Maternal Mental Health

When I first began working on this post and planning to share it during May for Mental Health Awareness Month, I didn't know that May 6 is recognized as World Maternal Mental Health Day.

So in honor of today, I'm sharing about my own postpartum mental health journey.

During my pregnancy, I was keenly aware of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety and how they are more common than most people think. I talked to my husband, had him read some articles, and asked him to just watch out for me in those first few weeks postpartum.

The newborn phase and my maternity leave were certainly difficult, but I feel like I made it through pretty well (even looking back a year and a half later.)

However, postpartum depression and anxiety don't always manifest themselves immediately. In my case, I could feel the anxiety building up as the months went on. I enjoyed being back at work and getting back into the swing of things, but it was harder with the combined usual housework and errands, a longer commute from bringing my daughter to her sitter's house, and adjusting to a more hectic evening routine.

Last year, I began feeling more like the sea was getting rougher and I was struggling to tread water. After a little while, I could tell that I was struggling more than I should be, and I found a therapist who specializes in postpartum and maternal mental health.

And over the past few months, it has been a game changer. My therapist has helped me with ways to work toward a wise mind, helped give me a sense of perspective and given me tools to help ride the waves a little bit better. I can see a little clearer, and I feel like I am better at managing the challenges. Having a dedicated outlet has become something I truly look forward to. It actually feels like physical health sometimes - I feel so much better after going to my therapist, in the same way I feel better after going to the gym.

There are still hard days, and obviously quarantine is putting mental health to the test for many. There's a new set of struggles from being home for nearly seven weeks (working full-time with a husband and toddler home as well), and some days, I don't tread water very well. I still struggle with postpartum depression. One thing I continuously tell myself is to just give myself more grace. There's a lot of self-induced pressure when you feel like you don't meet your own expectations, but it's okay to lower those - whether there is a pandemic or not.

As I look ahead to the future, I feel like therapy will help me continue to navigate and manage stress and balance the load. With my postpartum mental health journey so far, I know that therapy will be an essential part of any future pregnancy and children in our family.

It's hard to feel like you're not winning or that you're not a good mom/wife/employee/friend. But so much of that comes from postpartum depression or anxiety, hormones or stress, rather than being true.

If you are a new mom, or even a not-new mom, I encourage you to prioritize your mental health. It cannot be said enough - your mental health matters, and it helps more than just you. If you feel like you are struggling, please, talk to someone.

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