Our focus this week has been all about maternal mental health. Have you ever felt off in motherhood? Did you experience depression or anxiety as a new/young mom? This week we talked all about what to watch for, ways to help yourself and others, and began normalizing the conversation surrounding maternal mental health.
Our journal prompts were created based off of my experience with Postpartum depression and anxiety. If you're looking for a journal to support you in your mental health journey our Daily Journal is the perfect place to start.
When I had my 1st child, a little girl, I experienced severe anxiety right after she was born. I had a harder birth, and truly had no idea the damage sleep deprivation would do to my mental health.
A few days after she was born I began having dark thoughts towards her and myself. I was plagued by these thoughts the majority of my waking hours. I stopped eating well, I barely slept (less than I already was with a newborn), and I didn't enjoy being with my baby as much as I thought. When she was a few days old I went to my OB's office to leave a urine sample because of some burning I was having and they took one look at me and said, "Let's get you in to see the doctor tomorrow)." Those sweet nurses were a saving grace to me that day. I knew I needed help, but had this backwards way of thinking that I had to do it all on my own, when I absolutely didn't.
I ended up seeing my OB a week after my daughter was born. I remember going to his office and being terrified they would take her away from me, that those thoughts I was having were enough to remove her from my care. I sat on the exam table shaking from lack of sleep, food, and nerves. I held back my tears and braced myself for the conversation about to happen. My doctor entered and took one look at me and said, "Talk to me."
The tears couldn't be tamed after that. I cried and cried and told him everything.
He was kind, and listened, and then calmly said, "Karla, everything you're feeling is completely normal. In fact," he gestured at my husband, "I bet your husband has some dark thoughts about the baby when he's getting woken up all hours of the night too."
He said, "Did you know prisoners in Guantanamo Bay aren't waterboarded at first, they are sleep deprived as a form of initial torture?"
I stared at him in shock.
He continued, "They put the prisoners to sleep, wake them up 2 hours later, march them around the camp, and then put them back to sleep. Then they repeat this all night. It's the first method of torture they use. Your mind is experiencing an actual level of torture by having a newborn."
I had never thought of the effects sleep deprivation could have on the mind, but hearing that sleep deprivation is a form of torture on the mind made me relax. We then continued to have a great discussion of options I had available to use, but for me just talking about it with him was extremely healing.
We finished our chat with this, "Karla, we live in a world where we shut ourselves inside our homes and post on social media looking perfect and put together. It's not realistic, and it creates a pathway towards constant comparison." He then challenged me to open my door to others trying to serve me. To stop getting on social media and comparing myself and to just open my door to talk and be real with other women.
And so I did. Anytime someone came to check on me or bring me a meal I would invite them in, ask if they wanted to hold my baby, and just talk. I was open and honest and real when they asked "How are you doing?" And in turn, I made some amazing friends, and heard incredible warrior momma stories from these women coming to serve and love me.
Since then it has been my mission to spread love to women who are new mothers, and to do frequent check ins even long after the newborn stage is over. And it has been my mission to talk and share my story as much as possible in hopes that sharing my story will be a rescue line to someone who desperately needs to hear they are normal, there is help, they are heard, and they are loved.
If you missed our instagram live last week here is a recap of the live and what we have been talking about in regards to this topic as of late:
IG Live Takeaways:
The #1 thing that affects our mental health is: ISOLATION
Whether it is pandemic induced, self-induced, or a host of other factors isolation is the number one thing that affects your mental health.
Other factors that affect your mental health, especially as a young mom are: sleep deprivation, hormones, body changes, mourning of your old life before baby.
Here are some common Myths versus Truths about Postpartum Depression/Anxiety
#1-Myth: Talking about how you're feeling makes you a bad mom
Truth: Talking about it allows you to get the help you need, heal internally, and support others going through the same thing.
#2- Myth: You can only experience depression and anxiety AFTER your baby is born
Truth: You can experience depression/anxiety: up to 3 months before you get pregnant, during pregnancy, and any time 1-3 years after giving birth
#3- Myth: PPD/PPA looks like laying in bed crying all day.
Truth: PPD/PPA can look like carrying on as usual but struggling internally, PTSD, OCD, Rage, you or your partner noticing you are off/not like yourself
#4 Myth: There is no way to fix this, it's just something to live with
Truth: There is scientific proof you don't have to live with this, it does not have to last forever.
How to get help:
1. Talk with a friend-just talking with someone you trust can be a huge weight off your shoulders, and potentially support someone else in return
2. Get on medicine- Your OB team is there to help! And if they aren't find a new OB, seek care from your primary care doctor, OR at one of your pediatrician checkups for baby tell them how you've been feeling. There are so many people who want to help you!
3. Find a therapist, there are even great online ones available at low cost
4. Find a support group through facebook, or visit https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/locations/
5. If you're a new momma consider getting a postpartum doula (see websites above) who can come in and offer you amazing support during the newborn stage.
6. JOURNAL! Journaling has incredible benefits to increase your mental health.
7. Keep up to date on your mental health by taking a mental health screener (you can find one on https://mihp.utah.gov/maternal-mental-health)
There is so much help available, and I can assure you, no one wants you to go through this alone. Motherhood is a lot to shoulder already, make sure you prioritize caring for your mental health as well.