Episode 73: Rita’s Story

Hello! The podcast is back with another interview. I’m glad I did the audio version of my memoir, but whew, it feels good to be back to interviews.

I mentioned a couple of things during the show intro:

  1. In September 2018, Graeme Seabrook will be leading a coaching program for moms called Recovering from Recovery. It’s limited to ten women, so if you are interested, grab your spot now!
  2. I have just started reading Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, by Dyane Harwood.  I’m interviewing Dyane in a couple of weeks and after less than ten pages, I’m already in love with her book.

This week, Rita shares her story on the podcast. Her son is two years old. Right now, she is feeling pretty good, but she experienced some intense postpartum depression after her son’s birth.

Rita experienced depression before she got pregnant. During her pregnancy, she wondered how she could bring a child into the world if she was depressed. She felt anxious during her entire pregnancy.

After giving birth, postpartum depression hit Rita immediately. She had warned her obstetrician that she was worried about PPD, but her doctor did not go into any detail about what she should expect.

During her first months of motherhood, Rita experienced many symptoms, including:

  • constant crying,
  • thinking she had made a mistake,
  • not knowing how to care for her son,
  • thinking she should have a magic touch with her baby,
  • fear about leaving the house,
  • feeling nervous if she was with the baby alone,
  • and loss of appetite.

Rita did not know anxiety can be part of postpartum depression. She did not even know that her experience could be called “anxiety.”

Rita would wonder how she would feel if she did not have her son. She did not think she would miss him that much. She thought she would be okay without her baby. She also thought about abandoning him. Now she feels guilty for having those thoughts.

Rita went back to work after twelve weeks of maternity leave. Returning to work was a relief.

She started taking medication seven months postpartum when she ended breastfeeding. Her last pumping session, she felt bittersweet because she was no longer providing nutrients for her son.

Rita felt irritable. She didn’t like the way she felt. She looked forward to going back on the pill and feeling regulated.

After watching the documentary When the Bough Breaks, Rita wanted to help other moms. She started an occasional weekend support group in Arcadia, California. Attendance has been spotty, but still, I think it’s amazing that Rita is doing something to help women feel seen and supported.

Rita can be reached at wearestrongmoms@gmail.com. Thanks, Rita, for sharing your story!

Five Easy Ways To Be A Maternal Mental Health Advocate

You do not need any credentials or special training in order to be a maternal mental health advocate. If you want to volunteer for a specific agency or attend a program to learn more, that’s great! But if you want to fight the stigma of maternal mental illnesses, then you already have everything you need to be an advocate.

But where do you start?

If you have an idea of something you want to do, by all means, do it. Your voice and ideas are valuable and necessary.

But when I first started out on my journal as a maternal mental health advocate, I did not know where to begin. I just knew I had to do something. If you have the desire to be an advocate, but don’t know where to start, don’t beat yourself up. You are not alone. I had no idea what I was doing when I started! I had to fumble around and experiment and try lots of things before I realized I wanted to start a podcast and run a mom-to-mom postpartum support group. And even now, over four years into my advocacy, I still don’t always know what I’m doing. I just try different things to see what works.

In case you don’t know where to start, here are some easy ways to start your advocacy adventures:

  1. Hop on to social media and search relevant hashtags like #postpartumdepression. Hit the like button to show your support for the post. I love posting on Instagram about my postpartum experiences, and those hearts mean a lot. They inspire me to keep posting.
  2. Have you read any books that helped your recovery? Write a review! That helps boost the book’s visibility which in turn helps moms in the darkness find the resources they need.
  3. If and when you are ready, tell your social media followers that you had or have a maternal mood disorder.
  4. Tell your child’s pediatrician about your maternal mood disorder. Pediatricians see new moms regularly, but it’s not easy to bring up the subject of anxiety and depression. If you talk about your experiences with a pediatrician, you are helping them rehearse for their next encounter with a mom in the darkness.
  5. The next time someone you know has a baby, send her a private message and tell her you hope she is feeling well, but if she is ever struggling, you are there to talk.

But remember: only you know you, and your intuition already knows what you need to be doing. Listen to your gut and do what feels right for you. That is the best thing for your advocacy journey.