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Being a mom is by far the most rewarding thing I have done to date. I’m not even sure how to put into words how much I love my children or how amazing it feels when they learn to count to five or show you how tall they can build a tower of blocks.
It’s just AWE-some. Like, I’m in awe of my children. If you are a parent too, you probably get exactly what I’m saying.
But let's be honest, it isn't always rainbows and sunshine.
Sometimes those dark clouds seem to hang around way longer than they're welcome. Did you know that 1 in 7 women will suffer from a maternal mental health disorder, like anxiety or depression, either during their pregnancy or postpartum? I am 1 in 7.
My own postpartum recovery journey consists of many puzzle pieces. Finding a therapist and psychiatrist I felt comfortable with and trusted, finding the medication that worked for me, having a support system in place (including my husband and mom friends) and learning to incorporate journaling into my habits have all been invaluable to my own ongoing recovery.
Many women have found that it's both healing and validating to write down your birth story. It doesn't matter if your birthing experience went according to plan, you didn't have a plan, or your plan went to sh*t (pardon my French!)
When I was pregnant with my daughter I didn’t really have any birth plan or expectations, other than I wanted a vaginal delivery and to breastfeed. I was induced around 37 weeks and after 27 hours of labor, Ayla was born weighing 6 pounds and 9 ounces! <3 I later learned a bit more about why I was induced and I didn’t feel that it was medically necessary. I still have feelings about this. And that may or may not be true, but my feelings are valid (and so are yours!)
As far as nursing, maybe in another post, I’ll go into alllll the details as it is so hard for me to “quickly” tell my story, but for now, just know that due to a severe lack of education about oral restrictions (tongue and lip ties) I only nursed my daughter for two weeks. She was not able to transfer any milk and her latch was sooo painful. I was supplementing by the time we got home from the hospital. I would try to pump, but even though I was so painfully engorged, no milk would come out. Much later, I found out that there are different flange sizes for your pump (I needed a much larger size!) Again, lack of education between all the different professionals I saw. By the time my daughter was two weeks old she was getting maybe one feeding a day of breastmilk and every time I looked at her I burst into tears. I was emotionally unstable. I stopped trying to pump and/or nurse her.
But even after my husband and I realized our daughter would need formula from here on out, my emotions didn’t just “get better”. I felt distant and unattached. I thought that if I just continued to do the things I knew I needed to, like sing to her, play with toys, do baby massage, babywear, etc., that my feelings would follow suit with my body. It probably wasn’t until 9 months postpartum that I finally started to feel normal & happy again.
My experiences regarding birth and nursing with my daughter led me to be more specific and determined with my goals. For instance, I was adamant that I would not be induced unless there was a true medical need. My birthing experience still wasn’t “perfect” but I still felt it was much better than before. My son was born at 41 weeks & 6 days gestation, weighing 6 pounds 10 ounces, after 15 hours of labor. He was actually born in the operating room – after his vitals had drastically spiked then dropped very low I had been prepped and wheeled in for an emergency C-section. Again, trying to be sparse on details, but basically one side of my cervix was not thinning and dilating like it needed to and my son’s head was kinked on it. So in the OR, the nurse I had (God bless her!) strongly suggested to the doctor that if he could try to move the side of my cervix that wasn’t dilating and I gave it everything I had, we might be able to avoid the C-section. She was right! Jayden was born five pushes later.
My son had tongue and lip ties as well. Whereas my daughter could stay latched on but was not able to transfer milk, my son's ties refrained him from being able to stay latched onto my breast at all. So I exclusively pumped for him until we were able to get his ties revised at a week old. Pumping was going well this time because now that I knew about different flange sizes I had the right size for me. As far as nursing, we still had a lot to learn but we spent a lot of time with knowledgeable lactation consultants, other nursing moms and support groups like La Leche League. Thanks to all of the education and support I’d received this time around, I have become quite the breastfeeding & education activist and my son is still nursing (21 months at the time of this post!)
Anyways, all of that to tell you this… even though everything went “well” this time around I still had symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. I felt so strongly that not being able to nurse my first caused my PPD then, and maybe it did, but since I was nursing my second I was sure that I would be okay this time.
The anxiety and intrusive thoughts were crippling. They were scary and hurtful thoughts that made me stop in my tracks, sweat and my heart race. I would literally shake my head from side to side as if to shake the thoughts out. I would tell myself out loud that those scary thoughts I was having weren’t actually happening. They weren't real.
And then there was the rage. I think a lot of moms are afraid to talk about this part if they experience it. I would fly off the handle at things that in hindsight were so trivial. But in the moment they certainly didn’t feel that way. I hated being a screaming mother and I would feel so guilty. I have had moments where I felt if I didn’t remove myself right then, something really bad could happen. And it seems like these are the moments and thoughts that we are really scared to share with another person. But I bet moms might be surprised how many of us could say “me too” when sharing our scariest thoughts and even actions. I am so thankful for the friends I have found who have experienced these things too. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have called them, crying my eyes out and spilling my darkest thoughts, only to be told things like “Me too” “It’s going to be okay” “You’re a good mom” “How can I help?” “This is what I do in situations like this”
The constant thought I had was that I was “ruining my children”. I believe this is where the journaling really became helpful for me. I needed to be able to look back at the situation and figure out what triggered me. If I’m aware of it, I can work on it.
To use the trigger tracker printable, you first write down the date and time. Then list six things you did before being triggered. Now write down three symptoms or feelings you experienced.
For my example, and I just picked my birthday for the date because…. Birthday! LOL
So for six things that happened before I was triggered, I forgot my bag, I had 4 coffees, I spilled the pumped breastmilk, both of my kids had tantrums, I was late for work, and then I saw something on social media that was just the last straw on the camel’s back. I LOST IT. I was panicking, and then flying into a rage, and then before I knew it I was sobbing because I just felt horrible about everything that just happened.
But now, looking back at that morning, I know I really shouldn’t have that much caffeine and maybe if I stage my stuff for work by the door the night before I won’t be rushing and forget stuff in the morning. I can’t prevent my kids from having tantrums but maybe I can take some deep breaths in another room and then try to remember that they are experience feelings they don’t know how to deal with either. This is why I love the trigger tracker.
This 100+ page Postpartum Wellness Binder is just another piece of the puzzle I keep talking about. I created this binder out of necessity, love, and hope for moms just like me.
This Postpartum Wellness Binder will bring so much sanity and clarity to your life! If it can do that for me, I believe it can do that for you too, mama!
If you already have a binder around the house, it includes different sizes of spines to fit whatever size you have on hand…no need to go out and buy another binder. Just use one you already have and you’re ready to go.
If you do need a binder, you can grab them from Amazon here:
Please know that I am not a medical or mental health professional in any way. Just a mom who wanted to share a piece of her puzzle with other moms <3
It’s kind of hard to choose favorite pages because they are all really helpful, but I do have a few favs. I won’t add the Trigger Tracker here since I already talked about it, but it is definitely a fav!
I love this page because it cycles me through 10 little steps that I can read if I am stuck in a panic attack.
This page is another favorite of mine because, for me, anxiety is almost always rooted in fear. And being able to understand if my fears are realistic or not is a huge step in the right direction to mitigating them and bringing my anxiety about the situation to a more manageable level.
This page is high on my favorites list because being able to look back at my week and see that I DID in fact accomplish things makes it really easy for me to tell that lying, nagging voice inside to shut up when it tries to tell me things like “I’m a failure” or that I’m not “productive or helpful”.
This is a favorite because, well, it’s fun! I like to take magazine cutouts and create a collage of the things I’m feeling that day.
Well, there you go! I hope some of these pages will become your favorites too when you download the Postpartum Wellness Binder!
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