What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
In 2019, my husband Tyler and I were expecting our first baby, due in March 2020. A baby boy. We were over the moon scared, nervous, and everything in between to become parents but excited, nonetheless. Then the pandemic restrictions happened the week I gave birth, so Tyler was the only one allowed in the room for our son’s birth. All of my feelings of excitement and happiness were quickly replaced with uncertainty and sadness. The months that followed our son’s birth were the darkest months of my life. I was a new mom who wasn’t able to have the help of family or friends because we just didn’t know what was going to happen next. Is this new virus going to kill my baby? Is my husband, who has a pre-existing condition, going to die if he gets it? We had so much worry and fear during that time that we never truly got to enjoy being first-time parents and all the joys that come with it.
I lost myself in postpartum anxiety and cried every single day for months. Phone calls, FaceTiming, and texting just weren’t enough. I was happiest when I was asleep because I didn’t have to feel all of the worry and fear. I constantly looked on social media and compared myself to other mothers. I felt “less than” because I was struggling, forgotten because no one could come to see us, and cheated because of the pandemic. Fortunately, I have a great husband who was patient with me and understood that I was hurting and struggling. He took care of me and allowed me to feel things without question. During that time, I found a new purpose of being a mother and I wanted to be better for my son. Eventually, I was able to get past the worry and fear, and as we started to learn more about COVID, I could enjoy being just a mama finally. We won’t remember 2020 as the year of COVID-19 but as the year of our son, Emmett. And although it took a while, I was able to feel like myself again, and a year and a half later, our second son was born. He gave me the experience I was supposed to have but both experiences shaped me into the mother I am today and I’m forever grateful for my two boys and my supportive husband.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
During the first few weeks after giving birth, my lactation consultant helped with the breastfeeding piece and reassured me that I was doing it correctly because that was a challenge in itself. Since everything was virtual, I reached out to family and friends via phone for support and made a post on my social media, which led to other mothers reaching out. They gave advice and shared their struggles too. After that, I created a Facebook group for moms to be able to ask questions and seek advice from other mothers without judgment or question. I started seeing a therapist who turned out not to be the right fit, so I asked questions and made a switch to my current therapist who is amazing! She is perfect for my needs on the mental health piece of it and also culturally.
Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?
I would love to see more awareness about the differences between postpartum depression, anxiety, baby blues, etc. We get pamphlets and words that explain what these are but actually hearing from a mother who experienced this before a mom gives birth would be 10 times more helpful. We are raising the next generation, and it is the hardest job. I wish I had someone to tell me the straight-up truth about how differently I would feel after giving birth. The fourth trimester is the hardest one of them all.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
It’s okay to rest and take care of yourself. We live in a society where hustle culture is glorified and if you’re not grinding, you’re failing. It’s not a bad thing to be ambitious and a go-getter, but it’s also okay to take a break, breathe, and reset.