By Angela Potter
Letty has a powerful story about getting through postpartum anxiety. She talks through what resources have been helpful for her and the strength it took to find help.
Where do you call home?
We currently live in the Pacific Northwest after moving out from the east coast two years ago. The change of scenery and culture has been a huge benefit for all members of our family.
How many kids do you have?
Almost 3. My daughter is 5, first son is 3, and son number two is due in early October.
What was one of the hardest changes for you physically during your postpartum journey?
The lack of sleep. I have always been the type to need a solid 8 hours. When dealing with a newborn, obviously that doesn't happen often, and for me it affects my entire body. I get achy, lethargic, and don't fight off germs as well.
I also developed pelvic floor dysfunctions after my son and was told it was normal. I didn't seek care until over a year after his birth, and a lot of it could have been mitigated with immediate physical therapy. I am still struggling with it now but have a uro-gynecologist all lined up for after the birth of my third.
What was one of the hardest changes for you mentally/emotionally during your postpartum journey?
After my son was born, I quit work to stay at home with our newborn and our two year old. I was hit with a severe case of what we thought at the time was postpartum depression.
Looking back, it was definitely more postpartum anxiety (anxiety lead to anger lead to guilt lead to depression). It's been a fight going on three years now, but I've had amazing support from my husband, family, friends, therapist, and medication.
With the move came a new therapist and we have been able to get to the root of the issue, my anxiety. It reared its head again during this third pregnancy and I have been continuing the antidepressants I was prescribed by my original doctor.
As soon as my third is born, I will be switching to an anti-anxiety to see if that makes a bigger difference in my day to day life and ability to function.
I used to get upset that I can't get back to who I used to be, before children. At some point it occurred to me that I will never be the same. Even parents who don't suffer postpartum mood disorders will never be the same. Now I focus on becoming the best me that I can be in the moment, with the resources I have available.
What has been your greatest joy in motherhood?
Watching my children learn. The way their faces light up when a new skill finally clicks, be it grabbing an object as infants or reading a word as a five year old, is amazing. As a former teacher, getting to watch the learning and skill building from minute to minute instead of class to class is awe inspiring.
How was your postpartum experience different with each baby?
With my first, I went back to work at 9 weeks postpartum and was so ready for the real, adult interaction. I trusted her daycare and so there was never any guilt or worry in leaving her. I do think, looking back, that I had a touch of postpartum depression with her but getting back into work so quickly mitigated a lot of it. She was our only at that point, and one child is far easier that two or three.
With my second, the adjustment to staying home full time while caring for a newborn and a toddler was incredibly rough for me. I craved adult interaction but found it hard to find a group of other moms that I clicked well with. I felt isolated, I was anxious all the time, and I was exhausted. Physically the recoveries were very similar between the two, even thought their births were very different.
With my upcoming third child, I know I have the supports in place should my PPD/PPA get out of hand. I'm currently seeing a therapist and intend to continue to do so through the birth and postpartum period, and then for as long as I need to. I have my medication doctor all lined up to make a medication switch once I have my baby. Thankfully, since we moved, I have also found my "tribe" of other moms that I can lean on for support.
What is one resource that felt invaluable to you during the postpartum time?
My husband and family. My husband is wonderful at listening to me and making sure I get the time that I need to heal, physically and emotionally. My family is a phone call away when I feel overwhelmed.
Recently the documentary When The Bough Breaks was released and watching that as something who is still struggling with her postpartum mood disorders was incredibly therapeutic. To see the other women/parents who struggle, how they find help and understanding, and knowing that I'm not alone in this was incredibly uplifting and helpful.
What is one piece of advice you would like to give to pregnant moms in preparation for their postpartum journey?
Fight for yourself. If something feels off physically, call your OB and get seen, even if you aren't at your six week checkup yet. If something feels off emotionally, call your OB and get seen. If they brush it off as baby blues and it feels like more to you, find another doctor who will listen. Find anyone who will listen and be there for you.
Don't let anyone tell you something is normal if it doesn't feel right. And if you don't have the strength to self-advocate, find someone who can advocate for you. Reach out and ask for help.
Letty was born in England, raised in New England, and now resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and 2.5 children (#3 due any day now). Having been a working mom with her first child, she is now a stay at home mom and loves it most days. She is wandering through life while being a mother/wife, a woodturner, a mental health warrior, and a woman all her own.