*****TRIGGER WARNING: though details are not graphic, perinatal mood and anxeity disorders are discussed. ***********
I wrote the following as part of an application to volunteer with the Postpartum Resource Center of NY. You too can volunteer with the resource center, share your story, or participate in the WNY Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Task Force. Just message me here, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up right here.
In 2011 I was 34, newly married and had unexpectedly gotten pregnant with my daughter Lena. I sat in my doctor’s office being informed about the possibilities of postpartum depression. I had struggled with depression and anxiety since my teens and had previous suicide attempts. What the doctor didn’t properly explain was that I could experience symptoms pregnant. It had been almost a decade since I experienced intrusive thoughts, so my symptoms came from left field. No one around me understood why I was so unhappy pregnant. I was older, educated, picked a great partner and still felt like my world was imploding from this surprise pregnancy that I referred to as the “f-----g baby” much to everyone’s horror. One of the happiest times in my life was, without a doubt, one of the darkest.
I wasn’t getting the care that I wanted from my doctor, so I decided to hire a doula, fire my doctor, and switch to a midwifery practice. The midwifery model of care seemed so much more sensitive and intuitive to my needs. Still no one knew of any local resources. I had an initial consultation with a therapist who didn’t take insurance. I spent $150 and 50 minutes sobbing through a session focused on my somewhat traumatic childhood, then had to drive off to work and act like I was coping. I couldn’t afford $150 per session and didn’t really know how I was going to be able to keep it together after every 8AM session, then go do my job as a high school teacher.
Our wedding day, pregnant and swing dancing. The pics came out great. No one knew that I didn't sleep but two hours the night before. It was the beginning of my pregnant insomnia. We spent our Portland honeymoon arguing. My waistline was increasing while my patience and energy was quickly decreasing.
Luckily I found an empowered childbirth class offered through our local district’s community education. I knew my feelings weren’t normal and when my instructor talked about PPD and local resources there were only 2 options available. One was a support group almost an hour from my home and the other was another mom working on her masters degree and specializing in postpartum depression. Her name was Amy Creamer. She helped me through my postpartum period, offering services for free and making sessions baby friendly. She encouraged me to nurse and change poopy diapers while discussing my feelings and my new unplanned job change as a stay at home mom. She helped me, for the first time, grapple with my pre existing mood disorder and empowered me to figure out how to cope with the symptoms through mindful awareness. I had never even heard of the words, let alone knew what it was.
By the time my well-planned second baby came around, I did things completely different from the get go: planned a home birth, hired a doula and a midwife, and sought out a therapist who specialized in my mood disorder. I thought I had everything covered when my husband lost his job with a month to spare until our baby’s due date. There we were: a couple in their late 30’s with a mortgage, a 2.5 year old, a baby on the way and faced with a new journey through social services. WIC, SNAP , and Medicaid were our new best friends. It took me a good week to figure out how to apply for all of it. I had helped students maneuver the system, but never had to on my own. It was daunting, but we managed.
My son Ben, like his sister Lena preferred to skip due dates. I was forced to fire my midwife around 41 weeks when she began to threaten an induction after I started to question her availability. She had planned a brief vacation past my due date. The anxiety of not having her at my birth was so upsetting, especially as a mom who had gone post date previously, listening to professionals warn of complications and stillbirth. The final blow, leaving me never wanting to associate with her again was when I received an email update of my electronic medical records suggesting in writing that I was a danger to myself and my unborn child. This was written minutes after I chose to switch providers. I felt so betrayed and misunderstood, despite having a greater understanding of my own brain. I learned later that my midwife had a history of not knowing how to handle moms with anxiety. I wish I had known that before paying $4400 out of pocket for her care.
The Happy Ending really was happy and helped lead me down a different path. I went on to give birth naturally to Ben born during a Super Moon at 42+5 weeks at our local Birthing Center. My provider there, Katherine Morrison, empowered me to use my experience for positive change. I joined our local Improving Birth chapter, helping to organize annual rallies to promote evidence based practices in childbirth.
The then coordinator of the Birthing Center, reached out to me, beginning my journey on the WNY Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders task force. They wanted moms with experiences and I was happy to participate, helping to bring a greater awareness to our local resources and eventually serving as the Community Outreach Chair. Sonia Murdock and the PRCNY’s financial support has been paramount, helping me attend local birth fairs and community walks, handing out information about the Ask the Question project and the Resource Center and most importantly meeting other moms and talking about my experiences. This past Spring I was granted the Cynthia Wachenheim Memorial Training Scholarship and able to attend Postpartum Support International’s Components of Care training, furthering my education on a topic that I held near and dear to my heart.
Since then I have made it my personal mission to help other families find resources. Prior to its creation, there had never been an all inclusive directory in WNY for birth and early parenting. On Mother’s Day 2017 I launched Welcome Mama. Since its launch I’ve adapted the directory, reflecting my desire to bring holistic resources to the fingertips of parents in WNY and developing a blog where women and professionals can share their stories. To date, I receive a hundred hits daily from moms seeking information on topics varying from local doulas to infertility support groups. It’s not a lot and still a work in progress, but not too shabby for a stay-at-home parent with small kids who don’t sleep.
I still struggle to maintain balance and healthy practices in my own life, but I care about the work that I'm doing. I care because it gives me purpose, taking away the stigma from a topic that has affected me so deeply. I care because I don’t want any other family to feel as lost, alone, and confused as we felt. I care because I want others to have easy access to local resources, including other women’s compelling stories of struggle and survival. I’m so very proud to play a small role in telling people about the Postpartum Resource Center of NY. and so happy to help connect other moms with support.
For more resources:
1. Postpartum Resource Center of NY serves as a statewide clearing house for practitioners.
Search by location and insurance coverage.
Check out fellow task force members comprehensive site dedicated to WNY.
2. WNY Postpartum Connection
Hi. I'm Lindsay. Daughter, sister, wife, mother and collector of useless (and useful) information.