Thursday, July 30, 2015

Guest Post: Jessica, Maternal Mental Health Advocate

In case you haven't noticed, I've been posting a lot about postpartum mental health lately. And in doing so I've made reference to Warrior Moms several times.

Warrior Moms are the moms I met in Boston. And some of them are mamas I connected with virtually in preparation for the conference. They are my sisterhood.

And among these mamas I made friends who truly get it.

Some of them don't (yet) have blogs, and have accepted my invitation to use my space to share their experiences, thoughts and so forth. I'll be opening up my space to many friends in the coming weeks (maybe months!) to discuss a number of topics that are of importance to them.

Please join me in welcoming Jessica.

Here is Jessica's story.

When you go to the dentist to have a tooth pulled, you know that when you leave, your mouth is going to hurt. When you lose someone close to you, you know you are going to be sad. But when you give birth to a child for the first time, you really don't know how you are supposed to feel. 

There's the obvious physical pain from pushing a seven pound watermelon out of something the size of a grapefruit, or from being cut open from a cesarean and someone pushing your guts around. Obvious. 

Then you have crazy hormonal changes that make you weep, shiver and sweat all in the same 1.6 seconds. 

The emotional part is a little trickier. 

How am I supposed to be feeling? 

Is it normal to be THIS emotional? 

Is it normal to feel so anxious when the baby cries? 

If I had a dollar for every time I've asked this question over the past three years I would have so much money!

And when you throw perinatal mood and anxiety disorders into the mix things are even more difficult to understand. 

Before we ever stepped foot outside the hospital I started feeling the beginning of my postpartum anxiety. Little bitty butterflies would flap around in my belly. 

They took my breath away. 

Made me feel sick to my stomach. 

I chalked it up to nerves. 

Going home with this new thing I had no clue what to do with. 

But over the next few days those butterflies turned into these huge vampire bats who would swoosh around inside of me. They refused food. It felt as if they had sucked all the air out of my lungs. 

It was definitely NOT normal. 

So, after going to the doctor, starting medication, feeling better, stopping medication, bats returning and starting medication again, I resigned myself to being a medicated mommy for the next two years. 

I felt great. I felt normal. 

I felt just brave enough to stop my medication. 

That's when the questions arose. I was learning how to feel again off of antidepressants. Something I really hadn't done since my child was born. So it was almost like starting over.

Am I supposed to feel anxious when he's sick? 

Do you ever feel that way or is it just me? 

Like I said - SO MUCH MONEY. (Dollar per question and all that.)

And then, after three months completely med-free, the bats returned. 

Cue Zoloft. 

And I was completely okay with that. 

The bats HAD TO GO.

Now, almost a year later, no more bats. I occasionally have butterflies, especially when my child is sick. I also get very anxious at the possibility of not getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep is a huge trigger for me. 

Do you ever feel that way?

Is it normal? 

I've learned that for me - it is. It's normal. It's just how I feel. It's my normal. 

Jessica is a stay-at-home mom to a three-year-old boy who is ALL boy! She is also an advocate of maternal mental health. After suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression after her son was born she has made it her ambition in life to help as many mothers as she can. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing postpartum difficulties, please consider reaching out for help. You can find support online at Postpartum Support International.

* I will be hosting a number of friends here on Good Girl Gone Redneck and consider them to be my guests. I encourage you to engage with them just as you would with me and let them know you hear them. Any unnecessary or extremely inflammatory comments that do not contribute to the conversation will be removed at my discretion.

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