I am one in eight women who experience postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
I am also one of the countless women who's healthcare system and healthcare professionals failed them.
After Jackson was born, I had the baby blues. Different from when Conner was born in that they weren't accompanied by birth grief as I had made peace with Jackson's arrival. But I had the baby blues none-the-less.
I remembered feeling better, less teary, a few weeks after Conner was born. Not this time. The urge to cry never went away, and now it was accompanied by this sense of just purely being overwhelmed constantly. And it was only escalated by my husband leaving for several Military trips that would have him gone for a while. I felt like I was just...surviving...really just surviving each day. The sound of Derek's voice on the phone each day was reducing me to tears. And it stressed me out that I couldn't talk to my husband without losing it. I was beginning to feel so guilty. I felt like I was nowhere near the mom or wife I wanted to be. And that added to my sadness and my stress. It became a vicious cycle.
At Jackson's four month appointment, his pediatrician asked me how I was feeling...and I lost it. Sitting in tears in her exam room, she asked if I would be willing to fill out a mental health survey. I obliged. I knew something wasn't right...I knew it was time to ask for help. As the doctor read over my survey results and talking to me, the diagnosis came. It wasn't just the baby blues. I was officially one in eight mothers who experience some degree of PPD/PPA.
She said she'd like to refer me to a counselor in her office and I agreed. A week later I was scheduled to meet with her for a screening and counseling session. That session was where our Military healthcare system, and that particular provider, failed me.
It took a lot for me to admit that I wasn't ok and to ask for help. It takes a lot for any mama to do that. But when I went for my screening and counseling appointment, I was told that they see "a lot of women from your husbands unit" and that "You definitely have it, but you're not that bad". The kicker? "You just need more sleep and to exercise more". The counselor saw no need to recommend treatment or further counseling. She brushed me off, saw me as just another unit wife, someone who would be perfectly fine if I would just get a little more sleep. She told me if I got worse, give her a call.
That same week, a local woman who had been treated for PPD stabbed her children in what I can only think of as a nightmare.
And it made me seriously wonder...how much "worse" did I have to get to warrant someone being willing to help me? Was this mother brushed off, as I was? Was she lacking care she perhaps desperately needed? How many other women are told the same things, and then get to a scary, even horrific point?
I knew that I needed to find ways to help myself. I needed to feel better. I delved into research and tapping into resources of caring, loving friends and those who could share helpful knowledge with me. I started focusing on self care, even if that means sipping tea and letting the dishes sit in the sink for a day. I found comfort and stress relief in writing in a planner and scheduling things right down to getting the mail. I began using oils to help uplift my moods and calm me. And thank goodness for all of that. Truly.
But the question still haunts...how many mamas don't find solace in the things that have helped me? How many, like me, get overlooked? How many never get the help they need and so rightfully deserve?
Jackson is nine months old now and I still have my days. I know right when I wake up what kind of day it's going to be. PPD/PPA are two really ugly bitches. They're nasty and rude and mean. And sometimes powering through them blows. But it is possible. And I know one day this is all going to be ok.
Mamas, if you ever feel overlooked, know that you aren't alone. And please continue to reach out because even though it may not seem like it, it will get better and there is help.
If you happen to be a healthcare provider, please, don't overlook a mother who is reaching out. Don't tell her she "isn't that bad" when she's sitting in tears in your office. Please. Help her, however that may be.