. I would’ve started treatment sooner. And I could’ve been more present with my son during that first year. 

Here’s what else I wish I knew about mental health before and after my pregnancy.

Check out the article I wrote for Healthline HERE to read about what I wish I knew about maternal mental health before I had my baby. 

The Lessons I Learned as a New Mom

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When I was pregnant, I dreamed about becoming a certain kind of mother. She gave birth the old-fashioned way and brought her beautiful baby boy home where she magically transformed, Cinderella-style, into a domestic goddess, skilled Pinterest crafter, and champion breastfeeder. 

She constantly cooed at her baby, lied on the floor next to him during tummy time, happily carted him everywhere, and effortlessly floated from place to place. She had a smile practically tattooed on her face, and told all of her friends how amazing it was to be a mother. 

Here’s what really happened. 

Check out the article I wrote for Healthline HERE to read about the lessons I learned as a new mom with postpartum depression. 

Surviving Postpartum Depression After Finally Overcoming Infertility

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Written by Guest Poster, Megan C. It’s hard to put into words what it felt like to struggle with infertility.

For years, my life revolved around pregnancy tests, failed IUI’s, and two unsuccessful IVF cycles which got me no closer to motherhood. It seemed to be an uphill battle with no end in sight. My desperation to have a baby was growing every day.

Thankfully, our dream of becoming parents finally came true after undergoing a successful donor egg IVF. The three years of trial and error to conceive were at last behind us. We were immensely grateful - it felt like we’d finally reached the end of our challenging journey.

I never imagined the worst was yet to come.

When the Baby Blues Don’t Go Away

“You’re going to be an emotional wreck the first couple of weeks, but don’t worry – it’ll go away,” a close friend told me before the birth of my daughter.

I was prepared for the baby blues. My mother warned me, my friends warned me, and - most importantly - my doctor warned me.

The first time I laid eyes on my daughter, I felt such a rush of love and excitement that it took my breath away. I remember thinking, “How on Earth can a woman feel anything but joy right now?”

The child we’d fought so long to have was safely in my arms. It was incredible. There was a buzz inside our hospital room – nurses bustling about, family and friends oohing and awing, and my husband playing “Mr. Security Guard” to our tiny bundle of joy.

But then… it got quiet.

In the early hours of the next morning, the visitors were gone and my husband was home grabbing a quick shower. When our daughter started crying and wouldn’t stop no matter what I did to soothe her, I felt my inner turmoil starting to build.

After we got home, moments like this seemed to come nonstop, but I continuously chalked them up to baby blues. When weeks turned into months and the urgency to cry all day by myself didn’t fade, I knew something wasn’t right.

I was so happy to finally have my baby… but it terrified me to admit that when I looked at our daughter, she felt like a stranger.

Depression After Egg Donation

When we found out my eggs weren’t viable for pregnancy, donor egg IVF was the next logical choice for us.

While I took time to grieve the loss of a genetic connection to my child, I was certain nine months of pregnancy would help us forge a bond stronger than DNA.

However, I think my problems started before the embryo transfer had even taken place.

It’d been three heartbreaking years of constant failures, mental exhaustion, and physical tolls. I don’t care what fertility treatment you decide to undertake, they all have the power to break you down and leave you feeling depressed and anxious.

Our donor egg cycle was just one more period of injectable drugs, never-ending doctor’s appointments, and early morning visits for monitoring.

When our pregnancy test finally came back positive, though, I was ecstatic and forever indebted to the wonderful woman who selflessly gave her eggs to provide this extraordinary opportunity to us.

I loved being pregnant and feeling a little life growing within my belly. Unfortunately, after my daughter was born, the overwhelming emotions that accompany fertility treatments finally seemed to catch up with me.

My days became a blur of general sadness and questions about my ability to connect with my daughter. I would even find myself picking apart her features that didn’t resemble ours.

Her nose was unfamiliar.

Her tiny gestures seemed foreign.

Her hair color didn’t quite match the blonde of my own.

In moments of clarity, I knew this precious creature was every bit mine and that was the only mother she needed. After all, my body sustained her life throughout pregnancy, and my efforts brought her into the world. Sadly, postpartum depression was a dense fog of confusion that had settled thickly in my mind.

No matter how appreciative I was to finally be a mom and have the opportunity to raise my sweet girl, I couldn’t quiet the negative thoughts spinning in my head.

One evening when she was around six months old, my husband came home from work and found me quietly rocking her with tears streaming down my face. He gently took her from my arms and sweetly told me it was time to go and see someone.

Getting Help for My Postpartum Depression and Finding My Happily Ever After

At that moment, six months into my depression, it felt like there were no answers.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I called my OB and she put me in touch with a local psychologist specializing in postpartum depression. This godsend of a doctor put me on medication to help balance me back out and, week after week, we worked through my struggles until I finally began to feel like myself again.

It wasn’t an easy obstacle to overcome, but with time and medical assistance, I was given the chance to experience daily the love and connection to my daughter I’d initially felt the moment I saw her.

I never imagined I could feel such sadness after finally receiving the child we’d been trying to have for so long. In my darkest moments, I felt ashamed of my grief and wondered if we’d struggled all that time because I simply wasn’t supposed to be a mother.

I now realize these thoughts were merely my sickness clouding my better judgement.

Thanks to my counseling sessions, I’ve learned so much about how postpartum depression affects the way you think. The thoughts and feelings I experienced during my daughter’s first six months weren’t reality. They were simply a side effect of my illness and needed treatment like any other health issue.

I know it’s not always easy to talk to someone about dealing with postpartum depression, but I’m forever grateful my husband gave me the push I needed to seek support. It opened my eyes and finally allowed me to have a relationship with my daughter.

There’ll always be a part of me that regrets my state of mind throughout those initial months. However, I’ve come to accept that undergoing such difficult circumstances has not only allowed me to love my child more deeply, but has brought such profound realization as to how blessed we truly are.

#MyDream - MOTHERHOOD | UNDERSTOOD for Mogul, Inc.

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My dream is that with motherhood comes only empathy and connection, not judgment and shame. My dream is that all moms feel empowered to ask for help, receive it and realize that doing so doesn't make them failures. My dream is that all moms realize that taking care of themselves and their needs isn't selfish, but necessary. My dream is that all moms feel safe enough to be honest about their lives, even the scary parts. My dream is that all moms have access to affordable care for mental health issues such as postpartum depression and anxiety. My dream is that no mom ever feels alone as she struggles. My dream is that all moms recognize motherhood is not one-size-fits-all and no two journeys are the same. My dream is that all moms support each other's choices and embrace each other's differenes. My dream is that all moms lift one another up because they understand that we are all in this together.

10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Postpartum Depression

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When I was eight months pregnant, a friend asked me if I was worried at all about postpartum depression. I quickly shot her down. "Oh, that would never happen to me," I said. "I’m so excited to be a mom." As far as I was concerned, I was going to give birth to my son the old-fashioned way, fall deeply in love with him, breastfeed him for months like a champion, transform into the DIY domestic goddess I was always meant to be, and take him with me everywhere I went. Instead, I was in labor for 24 hours, a process that led to two hours of pushing, followed by a C-section. Afterward, I found that I felt nothing toward my healthy new baby boy, became crippled by anxiety, quit breastfeeding after five days, decided I had made a terrible mistake becoming a mom, started taking antidepressants, and barely left the house for six months.

Maybe if I had received more education about postpartum depression, I would have been more aware of what was happening to me, less ashamed, and more prepared to seek help. There are so many things I wish I’d known about postpartum depression before I became a mom, and I want you to know them too.

1. Postpartum depression doesn’t discriminate.

Postpartum depression doesn’t care about your race, ethnicity, how much money or education you have, how excited you are about your baby, or what your support system looks like. I felt like I had lucked out with the ultimate new mom set-up: I have a wonderful husband, a supportive family, and couldn’t wait to be a mom. I even hired a baby nurse to help out the first two months… and I still got postpartum depression.

2. There are real risk factors.

I had so many risk factors and had no idea risk factors for postpartum depression even existed. Some of mine: having 30 family members in town on my due date, moving three months before my due date, an extremely long labor, and having a type-A personality. Although each mom’s risk factors will be different because postpartum depression is not a one-size-fits-all illness, I’d recommend checking out the list.

3. Postpartum depression doesn’t mean you want to harm your baby.

I always thought moms with postpartum depression were the ones I saw on television: the people on the news who hurt their babies and sometimes themselves too. I never had the desire to do either of those things, which left me feeling confused about what was happening to me. Most of those folks are actually suffering from a form of postpartum psychosis, the least common form of postpartum depression. (And although many people with postpartum psychosis have delusions, they’re not always destructive—and those harmful thoughts aren’t exactly brought on because the person wants them, either.)

4. Postpartum depression isn’t like other depressions.

I learned later from my therapist that postpartum depression often presents itself as more of an irritable, anxious depression. At first, I didn’t realize I was depressed because what I really felt was overwhelming anxiety. This also made it more difficult for others to notice that something was wrong. And because women just can’t catch a break (ever, really), postpartum anxiety is its own condition—one that doesn’t get as much attention but is definitely something to watch for.

5. Hundreds of thousands of women get postpartum depression each year.

For a while, I felt like the only one. I didn’t know any moms who had postpartum depression—or if I did, they weren’t talking about it. I just thought I sucked at motherhood and couldn’t understand why everyone else was so much better at it. I also felt ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know about any of the negative thoughts running through my head. If I had known that postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth, affecting 1 in 7 new moms, I might have felt less alone.

6. Having postpartum depression doesn’t make you a bad mom.

When postpartum depression hit, I couldn’t understand why everyone else loved being a mom and had such an easy transition into motherhood. I couldn’t understand why everyone on my social media feeds posted pictures with captions like, "The best thing to ever happen to me," or "so in love" or "life is now complete."

I just thought I was a horrible mother because I couldn’t relate to any of that. The truth was I didn’t cause my depression or ask to get sick. I wasn’t a terrible mom. I had a real mental health issue that required treatment.

7. Taking medication isn't the end of the world.

I never thought I would begin motherhood by taking antidepressants, and I questioned what that said about me as a mom. Was I weak because I needed drugs to help me function? Would I be judged for trading breastfeeding for anti-anxiety pills? Taking medication turned out to be the best decision because it helped me get healthy and happy for my family. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t judged myself so harshly.

8. Not everyone in your life will be supportive.

I could barely leave the house, let alone have the will to return phone calls, texts, and emails, or explain what I was going through. I was too exhausted and often too embarrassed, but many of my friends understood and continued to send messages filled with love and support without expecting anything in return. However, some stopped reaching out when they didn’t hear back from me; they couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort. They aren’t my friends today, and I’ve come to accept that that’s OK.

9. Finding the right therapist is everything.

The first therapist I met with spent our first session asking me to list ways I could be a good mom… which was not helpful at all when I was feeling like I didn’t even want to be a mom in the first place. I didn’t see the light until I met with a therapist who specialized in postpartum depression and knew exactly how to talk to me about this issue. I could have saved myself some time and frustration if I knew seeing someone who specializes in maternal mental health is a must.

10. Motherhood is a team sport.

I now know that motherhood isn’t meant to be done in isolation, but when I became a mom, I thought I had to do it all on my own—and with a big smile on my face. I thought that’s what made someone a good mom. So when I got sick and couldn’t do anything without help, I felt like a failure; I didn’t know that all moms struggle and need help. Now, I openly share my struggles and always ask for help when I need it because motherhood becomes easier and more fun when we all do it together.

If you think you might be suffering from postpartum depression, it’s OK to ask for help. Postpartum Support International is a great place to help you find local resources in your area.

This article originally appeared at Greatist

Words That Are Basically A Mom Hug

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Four years ago, when my son was born, and I battled severe postpartum depression, I felt so alone. I wanted—no—I desperately craved meeting another mom like me. Another mom who would put her hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and say, “I’ve been there. I get it.”

I didn’t find these moms until I got better almost a year later when I started sharing my journey from postpartum depression to healthy, happy mommy. And most of them I met virtually. I was amazed by how many moms would respond to my story with those powerful words, “I’ve been there. I get it.” Where were these moms when I was suffering? Most likely, they were also suffering and too ashamed to come forward just like I was.

It was then I realized the power of those two little sentences and their importance and necessity when it comes to the struggles of motherhood. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, body image, relationship issues or something else, we all struggle as moms and we want to know we aren’t the only ones. We don’t always want advice. We want to feel normal. We want to know there are others out there who get it. Who get us. 

These two sentences are so powerful because they are loaded with empathy. They mean, I know what you’re feeling. They mean, I’ve walked in your shoes. They mean, you’re not alone in your fears. They mean, I see you. They mean, you don’t have to pretend anymore.

Six months ago, I met another mom, Brooke, through Instagram. We connected over the shared experience of surviving postpartum depression. She reached out to me after reading something I wrote for Motherlucker about my own postpartum depression journey. I became that mom for her. The one I had been searching for when I was sick. The one who, with her words, could say, "You're not alone."

As we talked more we wondered about how many moms could benefit from hearing those same words. We decided become two moms on a mission to help other moms feel less alone in their struggles and more empowered to be real as they continue on their journey to raise tiny humans.

Motherhood today comes with the pressure to be perfect. Facebook posts that only show the best pictures. Instagram memes that simply joke about the worst and absurd parts of our days. But these images on social media don’t tell the whole story. What’s missing from them are connection, empathy, support and understanding.

I don’t want any mom to ever feel as alone as I did when I battled postpartum depression. I want to help build a tribe of moms that lift each other up and help each other rise. I want to change the dialogue of motherhood to one grounded in empathy and sisterhood. I want to empower moms to be honest about the messy, scary stuff that no one likes to talk about.

And that's what Brooke and I are doing everyday, over at MOTHERHOOD | UNDERSTOOD. Come hang out with us!

Fighting PPD is A Marathon Not A Sprint

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In the hospital, I thought I loved my baby. I thought I wanted to bring him home and be his mother. Then I got home and my thoughts drastically changed. I wanted nothing to do with my new son. I decided I had made a terrible mistake becoming a mother.

With these new, irrational thoughts came a feeling of heaviness on my chest as if an elephant had all of a sudden taken up residence there. I couldn’t breathe. The feeling creeped into my throat. It woke me up at three am every morning. It exhausted me to the point where all I wanted to do was sleep forever yet I could never fall asleep because the anxiety made my heart feel as if it would leap out of my chest.

What was happening to me? Why do I feel this way? Where did this overwhelming anxiety come from? Why won’t the tears stop? Why don’t I want to get out of my bed when there is a healthy, beautiful baby boy in the next room who needs his mother? How do I make it all stop? 

Tell me exactly what to do. I will do it. Drugs? I will take them. Talk to someone? Okay fine. Just promise me, it will all stop. Promise me I will feel better. Promise me I will feel connected to my son. Promise me motherhood will be filled with all the love and magic and excitement, Pinterest crafts and rainbows and unicorns I had pictured when I was pregnant.

If only it could be that simple. As I write this (and if any mom who is suffering is reading this), I wish I could tell you that there is a magical formula. That if you do X, Y, and Z, you will be better. That there is a set amount of time before you will start to feel like your old self again. But I can’t. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to postpartum depression. The treatment and recovery process should be taken one day at a time and no two are alike.

When I was in the throes of my postpartum depression battle I was lucky to find a therapist who specialized in postpartum mood disorders right away, but every week when I sat on that faded red love seat in her office, all I could focus on was when I would feel like myself again. I wanted to know exactly when I would feel happy again and what I had to do to get there.

Every week, my therapist would tell me the feelings were temporary. She had the proof in hundreds of former patients she treated with the same illness I had. Some took three months. Some six months. Others more than a year. I always thought she was lying. I felt like I would stay in that awful hell forever, so if I was going to get better, it needed to happen in the next five minutes.

All I could do was have patience, (which has never been my strength). The phrase I remember my own mom yelling at me most throughout my childhood was, “JENNIFER, BE PATIENT!” As cliché as it to tell someone to “be patient” and “give it time,” it’s also the truth when it comes to fighting postpartum depression and getting through to the other side. Slowly, the right medication started to work and I began having more good days than bad.

Then after several good days, I would relapse back into that helpless girl overcome by tears and anxiety who couldn’t get out of bed and function like a human, like a mother. Even though my therapist warned me this could happen, I would get frustrated and forget about all the good days that came before. I needed to be better NOW.

But that’s the thing about this mental illness that affects hundreds of thousands of new moms each year. It doesn’t stick to any pattern. It doesn’t follow any rules. The only thing you can do is hang in there while following your treatment plan, because postpartum depression is temporary with treatment. I wish I could tell you how temporary, but all I can honestly say is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I’m now included in the proof my therapist uses when a new mom comes to see her for the first time. I got better running the marathon and I’m a stronger, more patient, and one-hell of a badass mother for it. 

This post originally appeared at Motherlucker.

7 Simple but Perfect Ways My Friends Helped Me When I Had Postpartum Depression

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The day after I arrived home with my new baby boy, I was hit with severe postpartum depression. I never thought it could happen to me and it came out of nowhere. I went from filling out all 1’s on the happy scale the hosptial gives you before sending you home to being at home thinking I had made a terrible mistake becoming a mother, and trying to figure out ways I could get sick or hurt so I could return to the hospital where everyone would have to take care of me and I never had to take care of a baby. How do you tell your mom friends you feel this way when you have been led to believe the only normal feelings new moms experience after giving birth are magic, bliss, joy, love, and an intense attachment to your baby? How could I tell them the only thing I felt was paralyzing anxiety that made it difficult to do anything but cry ugly tears and lie in bed pleading for it to all go away so I could love my new baby boy and be a good mother too. How could I tell them I resented them for being so much better at motherhood than me? So much better at breastfeeding. So much better at simply wanting to spend time with their babies and leaving the house with them, something I was terrified to do.

I didn’t have any friends who had postpartum depression before me. I didn’t even know postpartum depression was what I had until I found the right therapist who diagnosed me. Now I didn’t only have postpartum depression. I had to go on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicine to cope with motherhood. Again, what would my friends think? From what I knew of other moms (close friends and the ones on social media I didn’t know personally), motherhood was easy and came naturally. I thought of myself as a horrible mom and a failure. I failed at breastfeeding. I failed at Pinterest. I failed at wanting to be a mother. Would my friends judge me as harshly as I judged myself?

Of course, the answer is no. Even though none of my close friends had experienced postpartum depression and coudn’t fully understand what I was going through, they never abandoned me or made me feel ashamed about my feelings.

Here are 7 ways my friends helped while I battled postpartum depression.

1. They didn’t push.

None of my closest friends experienced postpartum depression, which made it very difficult to understand what I was going through. I was often too consumed by anxiety, tears and exhaustion to have to explain it–the therapy sessions, the procsss of finding the right medications, the not wanting anything to do with my son, the desire to never leave my bed ever again, the overwhelming guilt and so much more. My friends never pushed me. They never forced me to answer questions or explain what postpartum depression was like for me. They let me know they would always be there to talk if I needed to and when I was ready. They took the pressure away of having to explain myself, a huge relief for me.

2. They didn’t judge.

Even though my friends didn’t personally suffer from postpartum depression, they never judged me for having it. They educated themselves about what I was going through and always kept an open mind. If I felt like telling them something shocking such as wanting to run away and never come back or that I wasn’t sure I had any feelings for my new baby, they never made me feel bad about it (I did that enough to myself). Not once, did any of my friends try to insert their opinions or views about formula feeding or medication into my experience. They never pretended to know better. They never made me feel guilty. They supported all my choices and tried to help me understand I was sick with a real illness and not just a horrible mother.

3. They reached out without expecting anything in return. 

During the long months of my postpartum depression battle, my friends regularly called, emailed, and sent text messages. Their messages were filled with encourgement and love. “I love you.” “I’m thinkink about you.” “You got this.” “You’re strong.” “I’m proud of you.” “I’m always here for you.” “Your baby is taken care of and lucky to have you as his mom.” And not once, did any friend expect a response. They all knew that it was dififcult for me to be social and they selflessly kept in touch anyway.

4. They talked behind my back.

After I got better, I found out that my friends would text and email about me behind my back. If anyone had spoken to me, they told the group. If I made progress, they told the group. One friend who usually came over to check on me and take me for walks, regulary updated the others. When I got better, I felt extremely grateful, loved, and flattered to know that I had my own personal cheerleading squad rooting for me to get healthy and happy.

5. They kept me fed.

While the anxiety and sadness made it difficult to eat, my friends always made sure there were meals sent to my house. Not having to worry about who was cooking or where meals were coming from gave me more time to focus on my health and recovery. It also took that responsibility away from my husband who had to take on so much extra with me being sick. And you know my friends are the real deal because they never forgot to include chocolate.

6. They checked in on my husband.

My husband needed support too. With me incapable of taking care of our son, he had to step up and parent for both of us, often after a long day of work and on less sleep. He needed people to vent to. He needed an outlet. He needed breaks. My friends checking in on him allowed him to express his feelings about a situation that was frustrating and difficult because it was unexpected for him too and he felt helpless because he couldn’t snap his fingers, give me extra hugs or buy me a present and make me better. It was important that he wasn’t forgotton about on my postpartum depression journey.

7. The celebrated my recovery.

When I started to turn the corner and finally felt like myself again, an email went out from one mom friend to the rest of the group with the subject heading: “She’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaacaaaack!” The sent email was a result of this mom watching me engage with and love on my baby boy who was now six months old. She could immediately see the change in me and wanted to celebrate it by letting my other friends know too. I still get emotional when I think about all the support, empathy and messages that told me how strong I was, how proud they were of me and how happy they were to have their Jen back. My friends were there every step of the way and it meant everything for them to celebrate with me at the end.

1 in 7 new moms will suffer from postpartum depression. That means, if you know 7 women, you will know one of these moms. She could be you. In addition to the above tips, you can download a free copy of my guide: WTF Are Postpartum Depression and Anxiety? and learn more valuable adivce and tips for how to help, what to do and what to never say

This article originally appeared on Red Tricycle.

Five Ways To Talk To a Mom Friend You Think Has Postpartum Depression

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After battling and surviving postpartum depression, I have received the following question repeatedly: “Jen, I think my friend might be going through something like what you went through. I want to say something to her about it, but I don’t want to upset her. How do I bring up that she isn’t acting like herself lately?” I wish I had a simple answer to this question, but it’s never simple when it comes to postpartum depression, which is not a one size fits all illness. Every mom’s experience with PPD is unique to her. Her risk factors, symptoms, feelings, and length of illness won’t look like that of any other mom suffering. Just like PPD, every mom is different and motherhood is also not one size fits all.

Before you confront a mom and suggest she might be suffering from PPD, here are some factors I think you should consider: How will she react? How receptive would she be to the idea of needing and asking for help? I think you should also ask yourself, “Am I the best person for this conversation or is there someone else that should be having this conversation?”

While you consider all the above, here are my five suggestions for approaching a friend you believe might be showing signs of postpartum depression.

1. Research and prepare a list of local resources.

Before you do anything else, get informed. Educate yourself about everything postpartum depression. Postpartum Support International is a great place to start. If you are going to tell a mom you think she might have PPD, you better go in prepared. Arm yourself with the facts about how common postpartum depression is and how temporary it can be with proper treatment. Make a list of local resources for your friend such as therapists, hospitals, and women’s centers that specialize in postpartum mood disorders so she immediately knows there are places to go to help her figure out what’s going on. Offer to go with her if you think that would help. Make sure she knows she’s not alone.

2. Consider how close you are to this mom.

Are you someone who has had difficult conversations with this mom before? Is your friendship one where you confide in each other about everything? If the answer is yes, you probably already have the comfort level needed to approach mom. Start with a question. “Mom, are you doing okay? You don’t seem like yourself. I know you just had a baby, but it’s more than that. What’s going on with you?”

3. Think about mom’s personality and how she reacts to difficult situations.

It’s important to think about mom’s reaction before you suggest she could be suffering from PPD. Does she like to do everything by herself? Does she struggle admitting when something is hard? Would she rather fake a smile than admit something is wrong? Ask yourself these questions and craft your approach based on how you predict she will respond. Or based on your answers, maybe you know someone better suited to talk to her.

4. Talk to mom’s partner first.

Mom’s partner is a direct link to how she is behaving. Her partner might have noticed some red flags too but has no idea what they mean or what to do about them. First ask yourself the questions above to determine the best way for clueing mom in to the fact that something isn’t right and she might need help. Her partner is a good place to start.

5. There is strength in numbers.

If you don’t think mom will listen to only one person, will she respond to her tribe? Ask your group of mom’s friends and family if they’ve witnessed anything similar. If you’re going to go with the group approach, make sure each person involved is extremely close with mom and not of the judgmental, opinionated kind because you want her to be able to feel like she can talk freely and honestly.

No matter what you decide when it comes to approaching your mom friend, the most important thing to remember is to always come from a place of empathy and acceptance, never one of judgment. Mom is most likely feeling tremendous confusion, guilt, and shame about feeling anything other than connected to her new baby and overwhelmed with the joy of becoming a mother. You want her to feel supported and understood so she feels comfortable and safe admitting to any struggles and symptoms relating to postpartum depression. If she’s not responsive to your conversation, just let her know you’re here to hold space for her. Be patient and check in regularly with mom, her partner, and other members of her tribe.

At some point, all of us will know a new mom suffering from some form of postpartum depression. It’s up to all of us to educate ourselves so no new mom suffers in silence. Click here to receive your free copy of my WTF are Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: The Friends and Family Guide For How to Help, What to Do and What Not to Say.

Postpartum Depression and Breastfeeding

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I have very strong feelings about breastfeeding. It's not because I'm anti-breastfeeding or anti-formula. In fact, I'm the opposite...I'm pro- women should choose what works best for them and their mental health and sanity during what might be the biggest transition of their lives...motherhood. And no woman should ever be made to feel like she is a failure or a terrible mother because she chooses formula over breastfeeding or even supplements breast milk with formula. Now I know there are the people who believe that becoming a parent is all about sacrifice. We sacrifice for the well-being of our children and therefore moms should breastfeed no matter what. Well I'm here to call bullshit...because at the end of the day, giving your baby a happy, healthy mommy is just as if not more important than giving your baby breastmilk at the expense of your well-being. What about women who don't produce enough milk? What about exclusively breastfed babies who don't gain enough weight? No mom should ever be made to feel bad about how she nourishes her children.

Social media is filled with celebrities promoting breastfeeding. Celebrities not so subtly telling you that breast is best...the only proper way to feed your baby. And it's not just celebrities...regular women like you and me love to judge and shame moms who choose not to breastfeed. Doctors and lactation consultants lay the guilt on thick for new moms who struggle with the decision between breast milk and formula. None of this is fair to new mothers. Plenty of studies show breastfeeding to be the better option and the same number of studies claim that these studies have no merit...which brings me back to my main point...choose what works for you...because your baby will be fine... and fuck the haters and everyone else.

Here is my breastfeeding story: It's not a fairly tale.

When I got pregnant, I decided that I would to try breastfeeding my son when he was born. I had this vision in my head that he would come into this world, perfectly latch onto my boob, we would bond immediately, I would love every minute of breastfeeding, and the baby weight would melt off. Yeah...not so much!

I sort of blame my perfect breastfeeding fantasy on a close friend who was the champion breastfeeder with all of her children. It was never a question for her. She loved it and breastfed her first son for 17 months and her second for a year. This was going to be me too! The funny thing is, if you asked any one of my close friends, they would have told you I was delusional...knowing my me for years and my personality, this fantasy would not become my reality. I was determined to prove them all wrong.

My son was born via C-section late on a Tuesday night. When the nurse asked what I wanted to feed him, I of course said breastmilk. In the recovery room, he latched right away and fed for almost 30 minutes. I knew it! This was going to be easy...my breastfeeding fantasy had come true.

Well my breastfeeding fantasy lasted for those 30 minutes and then poof! It was gone. My son never latched like that again. I tried every position. I tried pumping. I called the lactation consultant every day I was in the hospital. Nothing helped, but I was still determined. I let the nurses supplement with formula when my son was in the nursery. I was okay with this because I was still trying to breastfeed. I was still going to have my breastfeeding fairy tale, even with a little formula mixed in.

Two days after arriving home from the hospital, I would realize I suffered from the beginnings of postpartum depression. I continued to try breastfeeding my son but he always struggled to latch and would just scream and cry. So I switched to pumping because I didn't want to be a failure but the truth was, I hated it. I was miserable and exhausted and anxious all the time. I could barely manage my postpartum depression induced emotions. Breastfeeding was making me feel worse. It didn't make me feel closer to my baby. It didn't bond us at all. In fact, I didn't feel much of anything. I needed others to be able to feed my son because I could barely get out of bed to take care of him or myself.

On my son's fifth day of life, I decided enough was enough. I already suffered from paralyzing depression and anxiety. I didn't need the extra frustration breastfeeding was causing me. I had to give up my perfect breastfeeding fantasy. I had to take care of myself and that meant sleeping, giving in to the anxiety, and letting others give my son a bottle of formula.

On that fifth day, My mom took me to meet with a lactation consultant at my son's pediatrician's office. When she came into the office, I didn't ask for help. I had decided on the car ride over that I was done and my son would be raised on formula. I told her the same thing. "I'm done. tell me how to get rid of my milk." I was scared she would judge and try to convince me to keep breastfeeding. She didn't. She said it was great that I decided to stop on my own terms and told me how to wean away the milk supply. I ended up stopping cold turkey. There was pain and my boobs were hard as rocks for two days, but then the milk stopped coming. I felt relief.

It took some convincing on the part of friends, family, and my therapist that I did the right thing choosing to exclusively formula feed. This would never have even been an issue if I didn't feel so much pressure from outside sources to be super breastfeeding mom. I would have just stopped...no guilt, no shame, no feeling like I failed as a mom and failed my child.

If I decided to have more children, I wouldn't even try to breastfeed them and I don't care what others or the media think of that. I would do what's best for my baby and me and that would be putting my mental health first so I can be there to properly love and care for my child.

I know I already said it, but I'm going to say it again. There is no wrong way to feed your baby. Whether you choose breast milk or formula, you are still a wonderful, capable mother. Don't have too many expectations because there is no way to predict what motherhood will be like for you. Babies don't care about your plans and fantasies. And if people try to tell you differently, screw them! Women need to support women no matter what. Motherhood is hard enough!

5 Lessons Celebrity Moms Can Teach Us About Maternal Mental Health

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In the last several years, more and more celebrity moms have opened up about their struggles with postpartum depression. They are women who look like they have it all. They are women we assume live perfect lives as they travel on private planes with their personal chefs and glam squads. They are women we would never think could have any problems because why would they? They are beautiful, famous, and wealthy enough to afford anything they want, including teams of baby nurses, nannies, and other child-care services that make a mom’s life easier. They are also women you didn’t know struggled with mental health issues in their first year of motherhood because they kept it secret. They are women who became moms and had no clue that motherhood didn’t always come easy. Moms who didn’t know what was happening to them when they didn’t experience the magic of motherhood portrayed by the movies and TV shows they act in. Moms who didn’t admit they suffered from postpartum depression until after they made it through to the other side. Most importantly, they are moms who can teach all of us some valuable lessons about maternal mental health and why we must keep the conversation about this very serious, even life-threatening issue going.

1. Postpartum Depression Doesn’t Discriminate.

The list of celebrity moms admitting they had postpartum depression grows longer every year. Postpartum Depression made headlines in 2005 with the infamous feud between Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise over women taking medication for maternal health issues and the release of her memoir, Down Came The Rain. Since then, the list has grown significantly to include Bryce Dallas Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, and more. These women, who we believe live easy, perfect lives are proof that postpartum depression doesn’t care about who you are. It doesn’t matter how successful or talented you are or how much money you have. It can happen to anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, and support system. I’m sure, just like me, none of these women thought postpartum depression could ever happen to them. And just like me, they were wrong.

2. You Can Still Have Postpartum Depression Even if You Don’t Want to Harm Your Child.

Hayden Panettiere told Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan in 2015, “When [you’re told] about postpartum depression you think it’s ‘I feel negative feelings towards my child, I want to injure or hurt my child.’ I’ve never, ever had those feelings. Some women do. But you don’t realize how broad of a spectrum you can really experience that on.” Postpartum depression is different for every mom. All too often, the media mistakenly labels moms who harm their babies and themselves as having postpartum depression when in reality, they have postpartum psychosis. Even though we read about these stories the most, postpartum psychosis is actually the least common of the postpartum mood disorders and only affects 1 or 2 in 1000 new moms, according to Postpartum Support International. As a result of these misconceptions, many new moms don’t know they have postpartum depression and don’t seek the treatment they need to get better.

3. We Are All In This Together.

Adele told Vanity Fair in 2016, “I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son, and it frightened me. I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I was very reluctant...One day I said to a friend, ‘I fuckin’ hate this,’ and she just burst into tears and said, ‘I fuckin’ hate this, too.’ And it was done.” Imagine what could have happened if Adele’s friend judged her or made her feel like something was wrong with her or that she was a terrible mother? Instead, her friend made it clear that she struggled too and they were in it together. The empathy and compassion she received from another mom validated her feelings and let her know she was not alone. Motherhood is a team sport and really does take a village, a village you desperately need when you can’t physically take care of your child because you have a mental illness. Moms need each other. There is no place for shaming because whether a mom has postpartum depression or not, she will struggle and needs others to support her and remind her she’s doing the best she can and she’s not alone.

4. Help Needs to Be Accessible and Affordable for All Moms.

Sarah Michelle Gellar recently posted on her personal Instagram, “I too struggled with postpartum depression after my first baby was born. I got help, and made it through, and every day since has been the best gift I could ever have asked for. To those of you going through this, know that you’re not alone and that it really does get better. And if you believe that postpartum depression should be covered by healthcare, please take a moment and go to callmecongress.com today, find your rep’s numbers and let them know.” When 1 in 7 new moms suffer from some form of postpartum depression, but only 15% of them receive treatment, we need to do more. All of these celebrity moms had access to resources and the ability to afford the treatment they needed to get healthy. Not every new mom does. Therapists and psychiatrists, especially ones specializing in maternal mental health don’t always take health insurance. Antidepressants, if not covered, are expensive. We need to make this type of care available for all new moms, not just the ones fortunate enough to be able to pay for it.

5. The Stigma Is Real

Chrissy Teigen told Glamour in her March 2017 cover interview, “It took me so long to speak up: I felt selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling.” The common thread among these celebrity moms is none of them talked about their struggles until after they got better. Why? Because as women, we think that being anything less than super mom isn’t good enough. We have bought into society’s ridiculous expectations of the perfect mom and when we can’t live up to them, we believe we are failures and don’t want anyone else to know. Chrissy goes on to say, I’m speaking up now because I want people to know it can happen to anybody, and I don’t want people who have it to feel embarrassed or to feel alone. I also don’t want to pretend like I know everything about postpartum depression, because it can be different for everybody. But one thing I do know is that — for me — just merely being open about it helps.” As a postpartum depression survivor, I believe I have an obligation to speak out to help lessen the stigma and make it easier for the moms who come after me. I’ve also realized, just like Chrissy, sharing my story helps, lets other moms know they are not alone, and gives them the courage to share their own without the fear of being judged. No mom should ever have to suffer in silence without the treatment they need to get healthy and happy. The more these high-profile women (who have tremendous reach and influence) come forward, the greater chance we have to show postpartum depression is very real and can happen to anyone.

This post originally appeared on HuffPost.

At some point, all of us will know a new mom suffering from some form of postpartum depression. It’s up to all of us to educate ourselves so no new mom suffers in silence. Click here to receive your free copy of my WTF are Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: The Friends and Family Guide For How to Help, What to Do and What Not to Say.

A Snapshot of My Postpartum Depression

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Four years ago, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. A few days after taking him home from the hospital, I became convinced I didn’t want to be his mother. I had made a terrible mistake by having a baby. I had no idea what was wrong with me. All I wanted was to be the perfect mother madly in love with my son. Two weeks later I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I don’t remember writing during that year while I was sick, but I recently came across an unlabeled composition notebook, and when I opened it, what I found inside broke my heart.

I wrote the following on May 27, 2013, two months after my son was born.

Yesterday, my son Mason turned 2 months old. Yes, I have a son and I wish I didn’t. I also have postpartum depression, which is apparently the reason I don’t want him. I now take anti-anxiety medicine and antidepressants. I see a psychiatrist every couple of weeks and a therapist twice a week. 

Some days are better than others. Today is a bad day. I usually don’t know why one day is good and one day is bad. Today should be good. My husband is home after being away for a week. But today I can’t stop crying. This tends to happen on weekends because I wish my husband and I could go and come as we please. But we can’t because we have a child and he eats and sleeps at specific times.  

We just drove my sister to the airport. She stayed with me while Jason was away. My mom thinks my anxiety and depression get worse when someone leaves. Then we just took Mason for a walk in the park. Activity or movement usually helps my feelings, especially the anxiety. It didn’t.

My new thing that I do and I did it at the park, is that I look at everyone and in my head I say, “Kids or no kids?” And I’m so jealous of the couples without kids. It’s awful to feel like this. Why did I decide to have a child? Our life was good before. Apparently that is the PPD talking. And everyone assures me this is normal and I will get better. What if I don’t?

I wrote that almost four years ago today. And today, as the mom of a four-year old, I can tell you it did get better. I got better. It’s crazy to even think that’s how I felt back then. I can’t believe I didn’t want my son when I couldn’t picture my life now without him. I love him fiercely.

I love being his mom. He is my little buddy, just like my mom promised he would be. I still take an antidepressant every morning when I wake up and that’s okay. I am happy, healthy, and not ashamed by my illness. I know that it was the postpartum depression that convinced me I didn’t want to be a mom. I am an incredible mom. A loving, compassionate, strong, brave, real, badass mom.

I must have saved that notebook for a reason. Maybe I kept it as a reminder of what I went through and how horrible I felt in that first year. Or to help me remember my strength and how hard I fought to beat the illness that tried to steal motherhood from me. Or to show me how far I’ve come four years later.

I would like to think the real reason I saved that notebook is so I could share its contents with other new moms who might be experiencing those same feelings and need some concrete proof that they are normal, not alone, and will get better. If you are one of those moms, I’m telling you now, you are normal, not alone, and it will get better. You may not believe me right now (it took me a long time to believe too), but I’m your living proof.

This post originally appeared on Motherlucker.

At some point, all of us will know a new mom suffering from some form of postpartum depression. It’s up to all of us to educate ourselves so no new mom suffers in silence. Click here to receive your free copy of my WTF are Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: The Friends and Family Guide For How to Help, What to Do and What Not to Say

Five Things You Should Never Say To A Mom With Postpartum Depression

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When I had postpartum depression, I could barely leave the house. I rarely left the house with my new baby for almost six months. I was lucky if I could get out of bed and get dressed, let alone do the things that used to snap me out of a horrible mood. Getting my nails painted with the latest gel color wasn’t going to fix anything. Exercising just made me more tired and meant I had to be around people. Girls’ night was the last place I wanted to be. Showing up on my yoga mat wasn’t going to happen. Retail therapy wasn’t therapeutic at all. And the last thing I wanted to do was talk about what I was going through. Postpartum depression is so much more than just being “moody.” It’s not an exaggerated form of that time of the month. It’s going to last longer than those two weeks of “baby blues.” It’s a serious mental illness that can present itself in so many different forms and requires medical treatment. Each woman’s journey and struggle will be unique to her, her symptoms, and her risk factors. As a result, many new moms don’t even recognize they have postpartum depression. They find themselves flooded with guilt, wondering how they could feel so miserable during what they thought would be the most magical time in their lives. They feel too ashamed to tell anyone because they don’t realize that one in seven women have some form of what they have. And like me, they don’t find any solace in the activities that used bring them joy.

Postpartum depression is not a one size fits all illness, which makes it difficult for outsiders to process. While every mom will get better with treatment, there is no formula that predicts when. Some women suffer for a few months. Some for much longer. I struggled for a year. Husbands, family members and friends want to help, but don’t always know how. They don’t always understand what mom is going through. What should they do? What should they say? Other moms might not get it if they didn’t have postpartum depression when their babies were born. Sometimes knowing what not to say is just as important when it comes to offering your support.

Here are five things you should never say to a mom battling postpartum depression.

1. Go to the gym and you will feel better.

A trip to the gym is not the cure for mom’s postpartum depression. No yoga class or elliptical will change what she is going through. It doesn’t matter if she practically lived at the gym or was addicted to running or boot camp before she got sick. She has a mental illness most likely leaving her feeling sad, anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted, and disconnected. As she gets better with treatment, she will make her way back to her old self and the gym that she once frequented.

2. Treat yourself to a manicure and pedicure and you will feel good as new.

Sending mom off to the spa for some cuticle cutting and nail polishing will not make her feel better and will not cure her postpartum depression. A better idea would be to send mom to her room to rest and take care of herself. If she expresses the desire for some type of beauty treatment to temporarily take her mind off how she’s feeling, why not bring the spa to her? Send the glam squad to pamper her in the comfort of her own home where she doesn’t have to worry about showering and changing out of those spit up-stained sweatpants. 

3. You just need to get out of the house and be around other moms.

Leaving the house and spending time with other moms is probably the last thing mom wants to do right now, especially when she most likely feels tremendous guilt over her illness. While she struggles to take care of and feel attached to her baby, watching other moms love on theirs could make her feel worse or as if she is failing at what everyone else seems to be succeeding at. Mom needs to get better with treatment and feel more secure with herself, her health, and her baby before she might be ready to throw herself into some mommy and me classes. Faking that smile is exhausting and she is exhausted enough.

4. Don’t worry, all new moms feel this way.

When you use the phrase, “all new moms,” you minimize what this new mom is going through. While it’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed after bringing a baby home, postpartum depression is much more intense. Telling mom that she is just like everyone else could prevent her from realizing something is actually wrong and she needs help. Mom should not have to suffer in silence because she thinks her feelings are the norm and will go away on their own. She needs professional treatment and should feel comfortable asking for it.

5. This is supposed to be the happiest time in your life.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT ever tell a new mom with postpartum depression that you don’t understand how she could feel the way she does because this should be the happiest time in her life. She probably already feels like this anyway, without you reminding her. Until given a diagnosis, she probably has no idea what is happening to her or why, causing her to mistake her illness for the belief that she is a horrible mom and a failure. She was taught to believe that having a baby is a fairy-tale where she would experience nothing but feelings of euphoria and love when she met her baby. With postpartum depression, she instead feels trapped in a horror story with no bond or attachment to her baby, unbearable sadness and anxiety, and might even think that she made a mistake becoming a mother and her baby is better off without her. It doesn’t matter that her baby is healthy and she has a loving, hands-on husband. Postpartum depression doesn’t care. She needs to know it’s okay to feel what she feels regardless of how amazing her baby and husband are. She needs compassion and help accepting her illness. She needs to understand that there is nothing wrong with her as a mother, she is not alone, and will get better with proper care.

Do you know a new mom struggling with postpartum depression? Click here to receive your free copy of my WTF are Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: The Friends and Family Guide For How to Help, What to Do and What Not to Say.

Short Answers From Lindsay Gerszt, Postpartum Depression Survivor, and Executive Producer of the Documentary Film, When The Bough Breaks

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Meet Lindsay Gerszt, warrior mom and executive producer of When the Bough Breaks.

After fighting a six-year long battle with postpartum depression, Lindsay Gerszt decided to share her personal journey in the newly released documentary about postpartum depression, When the Bough Breaks. This powerful and necessary film, executive produced and narrated by Brooke Shields, explores postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis through interviews with survivors, family members who have lost loved ones, mothers who have committed infanticide, and medical professionals.

When 1 in 7 women suffer from some form of postpartum depression, we must do more. Lindsay has committed herself to raising awareness about postpartum depression and breaking the stigma surrounding maternal mental health so no mom has to suffer in silence and every woman receives the treatment she needs to get healthy and happy.

As a fellow postpartum depression survivor, it was my honor to connect with Lindsay and learn more about why she chose to share her path to recovery on film and what she hopes to accomplish with the release of this documentary.

 

Deciding to make this documentary  I decided to make this documentary because I suffered from postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD. I lost many friends and felt completely alone. It broke my heart to think about all the women who suffer in silence and don’t have a voice. I wanted to give all of us a voice in this film.

Sharing such a personal journey on film Sharing my personal story in the film was very difficult. I was concerned about the stigma attached to mental illness, which I have suffered from since I was a small child. While we filmed, I decided not to think about the outcome or about people seeing me be so vulnerable. I couldn’t.  The idea of the world seeing me so open and honest was too hard at the time. We show me in some very real and scary situations (especially getting TMS therapy). After the film was completed and I saw the final version I couldn’t have been happier. It was so worth sharing my story and helping fight the stigma.

Life post-filming Depression is a battle that I will always have to fight. I work hard every day to see the light in the darkness. Since we made and completed the film, with all the different treatments I’ve had, I learned what is the right fit for me. I am someone who will always have to take medication to live and I am okay with that. For what I went through and continue to go through, I am doing very well and I’ve learned to change the negative moments into learning experiences.

The most difficult part of the filming process  The postpartum psychosis interviews.  I had not known enough about PPP or had personally known anyone who had been affected by it. Meeting the husbands, the children and the mothers who suffered changed the way I view EVERYTHING. These were people just like the rest of us who suffered such pain and in some cases, such extreme loss because of this unfair illness that they had no control over. I cry to this day thinking about my dear friend Naomi Knoles and will never stop telling her story to help raise awareness for postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.

Being a new mom is overwhelming as it is. There is a lack of sleep, a loss of your old life, a change in your relationship with your partner, a body that has changed and so much more.  If you are having a hard time remember, it will get better and you will be ok. Open up.  Talk to people you trust and if you are having feelings that frighten you or concern you please reach out for help. You are not alone!

The power of the film’s survivors and their families coming together  The scene at the end when many of the survivors and their families came together was an incredible moment. We hadn’t seen some of them in quite a while and to hear everyone open up and talk about what sharing their story was like for them was very powerful. We saw fighters, warriors and heroes. We saw family members showing the support that we all need. It was one of my favorite scenes we filmed in the entire film.

The purpose of When the Bough Breaks I hope that with the release of When The Bough Breaks we keep this important conversation going. When you think about it there is nothing more important than a new mother’s or father’s mental health. We need our moms and dads to be well so they can take care of their babies. With up to 1 in 7 new mothers experiencing some form of a perinatal mood disorder, we need everyone to see this film and educate themselves. Know the signs and what to look for. Most importantly, we hope that the film helps break the stigma! If you suffer from PPD, you are not “crazy.” Don’t be afraid to share your story. If you open up, you will see how many others will too.

Keeping the conversation about maternal mental health going  The conversation about maternal mental health should never stop. Keep opening up and sharing your story. Keep asking how the new mom you know is doing. We need to make sure all doctors, nurses and hospitals learn and understand perinatal mood disorders. We need to make sure that when the baby is seen by his or her pediatrician that the doctor is also looking at the mother to make sure she is doing okay. Keep talking and fighting to create awareness.  And please share When The Bough Breaks so we can further help create awareness, help break the stigma, and give our moms a voice!

When the Bough Breaks is available now to stream on Netflix. Please watch and share this important film about postpartum depression. This documentary isn’t just for new moms. It’s for everyone. These moms are our daughters, granddaughters, sisters, and friends. It’s up to all of us to educate ourselves about postpartum depression, the signs to look for, and the best ways to support the new moms we know and love.

Do you know a new mom struggling with postpartum depression? Click here to receive your free copy of my WTF are Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: The Friends and Family Guide For How to Help, What to Do and What Not to Say. BIO: Lindsay Lipton Gerszt was born and raised in Miami, Florida. In 1997, she graduated with a BA from the University of Miami, where she majored in Communication and Sociology. Because of her love for music and the arts, in 1997, she began her career in Los Angeles at Capitol Records doing A&R. In 1999, she worked at MCA records and in 2003 she worked as a music manager at The Firm. Lindsay had the pleasure of working with, managing and doing PR for some of the biggest artists in the music industry.

In 2007, she stepped back from the music industry to begin her family. It was at this stage in her life that she came face to face with postpartum depression. She has now committed herself to raising awareness for PPD, it's many faces and the path to a healthy life and family. Her commitment to PPD has included working on the important film,When The Bough Breaks-a documentary about postpartum depression. This work has included fundraising, producing and telling her story, along with helping other women tell their story. This work has become her passion.

 

 

A Letter to My Mom for Mother's Day

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Dear Mom, We’ve come a long way.

Do you remember what I was like when you were holding my new baby boy, your first grandson in this photo? You said it was as if a light suddenly went out in my eyes. That I looked like a ghost of my former self.

You also told me you would never let me stay that way. You said that one day my son would be my little buddy. You answered your phone every morning when I called you as I was walking circles around the neighborhood ugly crying to you that I would never get better. You promised me I would.

For Mother’s Day, I want to say, “Thank You.”

Thank you for holding my hand when I had postpartum depression.

Thank you for staying with me when you could.

Thank you for being my rock.

Thank you for always answering the phone.

Thank you for helping me find the right therapist and get on the right medication.

Thank you for reassuring me that I didn’t have to feel any guilt over quitting breastfeeding and choosing formula.

Thank you for coming with me to the lactation consultant to ask how to stop.

Thank you for being my voice when mine went quiet.

For Mother’s Day, I want to tell you what all moms long to hear. “You were right.”

You didn’t let me stay that way.

I did get better.

My now four-year old son is my little buddy.

Today, on Mother’s Day, I want to let you know, “I think you’re pretty amazing.”

Not only did you help me, but you went on to help other moms also suffering from postpartum depression.

After I got sick, you got trained with and got certified by Karen Kleinman, “postpartum depression guru” and went on to see many patients struggling like I did. You helped these new moms find themselves and their voices again, just like you did for me.

Thank you for taking this gut-wrenching experience we shared as a mother and daughter and use it to help others know they are normal, not alone, can get better, and have nothing to be ashamed of.

I’m proud that we can both do this, you with your counseling, and me with my writing.

For Mother’s Day, I want to tell you, “I love you.”

Love,

Jen (Your Medicated Daughter)

This post originally appeared on Suburban Misfit Mom.

Stigma Sucks!

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Stigma sucks. Stigma is the reason so many moms don’t talk about postpartum depression. The reason they struggle in silence. The reason they don’t ask for help and get the treatment they need to get better. The reason they would rather pretend life is perfect. The reason they take their own lives. Did you know that of the hundreds of thousands of women who suffer from a postpartum mood disorder, only 15 percent of them get treated? How heartbreaking and outrageous is that? 1 in 7 women who give birth each year experience symptoms resulting from a postpartum mood disorder. That’s close to 1 million women annually having some form of mental illness after the birth of their babies and close to 850,000 women not receiving the help they need to get better. That’s way TOO MANY women. Postpartum Progresss, Inc. reports that more women will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses in a year than the combined number of new cases for men and women of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimers disease, lupus, and epilepsy. I bet people with these illnesses usually admit they are sick and seek professional care.

Yet, women with postpartum depression, a real and treatable illness, deny themselves the support they need. Whether or not they realize their illness is temporary and gets better with treatment, they don’t want anyone to know how they are feeling. Why does this happen? The answer is: stigma. Why don’t all moms understand they have a common illness that so many other moms get too? Stigma. Why don’t they talk about their experiences after they do get better? Stigma. Why aren’t women educated about postpartum depression and its risk factors during pregnancy? Stigma.

When I got pregnant, I knew exactly the type of mother I would be. Unfortunately my vision of motherhood was based on the “Pinterest Mom.” Facebook and Instagram pictures of moms always smiling with and gushing over their children made me think that every mom experienced feelings of euphoria and an intense, all-consuming love when their babies were born. Even moms I knew would talk about the arrival of their baby and becoming a mother as the most amazing, magical moment of their lives.

I had no clue I might feel overwhelmed, exhausted, sad, anxious, and indifferent to my newborn because no one told me those feelings often come with new motherhood too. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel the magic when my son was born. Or why I thought I had made a terrible mistake becoming a mom. Or why I wanted to stay in bed for the rest of my life and had no interest in bonding with that adorable little boy in the next room. Why was everybody winning at motherhood while I miserably failed? What was wrong with me? And what would everyone else think about me when they learned about my feelings?

These negative beliefs are why so many women with postpartum depression keep it to themselves. Because of these fairy tale stories of motherhood they assume to be true, they think there is something wrong with them when their version doesn’t fit. They don’t want anyone to know they don’t feel flooded with joy about the arrival of their babies. They don’t want to admit they don’t immediately feel connected to their babies. They feel ashamed and don’t want to be judged, so they choose to suffer in silence and fake a smile instead.

What if we could change this? What if we started talking about postpartum depression more? What if we actively spread awareness about just how common maternal mental illness is and the treatment options that are available? What if we stopped pretending? What if we shared with each other the difficult, messy parts of motherhood and honestly acknowledged our struggles? What if we stopped believing moms are supposed to be perfect and capable of doing everything by themselves? What if we started promoting the idea that it’s okay to ask for help because raising a child actually does take a village and we all need to find ours?

We could bring awareness to the experience of having postpartum depression. We could lessen the stigma and eventually cause it to disappear. Moms wouldn’t have to be afraid of being judged for having a postpartum mood disorder. They wouldn’t feel ashamed. They wouldn’t feel alone. They would feel comfortable asking for help and accepting treatment. They would recognize their symptoms, understand the cause of their feelings, and know what to do about them. They would get better and want to share their experiences to help and educate others. Lives would be saved.

Various dictionaries define stigma as “a mark” of some sort. A mark of shame. A mark of discredit. A mark of disgrace. Let’s change the definition. Let’s be the definers because why should anyone else standing on the outside of our story—our struggle—our pain get even the slightest say in the meaning of what we are going through.

When almost one million moms experience some form of postpartum depression each year, it shows we are not alone. We are in amazing company. We are in it together. We can be brave together and strong for each other. We can swap out the mark of shame for the mark of a warrior mom. The mark of a woman who asks for help when she needs it, fights to get better, and courageously tells her story to normalize the struggle for those that come after her.

The Five Stages of Postpartum Depression Grief

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Getting postpartum depression was sort of like a death for me. It was the death of the perfect and perfectly happy mother I thought I would be when my baby arrived. You’ve seen her countless times on Pinterest boards and in Instagram photos. You’ve heard about her from friends, strangers, and celebrities who make motherhood look so easy and tell you it’s the most magical experience where you feel nothing but overwhelming love, joy, and the constant desire to spend every waking minute with your new baby.

You see her posting Facebook videos of herself, hair blown out, face fully made up, carrying her baby in that soft cotton sling every mom seems to own while she simultaneously purees her own baby food, designs the stickers she will use for those adorable monthly picture updates of her baby, and preps an organic meal filled with protein and vegetables for her and her husband to eat once she’s had her fill of breastfeeding, bonding, and reading time with her little one.

I thought I would be her. I had planned to be her during my whole pregnancy. I thought every mom I knew and followed was like her. Then I became a mom and learned I was nothing like her (it took me a bit longer to realize no mom is like her because she doesn’t exist) and that fairy-tale version of motherhood I sold myself died with her.

Here are the five stages of grief I experienced as I slowly learned to accept my postpartum depression and let go of that perfect and perfectly happy mother I thought I would become.

1. Denial

There is nothing wrong with me. How could something be wrong with me? I have a healthy baby boy. I am healthy. My husband is wonderful and so hands-on. My family takes turns coming to visit and help. We have a baby nurse. My baby is so freaking cute. He is so loved. What could I possible feel sad about? I’m sure it’s just hormones. Everyone says childbirth throws your hormones out of whack. There is nothing wrong with me. I’m just exhausted. I did just labor for 24 hours, push for two of them, and have a C-section. There is definitely nothing wrong with me. I’m just recovering from major surgery and the sleepless nights. All new moms feel this tired. I’m just overwhelmed because I’m now responsible for the life of another human. I never want to leave the house because it’s nerve wracking. I don’t want to talk to my friends and meet other moms because I’m too tired. I just have to get used to my new normal. Yes, that’s it. There is definitely nothing wrong. I just need some more sleep and I will feel like myself again.

2. Anger

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME. WHY DON’T I HAVE ANY INTEREST IN THAT ADORABLE BABY IN THE NEXT ROOM? WHY DO I SUCK AT BREASTFEEDING? WHY IS THIS SO EASY FOR EVERY OTHER MOM I KNOW? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? WHY IS EVERYONE ELSE SO GOOD AT MOTHERHOOD? WHY DOES EVERYONE ELSE LOVE BEING A MOM? WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME I COULD FEEL LIKE THIS? WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT HOW HARD THIS WOULD BE? ALL THOSE MOMS ARE LIARS ON INSTAGRAM AND FACEBOOK ARE LIARS. I HATE YOU PINTEREST FOR MAKING ME FEEL LIKE AN INCOMPETENT FAILURE. WHY DO I WANT TO PUNCH ANYONE WHO TELLS ME TO GO GET MY NAILS DONE AND SIGN UP FOR SOME MOMMY AND ME CLASSES?

3. Bargaining

Please make this anxiety go away. Please let me sleep past 3 a.m. and not have paralyzing anxiety when I wake up. Please give me the courage to leave the house with my new baby. Please stop making me feel like I made a terrible mistake becoming a mom. Please don’t let my husband hate me for putting him through this. Please don’t let my baby know his mother can’t take care of him and doesn’t want to. I will do anything if you make this anxiety stop. I just want to feel normal. I want to be good at motherhood. I want to love being a mom. Just make the anxiety and crying stop. I’ll go through the motions. I’ll put on a happy face. I’ll walk my baby to the park. I’ll sign up for those mommy and me classes. I’ll take medicine. Just make the anxiety and sadness stop. Let me sleep through the night and fall in love with my son. Please…

4. Depression

I’m having trouble getting out of bed. All I want to do is sleep. I can’t stop crying. I walk circles around my neighborhood crying on the phone to my mom. The baby nurse is still here caring for my son because I can’t. I lie in bed binge-watching The Good Wife when I should be bonding with my son. The guilt is overwhelming. It makes me even more sad. Does it even matter? I obviously suck at this whole mom thing anyway. When I’m not sad or crying, I feel indifferent. I don’t want to see or talk to anyone. I still haven’t answered my friends’ texts and emails. I don’t have the energy. I don’t want to talk about my new baby. My OB and mom have mentioned postpartum depression. Is that why I feel like this? I don’t really understand what that is. I was so happy and excited to be a mom during my pregnancy. Now I want to go back to the hospital and be taken care of and not have to take care of a baby. Maybe I’ll get sick or hurt so I can just stay in a hospital bed and sleep.

5. Acceptance

A therapist just diagnosed me with postpartum depression. She explained what that means and pointed out all the risk factors I had before I gave birth. She’s not surprised this is happening to me. She took the blame off me and told me I’m not a failure or a terrible mother. She told me she sees moms like me all the time. That I’m not alone in how I feel. She said words like psychiatrist and antidepressants and that I will get better with the right treatment. I want to know when I will get better. I want to know exactly what to do so I can feel better. She said it doesn’t work like that but I will get better. I don’t really believe her but I feel a bit lighter and I breathe. I made an appointment for the same time next week. And the week after that…

This post originally appeared on Thrive Global.

Written For Motherlucker: Let Me Be Your Trench Buddy For Postpartum Depression

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At Campowerment, a weekend sleepaway camp retreat for women and my happy place, I was lucky enough to meet the fabulous Melissa D’Arabian. You may know her as the winner of the fifth season of The Next Food Network Star, but what you might not know about her is that in addition to being a TV host, author, speaker, wife, and mom to four girls (I love this badass woman!), she considers herself to be in the trench buddy business. You’re probably asking yourself, what the eff is a trench buddy? I asked myself the same question when she mentioned the term during her workshop at camp. It turns out the term trench buddy articulates the very reason I do what I do—write so openly and honestly about my experience battling and overcoming postpartum depression. A trench buddy is someone who can look you in the eye and say, “I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there too. You’re not alone.” How powerful is that—to build such a meaningful connection with another human being. In my case, with other moms struggling with postpartum depression.

To the moms with postpartum depression: I want you to know that everyday I am in the trenches with you, fighting next to you, fighting for you, looking you in the eye, holding your hand, embracing you, and telling you, “I know what you’re going through. I know it’s dark down and lonely down there. I’ve been there. You will get through it. I got through it. We will get through this together. We are deeply connected through our shared experience and I want you to know you are not alone and it will be okay. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But eventually, it will get better. I know it will get better because I got better. I support you down there in the trenches. I fight next to you, with you, and for you down there in the trenches."

I’m here to let you know there is nothing wrong with you. Your feelings are your feelings and they are real and valid. There are so many of us who felt and feel like you do after having a child, whether it’s your first, second, third, or fourth child. It doesn’t matter that you have a new baby and others say it should be the happiest time in your life. It doesn’t matter that others believe you should get it together because you have so much to be grateful for—a wonderful husband, a supportive family, and healthy children. No one chooses to get sick. You didn’t choose to get sick. You did nothing wrong. For whatever reason, you have an illness that needs to be treated, just like any other illness. You don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed for what you’re going through, for not immediately bonding with your baby, for not being overcome with a flood of ethereal emotions about becoming a mother.

I’m here to tell you it will get better. You have to do the work, but you will get better. For me the work was weekly therapy sessions, the right combination of medicine under the care of a psychiatrist, and asking for help when I needed it (and by the way, I still see a therapist three years later and I still take an antidepressant every morning when I wake up). I’m here to tell you it’s okay to ask for help. I remember sitting in my therapist’s office for months sobbing that I would stay sick forever. I didn’t. I am better. And now that I am better, I'm here for you.

I’m here to tell you that you are enough. That the most important lesson I learned from fighting and surviving postpartum depression is the importance of being and accepting myself as the mom I am, not the mom I thought I should be or the culture of motherhood tells me I should be.

And I promise to continue to always speak out about this very real illness that affects one in seven women because that’s what a trench buddy does. I too am in the trench buddy business--a trench buddy for moms with postpartum depression—because we are all connected and in this fight together. It's not an easy fight, but the more we educate, the more we speak up, and the more we display our courage to talk about the things that don't get talked about nearly enough, the more we lessen the stigma surrounding postpartum mood disorders and maternal mental health. And when you get better, just like I did, you can pay it forward and be a trench buddy too.

This post originally appeared on Motherlucker.

My Postpartum Depression Journey Told Through Brené Brown Quotes

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People may call what happens at midlife “a crisis” but it’s not. It’s an unraveling—a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live. The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are. Clearly the universe decided motherhood would be the perfect time for my unraveling…  Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are…Caution: If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief. I wish someone showed me that label during pregnancy. It would have said: “Severe postpartum depression and crippling anxiety…”

When we believe “we must be this” we ignore who or what we actually are, our capacity and our limitations. We start from the image of perfection, and of course, from perfection, there is nowhere else to go but down…At some point, most of us begin to believe the expectations about who we’re supposed to be, what we’re supposed to look like, what we’re supposed to do, how much we’re supposed to be and how little we’re supposed to be. We also develop fear of rejecting those expectations. We constantly see evidence that if we do reject these expectations, we will experience very painful disconnections and rejection. So we internalize these expectations and they become an emotional prison. Moms aren’t perfect? I was supposed to be the perfect mom. Thank you, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram. Emotional prison equals one year of postpartum depression… 

Many women struggle to ask for help or support. So often, we are the caregivers and helpers—we convince ourselves that we shouldn’t need help so we don’t ask for it. Getting help saved my life. It taught me how to say “fuck off” to the mom I thought I was supposed to be and accept the mom I was. Now, I always ask for help when I need it. It really does take a village…

When I asked women to share examples of how they recovered from shame, they described situations in which they were able to talk about their shame with someone who expressed empathy. Women talked about the power of hearing someone say:

  • “I understand—I’ve been there.”
  • “That’s happened to me too.”
  • “It’s OK. You’re normal.”
  • “I understand what that’s like.”

Therapy helped me realize all the above. But why didn’t I know that before I got sick? Where were these moms hiding on social media? 

When we zoom out, we start to see a difference picture. We see many people in the same struggle. Rather than thinking, “I’m the only one,” we start thinking, “I can’t believe it! You too? I’m normal? I thought it was just me!” Once we start to see the big picture, we are better able to reality-check our shame triggers and the social community expectations that fuel shame. There are hundreds of thousands of us in the postpartum depression club. I’m not ashamed to be a member anymore. If I don’t hide, maybe others won’t…

When we tell our stories, we change the world. I know that sounds dramatic, but I believe it. We’ll never know how our stories might change someone’s life—our children’s, our friends’, our parents’, our partner’s or maybe that of a stranger who hears the story down the line or reads it in a book. On January 1, 2016, my second baby was born—my blog, The Medicated Mommy, a place to own and share the real, raw details of my postpartum depression journey and my honest thoughts about the rollercoaster of motherhood.

 If we think there’s someone else, a group of women, a city full of women, a country full of women, a world full of women, struggling with the same issue, the concept of shame becomes bankrupt. There is a world full of us. I’m talking and sharing and writing to give others the courage to do the same. If we all tell our stories of postpartum depression, the stigma and shame can’t survive.  

When I see people stand fully in their truth, or when I see someone fall down, get back up and say, “Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again.”—my gut reaction is, “What a badass.” I like to think kicking postpartum depression’s ass, sharing my experience to help others, and owning who I am as a mom makes me a badass!

Once we fall in the service of being brave, we can never go back. We can rise up from our failures, screw-ups, and falls, but we can never go back to where we stood before we were brave or before we fell…Courage is contagious. Rising strong changes not just you, but the people around you.  I can never go back. I don’t want to. Writing my truth is freeing. Staying true to who I am is empowering. Being able to say to others, “Me too. You’re not alone. I feel like that too,” is powerful. In return, I’ve received so many messages from both moms I know and strangers bravely sharing their struggles with me after I first admitted mine. 

 When we combine the courage to make clear what works for us and what doesn’t with the compassion to assume people are doing their best, our lives change. There is no room for shame and judgment in motherhood. If a mother acts like she is perfect and happy all the time, run! We are all just doing the best we can. And we are all in it together.  

My story matters because I matter. A movement where we can take to the streets with our messy, imperfect, wild, stretch-marked, wonderful, heartbreaking, grace-filled, and joyful lives. A movement fueled by the freedom that comes when we stop pretending that everything is okay when it isn’t. I’ve joined the movement. I’m sharing those stories. I want to read and hear about those stories. I’m not interested in the pretend.  

Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends. Amen!

An Updated PSA From A Medicated Mommy

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I AM A MEDICATED MOMMY! Yes, I take antidepressants. No, I am not ashamed. Not even a little bit. And if you do too, you shouldn't be ashamed either. Let's start at the beginning. On day six of being a new mom, I was overcome with crippling anxiety and non-stop tears. I had no desire to ever leave my bed again. All I wanted to do was sleep and go back to the hospital where people would take care of me and I didn't have to be responsible for the well-being of another human. Why did I become a mom? I believed I had made a terrible mistake. Obviously something was very wrong.

After a diagnosis of postpartum depression followed by three rounds of different anti-anxiety medicine and two rounds of antidepressants, my therapist and psychiatrist finally found the right drug cocktail to help me. Yes, I felt frustrated while trying to find the right medication and it took some time, but I also found relief once I did. It was the first step to getting better, something I never believed would be possible while in the dark hole of postpartum depression. It was worth hanging in there for. My baby, husband and I were worth hanging in there for.

My son is now almost four years old and while I have weaned off the anxiety meds I still take the antidepressants every morning. I will most likely take them for the rest of my life and I'm okay with that. And I'm cool with you knowing that about me. I'm proud of my journey--of the year long fight I put up against the postpartum depression--of my transformation into the fierce, courageous, compassionate, honest woman and mom whose words you are reading right now and isn't afraid to show her vulnerability.

I realize that treatment for depression and anxiety are not one size fits all. What worked and continues to work for me might not be right for you. The important thing is to make sure you advocate for yourself. I am not a medical professional. I am a postpartum depression survivor who chose to accept her diagnosis, ask for help, and get the appropriate treatment.

Postpartum depression as well as all postpartum mood disorders are very real, very common, and they go untreated way too often. If you had the flu or another type of illness, you would treat those wouldn't you? You wouldn't deny yourself the proper care. These disorders are illnesses too. And they are always temporary with professional treatment. I realize that medication isn't for everyone, but it's also not the devil either. If medication can help you get better, at least consider it while exploring all the options out there.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety. You didn't do anything wrong. You didn't ask to get sick. You are not a failure or a horrible mother. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Taking medication does not make you weak or any less of a mother. In fact, acknowledging you are struggling and accepting help makes you strong.

So let me shout this again. I AM A MEDICATED MOMMY AND I AM NOT ASHAMED! I do what I need to do to stay healthy and happy for my family and for myself. And that makes me a warrior mom.