You've been fearing these moments — the last time someone stops by with a casserole, the first morning your partner goes back to work.
For mothers with postpartum depression and anxiety, navigating getting the care we need can be a herculean task. And once the cavalry that has your back is back to focusing on their own, it can be lonely.
I was lucky enough to connect with a few medical professionals who took my hand and guided me to the next step. For me, it was the nurses and doctors, the mothers who had been there and were now picking up patient files and phones.
It was the mothers in medicine who made all the difference in my new, postpartum world.
Our overburdened healthcare system makes slipping through the cracks easy. After the body-altering event of giving birth, most moms aren’t checked in with again until six weeks postpartum. During that time our life is flipped upside down, shaken, and cracked. We are tasked with putting ourselves back together while learning how to keep a new human afloat.
In these vulnerable times, it is critical for the community to reach in — because it feels improbable to reach out.
As an expectant mama who has dealt with depression and anxiety my whole life, I knew to prepare for postpartum depression. But my early medical providers, chosen through careful criteria for the health of my baby, knocked me back by belittling my cries for support. My untreated prenatal depression and anxiety depleted me and left me with limited resolve. Well into my third trimester, I faced finding someone new to deliver my baby. My bearings already loose, depression and anxiety pulled me all the way down.
In the hospital, I handed my completed Edinburgh Scale to a nurse as she hurried by. She waved it at me and said, “I’m sure you’re fine.”
But I just kept swimming.
My spouse and I attended the Baby Basics class at our newly chosen hospital. The teaching pediatrician stood in front with kindness and joy, telling us about the rainbow of poop we might see, the amount of food our new additions might eat. She bookended most matters with “Don’t worry— this is normal!”
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Then, with candor, she told the crowd of expectant parents about her own experience with postpartum depression. She didn’t tell us not to worry, but she did tell us this was something we might experience and that we could get help. I cradled my bump and filled out the form that asked if we’d like to be contacted for an introductory meeting with her.
We chose Dr. Lance as our pediatrician for many reasons, but chiefly because she was also a mother with young children. She understood that a function of caring for our child is to care for us all. She understood the heartbreaks of breastfeeding and the pressures of perfunctory perfectionism. At our appointments, she always took the time to turn her focus to me. In the lonely, initial weeks, those few minutes were my first indications that there was solid ground in this open postpartum world.
Eight weeks after I turned my body inside out, I was sitting on the couch, feeling this terrifying ache of how far and big the world was.
I knew I had to get help.
Katherine, a nurse I’d only briefly met, was the one who answered my fearful phone call. In between the too many patients and not enough time, she heard me. She sent me a list of trusted therapists in the area, people I could talk to and who could see me. She made receiving support manageable.
She made me feel less alone.
“Oh honey, you’re doing great. I know, I’ve been there. And we’re going to get you through this.”
The next day I was sitting in the recliner, bleary and alone again. My phone rang. I heard Katherine's voice. She reiterated the steps we could take and how we would manage. I knew it wasn't a mountain I had to climb — just a small rock.
I eventually found a support group for new moms. Lauren, the nurse who ran the group, helped me feel confident. Through that group, I found one specifically focused on dealing with PPD and PPA. The volunteer-led peer-to-peer focus saw me turn a corner in finding community. This peer-to-peer group and Lauren worked in tandem to connect me with the only provider in the area genuinely knowledgeable about breastfeeding and psych medications.
Mothers in the medical field got me into support groups, onto meds, and back into life again. I am so grateful for them.