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.

Beyond Manicures & Massages: What Self-Care REALLY Means For Moms

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Self-care. It’s a term that’s become part of the mommy zeitgeist to the point where we can’t open our Instagram feeds without being bombarded by memes touting, “Caring for yourself is mandatory” or “Put your oxygen mask on first.” Between us mamas, it’s getting kind of annoying. The first issue is, the current conversation about what self-care means is shallow.

It goes something like this: “Go get a manicure or a quick massage and you’ll come back refreshed and ready to handle motherhood again.” That’s what we’re told. Here’s what we hear: Self-care is as easy as painting my nails and will make me a better mom.

Wait, so, a new coat of nail polish is a mommy miracle that will make us happier about our child having a tantrum in Target? Not buying it.

Issue #2: Making superficial self-care the de-facto norm assumes all moms have access to both the childcare and the cash to spend on it.

They don’t. And now we’ve not only made them feel like they’re bad moms because they don’t do it but we’ve shamed them because they can’t afford it. Not nice.

Third, doing something as superficial as getting her nails done will in no way make a mother suffering from issues like postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression feel better.

It just won’t. Because that kind of self-care doesn’t address or help these moms’ deep emotional needs. In fact, asking some of these mothers to leave their children (or just leave the house in general) in the care of another person, particularly the moms suffering from PPA, can have the opposite effect of self-care; it can actually make their lives worse, not better. No bueno.

Crappy situation all around, right? Pretty much.

Can we make the concept of self-care for moms more personalized and attainable?

We’re not entirely sure but we have some ideas.

For starters, we can stop assuming all moms can use grooming, spa services or gym time as a self-care method. Don’t get us wrong, it’s nice. Doing some cardio or having our feet rubbed feels great and might boost our dopamine levels for a bit. But it isn’t going to solve our bigger issues of maintaining our composure during whining, sibling fighting and making six different meals because none of them are satisfactory to our little food critics. In short, it’s a temporary high.

We need to make self-care more about caring for our souls and less about caring for our appearance.

That means promoting things like venting, empathy and surrounding ourselves with supportive friends, things that will fill up our emotional tanks. We need to position self-care as an internal thing, not just an external thing. And the best news is, we’re primed to do this! Moms were literally MADE for this kind of self-care.

Turns out women are genetically wired to crave community, and we function best when surrounded by those who “get us.” We need a mom tribe to thrive. Encouraging moms to seek other like-minded mamas, either virtually or locally, gives them soul-satisfying, long lasting self-care.

And bonus. It's free!

Lastly, we have to do a better job helping moms identify dangerous mental health issues and provide them with the resources to get better. Self-care for these mamas means getting help, both medically and psychologically, so they can adequately care for their children and not kill themselves. Literally. We know. We’ve actually been there.

Look, we’re not trying to be too critical of today’s self-care narrative. We’re just saying it could use some tweaking.

At its core, self-care is a mommy time out for our insides as much as for our outsides.

We happen to think the former is more effective than the latter. The bottom line is moms today have it rough. And sometimes sloughing off our callouses during a pedicure helps. But for most of us, it’s not really enough.

You feel us? Good. Because we gotta go FaceTime our BFF about our kid smearing poop on his wall. She’ll totally get it.

Written by Brooke Christian and Jen Schwartz for Today's Parenting Team.

#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.

You Heard Me: I Said I Was One and Done...

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I was once getting a manicure next to a woman who asked if I had children. At the time, I told her I had a one-year old boy. She then asked my favorite question most people follow that up with. “When are you having your next one?” I told her I wasn’t–that my husband and I decided one was enough and the right decision for our family–we were one and done. I don't even know why I felt like I had to justify my decision to a complete stranger. I guess I didn't want my response to be met with the usual, "You will change your mind." Or "What do your parents think? Don't they want lots of grandchildren?" "It's so much nicer for kids to have a sibling to play with." But she surprised me. She informed me she only had one son and that sometimes when you create a masterpiece, it doesn’t make any sense to paint over it. Thank you manicure lady for immediately accepting my choice and making me feel good about it! It doesn’t always happen like that.

In fact, most people respond with confusion, sometimes horror when they find out you are “one and done.” I love that phrase. It’s short and sweet and very blunt. It leaves no room for interpretation. Those people do not. Sometimes those people are strangers. Other times they are acquaintances and family members. All I can say, is that at the end of the day, you don’t know what it’s like to walk in my shoes–to live my life–to know what I need and what’s best for me. Only I know that, especially when it comes to motherhood. I also want to say that I am in no way promoting ”one and done” as the best or easiest parenthood choice. If you don’t want any kids or want to have two, three, even five kids, I think that’s incredible. Do it! It’s just not the right choice for me. And I have yet to come across any parenthood choice that is easy.

My closest friends know all the reasons why I’m not having any more children. It comes up in our conversations all the time. They never make me feel guilty. They never judge. They never try to convince me to change my mind. Sometimes, the remind me that one child suits me. Thank you all for that.

So now, three years after meeting the manicure lady,  I’m just going to put it all out there–because I think it’s so important for moms to feel empowered and confident in making the choices that are best for them–regardless of what others think and say–regardless of who the people are that are doing the thinking and saying.

I need more. This might be a controversial statement, but being a mom and a wife aren’t enough for me. I need more–something that is just mine, which I have found through writing and speaking about my experiences. My writing is my currency. It’s part of my identity outside of being a mom and wife. It has transformed me–makes me feel happier–connects me with amazing women and feeds my mind and spirit. Writing has become my second baby. I want to nurture that and give it the time it requires while enjoying, raising and being present for my first baby too.

Happy mom, happy baby. If mommy isn’t happy, there is no way baby is going to be happy. This is the reason I stopped breastfeeding on day 5. It’s the reason I went on and continue to take antidepressants. It’s why I have a part-time nanny, hire babysitters for date nights and girls’ nights and take solo trips occasionally. And it’s most definitely the biggest reason why I’m not having another child. I want to be the best mommy I can be to my son and part of that means taking care of my well-being. Therefore, I choose to give him a happy, healthy mommy rather than a sibling.

I want my marriage to last. I love my son to the moon and back, but he is not the sun in our marriage. My relationship with my husband comes first. We made a pact to live this way before we had Mason. Marriage is hard work and the work grows exponentially when you add kids to the mix. We have weekly date nights and take child-free vacations. I’m not going lie, child care is easier when there is only one tiny human to chase after. For us, we balance parenting and marriage by deciding to be a team of three. It’s just the dynamic that works for us.

I need consistent me time. I take mom breaks and I do so without guilt. I need to for my own sanity and survival. Every now and then I go away. Sometimes it’s for the night, other times for a long weekend. I usually go to New York City where I get to see my best friends, sisters, shop at my favorite stores, eat at my favorite restaurants, and take too many Soul Cycle classes. When I leave, my husband spends quality time with our son, is able to balance work and dad life, and I come back feeling renewed, recharged, and ready to be mommy again.

Airplanes fit us perfectly. Superficial I know, but an airplane row fits three people. In my world, that is mommy, daddy, and son. Mason goes in the middle with mommy and daddy on either side of him. iPads out, headphones on, and we are good to go.

I can’t start over again. When Mason turned one and I finally felt confident and happy as his mommy, I felt like I had come so far. I went through so much in that first year and I just knew I couldn’t go backwards. For me that meant no more pregnancies, no more infant stage, no more sleep training or bottles of formula. I just wanted to keep going forward, growing as Mason’s mommy as he continues to grow into a little person. I love to see and love on my mom friends’ new babies, but after about 30 minutes I’m over it and handing them back. I don’t have that feeling of “my uterus hurts” for more babies. My family feels complete.I still get anxiety when I find myself back at the maternity floor of the hospital visiting a friend who just gave birth. If that’s not a telling sign, I don’t know what is!

I battled postpartum depression. I’m putting this reason last on purpose. Many people assume this to be the number one reason why I choose not to have more children. While yes, I’m at a higher risk for having it again in future pregnancies, it’s a very small part of my decision. I am grateful for my PPD journey and who I am today because of it, but it is not something I want to experience again. It is not something I want to put my husband through again or my son especially now that he would be old enough to understand it more. I already missed so much of the first year of his life. I refuse to miss any more.

I’m sorry to everyone who might disagree with me here, doesn’t approve of my choices, or thinks I’m saying too much on the subject. Actually, thats a lie. It’s more like sorry, I’m not sorry. I can’t please everyone, just the most important one. Me! I’m just being real…and honest…and hoping it gives other moms the courage to do the same…no matter what choices they are making or struggling with.  And my baby who isn’t such a baby anymore isn’t going to just be fine. He’s developed into and independent, brave, strong, compassionate, opinionated, brilliant, and amazing little four-year old. Well duh! Of course he is–because I made him–and he is a masterpiece–and I’m his mommy!

My Second Favorite F-Word

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I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of the F-word. It’s extremely versatile and can be used in so many different situations. As a writer, I love that it can be a noun, verb, adjective, and more. As a mom, it comes in very handy when I’m frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed or I feel the need to be dramatic about all the above. You step on a Lego and scream, “FUCK!” Your kid wakes up four times in the middle of the night and you quietly pray each time, “Stay the fuck asleep.” You get projectile vomited on and blurt out, “Fuck me!” And when you can’t take it anymore you dramatically declare that if anyone needs you, you can be found hiding in your closet with that pint of Haagen Dazs chocolate-chocolate-chip ice cream because you are frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed “As Fuck” (AF). I’ve even recently heard it used to describe the phase my son just entered: “The Fucking Fours.”

When I gave birth to my son almost four years ago (before I made regular use of the F-word in everyday motherhood), I discovered my second favorite F word. Formula. Yes, you heard me correctly. Formula. Let me say now that this is not an anti-breastfeeding, pro-formula-feeding post, nor am I exclusively in support of one food source over the other. I am exclusively for feeding your baby, however that works best for you. Now back to our regularly scheduled program…

During my pregnancy, I had always believed I would breastfeed my son and supplement with formula if necessary. But really, I would just breastfeed him and be a breastfeeding superstar— because breastfeeding would simply be that easy for me… like it was for all the moms I knew (they must have forgot to mention the struggles they experienced while going on about how much they loved it). And it was easy that first time my son latched right after being evicted from my stomach. Then it wasn’t.

After that first feeding, he repeatedly struggled to latch and would cry out in frustration. I just wanted to give him a bottle because I was exhausted. My mind and body shattered from 24 hours of labor, pushing for two of them, and having a C-section after all that. I wanted him to be fed and I wanted to be sleeping. Also at that time, the beginnings of postpartum depression were beginning to slowly creep into my brain. I just didn’t know it yet.

I refused to admit defeat. I did everything you are supposed to do. I saw lactation consultants in the hospital. They tried to fix our latching issues and helped me pump. I made an appointment to see the one at his pediatrician the week after we got home from the hospital. My son continued to struggle with latching so I continued pumping. I started to hate pumping because it took too much effort and I just wanted to go to sleep and never get out of bed. That was the postpartum depression making its entrance.

Even as the postpartum depression symptoms made themselves more visible in those first few days home from the hospital, I still thought I had to breastfeed. Even when I didn’t want to. I remained determined to be that breastfeeding superstar. Yes, I had been supplementing with formula, but what would it say about me as a mother if I couldn’t make breastfeeding in any capacity work? I was already failing at wanting to be a mom and feeling close to my son. At least I could succeed at feeding him the way I believed he needed to be fed.

A few days later at my son’s bris, a group of New York Jewish Grandmothers (mostly friends of my mother-in-law) saw the despair in my eyes when I asked them how their kids chose to feed their babies. And just like Jewish Grandmothers do, they told ordered me to “F**k breastfeeding!” Their kids were formula-fed, and now, most of their grandchildren were too. I needed to do what was best for me and that would be the best way to take care of my new baby. It was then I discovered my second favorite F-word, which also sounded pretty awesome used in conjunction with my other favorite F-word.

The next morning at my appointment with the lactation consultant, I immediately informed her, “I’m not doing this anymore. Tell me how to make the milk go away.” And so, after a week of being a mom, I quit breastfeeding and began exclusively formula feeding my son. My son and I were not destined to share the experience of breastfeeding together and I came to accept that. Today if you ask me if I breastfed my son when he was a baby, I would tell you without any guilt, “I sucked at breastfeeding. I quit after a week.” The reality is I had to take care of my health so I could get to a place where I could love and take care of my baby. My second favorite F-word, formula, allowed me to do that.

Would I have stuck with breastfeeding if I hadn’t been hit with severe postpartum depression one week into motherhood? I don’t know. What I do know is that choosing formula was the best decision for me and allowed me to hold on to some peace of mind while the rest of it surrendered to what would be a year-long battle with postpartum depression.

My new favorite F-word provided me with a way to feed my son so I could take care of myself. Formula also allowed others to feed my son while I focused on my health and fought my illness until I won. Some might call that selfish, but I would argue that a happy, healthy mommy is the best gift we can give to our babies. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the F-club like me or you rock the breastfeeding thing like I could never do. Some moms don’t ever get the luxury of choosing.

Whatever the reason is behind a mom’s decision for how she feeds her baby, we need to remember, fed is fed and we are all on this rollercoaster ride together. And if someone ever tries to shame you for choosing formula, I give you permission to use my other favorite F-word for some extra emphasis when you tell them you don’t remember asking for- nor do you give a f**k about- their opinion.

This post originally appeared at Motherlucker.

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!

The Medicated Mommy Mondays Part 4: What Gets Me Fired Up?

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Today will be the last of The Medicated Mommy Mondays series. On this last Monday of July, I want to tell you about what fires me up.

  • 1 in 7 moms will have a postpartum mood disorder, but most of us don't know that.
  • Only 15% of these moms receive treatment.
  • Many moms still feel as if they have to pretend motherhood is easy and amazing all the time. 
  • The lack of education about postpartum depression and its risk factors.
  • Moms feeling isolated and alone.
  • Moms feeling guilty for taking care of themselves.
  • Moms feeling like they have to be anyone but their authentic selves.
  • Anything other than acceptance of a mom's choice for how she feeds her baby.
  • Moms making other moms feel bad or judged.
  • Any form of mom-shaming.

Everything above constantly motivates me to continue doing what I do. I'm not stopping until no mom ever feels as if she needs to struggle or suffer in silence.

What fires you up?

If you missed any of The Medicated Mommy Mondays Series:

Part 1: Why I Do What I Do...

Part 2: Who Am I Here For?

Part 3: What Are My Values?

The Medicated Mommy Mondays Part 3: What Are My Values?

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Happy Monday! Last week I shared all about who I am here for. Spoiler alert: I'm here for you moms! Today I want to talk about my values. Here is what you can expect when you read or hear anything from me, you're favorite Medicated Mommy. The Medicated Mommy promises to always be:

AUTHENTIC The Medicated Mommy doesn’t pretend to be anything other than who she is: imperfect, exhausted, deeply flawed, and a mom who kicked postpartum depression’s ass, pops an antidepressant every morning, sucks at Pinterest, and feels like she is “killing it” on some days while on others hides in her closet crying, binging on cookies, and asking herself, “WTF?“ She’s here to give you the real dirt on everything motherhood, including postpartum depression.

UNFILTERED The Medicated Mommy is the best mom friend everyone wishes they had, always saying out loud what other moms are thinking but might be too afraid to admit. She always tells it like it is, no sugar-coating, no pretending, and maybe with some f-bombs thrown in.

UNAPOLOGETIC The Medicated Mommy boldly owns her story, who she is as a mom, and talks honestly about her struggles, postpartum depression, and other taboo subjects of motherhood without worrying what others think, without fear, and without apology.

FUNNY The Medicated Mommy injects some much-needed humor, wit, and sometimes snark into her writing about the serious topic of postpartum depression and has no issues laughing at herself and the missteps she often takes on the road of motherhood.

SUPPORTIVE The Medicated Mommy is always here for you every step of the way. She’s here to remind you, you’re not alone and help you feel understood as you navigate the ups and downs of motherhood and the confusing, overwhelming, heart-wrenching experience of postpartum depression.

RELATABLE The Medicated Mommy is trying to survive motherhood one day at a time while keeping her sense of humor and sanity intact. She has awesome days and awful days. The Medicated Mommy is all of us. She gets it and she gets you.

The Medicated Mommy believes: 

YOU’RE NOT ALONE 1 in 7 women experience some form of a postpartum mood disorder. If you have postpartum depression, you are in good company, the company of hundreds of thousands of new moms each year. You need to know there is nothing wrong with you, you are not a horrible mother, and you will get better with the proper treatment. The Medicated Mommy wants all women to feel comfortable speaking up and asking for help so they can receive the treatment they need. No one should ever have to suffer in silence.

NO MORE PRETENDING The Medicated Mommy doesn’t believe in pretending motherhood is easy or that she is the perfect mother who never struggles. She’s here to tell you the moms who do are lying. She would rather spend her valuable time being herself and not worrying or caring about what others think.

GUILT HAS NO PLACE WHEN IT COMES TO MOM’S SELF-CARE AND HAPPINESS You can’t give your children what you don’t have. Just like on an airplane when they instruct you to put your oxygen mask on first before you help secure your child’s, The Medicated Mommy believes you must make time to take care of yourself, find what brings you joy, and nurture it. A happy, healthy mommy is the best gift you can give to your little ones and there is never any reason to feel guilty about that.

IT’S TIME TO END THE STIGMA It’s 2017, but many moms still feel the stigma from having a postpartum mood disorder following the birth of their babies. The Medicated Mommy believes it’s time to dial down the shame by openly sharing our stories, reassuring moms that there is nothing wrong with them, being real about the messy parts of motherhood, and treating postpartum depression as a common illness just like any other that requires treatment to get better.

EVERYONE CAN HELP Many moms experience postpartum depression and other struggles in isolation, without the positive, ongoing support of people around them. Everyone can help during this traumatic time: from family and friends to medical professionals, businesses and services. The Medicated Mommy is committed to offering advice and content for how family and friends can support mom while also advocating for professionals to educate women about postpartum depression and its risk factors and create a safe, judgement-free environment for moms to seek the help they need to get better and ease the path forward for all.

Next week will be the final Medicated Mommy Monday so come back to learn all about what fires me up!

The Medicated Mommy Mondays Part 2: Who Am I Here For?

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I'm back! Today I'm sharing all about who I'm here for. I'm here for any mom or mom-to-be who wants a real, honest, refreshing, relatable, laugh out loud perspective on the rollercoaster of motherhood. I want to be your best mom friend, the one who tells you the truth. The one who makes you feel like you can share your truth. The one who holds your hand while you struggle. The one who helps you find the path to happy and healthy if you get sick.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of new moms suffer from postpartum depression and feel as if they are crazy and the only ones. Even if you’re not one of these moms, you will still often feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and extremely unqualified for this job. You will sometimes find yourself wishing for your old life back and searching for your lost sense of humor. The secret is, so does every other mom, but most of them never admit it. Many of them fill your social media feeds with picture perfect images that make motherhood look easy and fun all day long. Motherhood is hard for everyone and anyone who says otherwise is full of shit. I'm here for all of these moms. For every mom.

And if you’re not a mom or never had postpartum depression, I'm here for you too. We all need useful advice and tips for how to help and support the moms in our lives who are struggling.

Check back next week to learn more about The Medicated Mommy's values!

 

 

The Medicated Mommy Mondays Part 1: Why I Do What I Do...

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I know it's summer. If you're kids are home with you, you're verging on braindead. You probably don't want to read anything that makes you have to think to much. There's a reason they call those books we've been downloading "beach reads." If you're like me, it's hard to motivate for much of anything besides sitting on the couch, sitting at the pool, sitting in the playroom watching my son play airport. Lots of sitting. I thought I would take this opportunity to share more about your favorite Medicated Mommy!

For the next four Mondays, I'm going to be sharing more about who I am and why I write this blog and talk so openly and honestly about motherhood and postpartum depression. I promise to keep it really short. You don't feel like reading too much. I don't feel like writing too much. Because...summer...and I have a four-year old to keep busy...

Here's why I do what I do. Why I write and speak to candidly about the struggles of motherhood and my postpartum depression journey. 

I'm on a mission is to normalize the struggles of motherhood and the experience of postpartum depression so no mom feels alone or as if she ever needs to pretend of suffer in silence. I'm here to reassure all moms they are not alone and give them permission to accept themselves as the amazing moms they already are, not the ones society says they should be. I want to help all moms suffering from postpartum depression and any mom who is struggling know they are normal, not alone, and will get better with treatment because I did. I want to be someone who says to other moms suffering, “I know it’s dark down there. I know how you feel. I’ve been there too. You’re not alone.” I want to share the lessons I’ve learned from fighting and surviving postpartum depression – the importance of self-care, the importance of accepting the mom I am, not the one I thought I would be (based on social media and the current culture of motherhood that says you must do it all, be everything, and strive for perfection), and the importance of surrounding myself with authentic people who accept me for me. I want to continue to share my story and speak out about postpartum depression with the goal of helping to eliminating the stigma surrounding maternal mental health. I believe honesty and courage are contagious and when I share, you feel like you can share too, without the fear of being judged or shamed. 

Next Monday I will be sharing all about who I'm here for!

My First Video Interview: Does Balance Really Exist?

Hey mommas! I'm so honored to share my first video interview with you. Please ignore the messy hair and lack of makeup, but I didn't have much time to get ready. Four-year olds don't give a shit about their mom's appointments and mine decided to move at a sloth-like pace that morning before school. At least I was able to shower so that was a win! I think the lesson the here is that it's better to show up as you are and accept yourself as you are. Plus, pretending to always be so put together is just way too much effort. And I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted enough as it is. I just don't have the energy for that. Anyway, on to the interview. I had the honor of talking to mompreneur Bree Whitlock, founder of The Easy Breezy Way, about achieving balance as a mom and entrepreneur.

I'm not sure balance even exists. Are you? How do you achieve balance as a mom? Let me know in the comments!

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