He will bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:3).
Celebration of Mothers
With the celebration of Mother’s Day just behind us, I can’t help but pause and consider the different emotions this holiday brings with it. There are those women who are celebrating their first Mother’s Day, those who have been celebrating for years, and those who, with great wait and longing, are looking forward to experiencing their first. It’s such an appropriate time to be mindful of all the emotions that surround becoming a mother – and the emotions of not becoming one as well.
I, along with several other amazing counselors on our team here at Cornerstone, recently completed a training as an intro to Perinatal Mood Disorders. The desire to learn more about these disorders, however, wasn’t strictly clinical. It was also personal.
The screening for postpartum symptoms was brought to my attention after the birth of my second son at my six-week follow-up appointment. As relieved as I was to have the attention paid to my emotional state at that time, it became apparent to me that the screening did not take place during another time in my life when it would have been even more helpful.
My First Pregnancy
My first pregnancy, three years prior, had resulted in a miscarriage at almost eleven weeks. At eight weeks we had our doctor appointment and saw our baby and the heartbeat. I felt like I could take a deep breath. Three weeks later I miscarried and my world collapsed. Even now, I struggle to write out too many details knowing the hurts and pains of so many women possibly going through something similar and not wanting to create more pain. The process of miscarriage is so isolating. I felt shameful, broken and like something was wrong with me. Yet my follow-up appointment with my OB-GYN was nothing more than recommending to wait a few months to try again to get pregnant to allow my body to reset; there was no discussion of my emotional state.
The months following were a constant blur. It was a tug of war between mourning our loss and pulling myself together to move forward day to day with work and wanting to try again as soon as possible, with the belief that another positive pregnancy test would take away all my hurts. With each month of trying with negative results, the deeper and deeper into depression I sank. I went to a counselor over those months but only remember sitting in her office crying. There was never a discussion around postpartum.
As I look back now, years later and with so much more knowledge, I realize that not only was I experiencing deep waves of grief, waves of depression, but quite possibly postpartum blues. It never crossed my mind about the physical and hormonal impact that was taking place in my body, as well as the emotional impact on a daily basis.
This is just my story. None of us are the same, but we can hold space for one another. Through all life’s uncertainties, I do know that God is faithful and brings redemption out of all our circumstances; beauty from ashes.
I am so encouraged that some hospitals and doctor’s offices are now incorporating follow-up screenings and check-ins to discuss postpartum symptoms. Please, know that it is the heart of Cornerstone and those of us that have begun the steps of learning more about perinatal mood disorders to better support those going through difficulties around getting pregnant, mourning of miscarriage, regrets or mourning of abortion, and pregnancies resulting in postpartum symptoms.
Some helpful tips:
If you or someone you know is pregnant or recently pregnant, here are some points about postpartum that could be helpful to know:
1. It could come as late as one year after birth/loss and often develops even during pregnancy.
2. Specific symptoms to be aware of can include:
- Depression (Sadness, Crying Jags, Feeling Overwhelmed, Irritability, Agitation, Anger, Sleep Disturbance, Appetite Changes, Mood Swings, Apathy, Exhaustion)
- Anxiety (Panic Attacks, Insomnia, Low Appetite, Fears: losing control, illness, danger, fainting, physical symptoms: shaky, dizzy or short of breath)
And lastly, here’s an opportunity for a self-check:
If you agree with three or more points below, you are more likely to have depression or anxiety during pregnancy, or postpartum. Please reach out for help to reduce your risk!
- It’s hard for me to ask for help.
- I’ve had trouble with hormones and moods, especially before my period.
- I was depressed or anxious after my last baby or during my pregnancy.
- I’ve been depressed or anxious in the past.
- My mother, sister, or aunt was depressed after her baby was born.
- Sometimes it’s hard to slow down: I don’t need to sleep, have lots of new ideas, and feel very restless.
- My family is far away and I don’t have many friends nearby.
- I don’t have the money, food or housing I need.
Being a mother is hard, and no one should have to go it alone! If you’re struggling, drop us a line or give us a call – we have amazing counselors on our team who are here to talk with you about whatever it is you may be experiencing.
We’re here for you, your baby, and your family, and we want nothing less than to see you Heal, Grow, and Thrive.