Get ready folks, I'm getting real here...
I will never forget how I felt when the doctor told me I could go home from the hospital after the girls were born. I felt fear. I wanted to stay in the safety of the nurses and doctors as long as I could.
The anxiety increased over the following 9 months. I was afraid to be left alone with the girls. I was scared they'd cry and I wouldn't be able to sooth them at the same time. I was scared I'd have to feed them at the same time and wouldn't be able to manage. They were irrational fears but they drove me into a panic.
I was irritable, sad, joyful, happy, angry... I was unpredictable.
And then I one day I just couldn't take it anymore. I was tired of suffering and not enjoying my girls. I was worried I'd lose my husband. I decided to get help.
It wasn't easy and it wasn't without struggle. In many ways, I was on my own in my fight to get well. No one realized how serious this issue could get if left untreated. I was emotionally hemorrhaging but without any physical symptoms; everyone thought I was just a new, overwhelmed mom of twins. They thought I just needed someone to vent to.
I'm not telling this to scare you. I'm telling you because 1 in 7 women experience a maternal mental illness during or following pregnancy. More than 600,000 women will be diagnosed with a maternal mental health disorder this year. This is no joke and as a childbirth educator, I feel deeply responsible for your wellbeing and your mental health is a big part of that.
My story could have easily gone the other way. I could have given into the alcohol, pushed my husband away, continued to distance myself from my children. I often wonder how many families are facing drug abuse or a troubled marriage because someone's mental illness is going untreated.
So I'm asking you, on mental health awareness month, to learn the signs of prenatal and postpartum mood disorders and if you are suffering or are at high risk of developing a mental illness, please reach out to help. Either to me or to Postpartum Support International.
Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Are you feeling sad or depressed?
- Do you feel more irritable or angry with those around you?
- Are you having difficulty bonding with your baby?
- Do you feel anxious or panicky?
- Are you having problems with eating or sleeping?
- Are you having upsetting thoughts that you can’t get out of your mind?
- Do you feel as if you are “out of control” or “going crazy”?
- Do you feel like you never should have become a mother?
- Are you worried that you might hurt your baby or yourself?