Maternal Mental Health Day is a day that holds a special place in my heart. It’s a day dedicated to something I have decided to give my life to help others overcome. Perinatal mood disorders are soooo much more common than most realize.
There is so much more than just postpartum depression and I wish I was made aware of that before and after Declan was born. I wish more new moms were made aware of the perinatal mood disorders that are out there and given those signs too. I struggled for months because even medical providers weren't really sure what was going on with me. I scored high on the postpartum depression scale but not high enough to meet the postpartum depression diagnosis. I knew, Andy knew, Declans pediatrician knew something was just not right with me. What I was dealing with was far past the normal baby blues. It wasn't until my midwife started digging into more of what I was feeling postpartum, that she was able to help get me to the right resources and get the help I needed. People ask me why I started FitFam and it's because of this. I want mothers to be prepared before and after they give birth. Exercise and being around someone was the one thing that helped take the constant edge off. I want to provide that resource to someone else like my midwife was able to do for me. Here's some examples of how postpartum anxiety & OCD manifested in me.
I didn't lose a child but I felt the fear constantly. Not many people know but I was told I was going to miscarry Declan a few weeks after I found out I was pregnant. I was told by the doctors don't be surprised if the next appointment there is no baby and if I started bleeding heavily I should come in right away. For the next month my anxiety went into hyper mode. I would be happy because I was pregnant then I would just cry because I couldn't fathom the thought of losing something I wanted more than anything else in this world. Looking back now I can see all the little signs that I should have gotten help sooner. The fact that as soon I would go in for an ultrasound and hear the heartbeat, I would feel about 20lbs lighter for just the day. Then the next day I would go back to worrying if the baby is ok. I don't know how many times I tried to convince Andy I needed one of those expensive at home heart rate monitors so I could hear his heartbeat. Every time he would ask why I wanted it. My answer was I feel like it would just help me breathe easier if I can just make sure the baby is doing ok.
Fast forward to after Declan. It.was.rough. But very few people knew it. I tried to keep a smile on my face and act like motherhood was the best thing that ever happened to me. But underneath that smile I was having mini panic attacks. I hope so-so doesn't drop him. They need to hold his head better so he can breathe better. If they have him over there I can't see when something goes wrong. Not if, when. I checked Declan about every 5 minutes to make sure he was breathing. At one point Andy asked why do you do that so often. I didn't fully realize I was doing it as much as I was but admitted I was just making sure he was breathing and nothing was wrong with him and it would make me feel just a little bit better. I remember mine and Andy's breaking point of me needing help was when I cried for over two hours cause I would freak out thinking about putting Declan in his car seat to go. I had visions of him suffocating. If he didn't suffocate then we would get in a really bad car accident. If we were in an accident and I didn't lose Declan then I would lose Andy and I can't do this by myself. Just about every bad scenario was in my head and I could see either a lifeless Declan or Andy as if I was dreaming. I hated every minute of it. I wanted to go see our friends but I felt paralyzed.
It is so much fun when a baby is born but let us not forget to see how the mother is doing. We ask so much about the baby but rarely does anyone ask how the mother is feeling. I know when I was usually asked how are you doing and I would say fine or anxious. I would just get that's good or the anxious feeling will go away. If someone tells you they are fine or they feel worried and anxious, please take a little bit of time and talk to them about what they are feeling. Don't just go back to the baby.
I hope to bring awareness that Maternal Mental Health is not just postpartum depression. It is more than just crying and being sad all the time. You can be happy but have symptoms of perinatal mood disorders. I encourage every mom and soon to be mom to look into each of the postpartum mood disorders so after the baby comes you know what is past the norm of baby blues and basic parent worry. I can tell you from personal experience that trying to figure out my symptoms after my son was born was so hard to concentrate and fight for the help I needed. I wish I had known those who suffer with anxiety and depression before having children are more likely to suffer from a mental health disorder postpartum. I would have prepared myself better.
If I can help just one person then all the time, money spent, and exhausted nights are worth it.