Jessica is a Midwestern native and moved to Oregon with her husband Mike. Before coming, she taught school for four years and worked as a CNA for three. She is now a stay at home mom. Jessica has two young boys, George and Gilead, and has also had four miscarriages. Jessica loves to sew, create, and read.
Do you think your birth trauma contributed to your postpartum depression? If so, how?
Absolutely! I got a lot done in the first three months of my son’s life. I worked, cleaned, canned, and cooked. We took a couple of day trips and a weekend to see friends five hours away. I was living well, because if I stopped to feel, I was going to die. I had a breast infection when he was four weeks old and again when he was eight weeks. To me, that was a sign I was doing too much. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I had nightmares.
When you were suffering from postpartum and anxiety, what did a “typical” day look like?
When I got to the three-month mark, I crashed pretty quickly. I was so exhausted in body, mind, and soul. Within three days my doula, my favorite midwife, and my sons’ pediatrician all told me I needed to go to WellMama.
I fought going. I thought I would choke and die. I thought the world was going to spin me right into outer space. I could not read. I could not think. I could not care for my household. I could not tell anyone what was really going on in my head.
What steps did you and your family take to help you get better?
First, I tried to muscle my way through for a few weeks. Then, I tried to get mother’s helpers for at least a couple hours in the morning. That got harder, and I got more desperate.
My sister Lynnelle had a six-week break in her nanny job, and we asked her to come spend it with us. The thought was that I could relax and breathe and heal, and we could go on. When she left, I thought I was going to die. I was so far from ready to be alone all day everyday.
In an extraordinary turn of events, she was no longer needed and was without a job. So she came back to Oregon and stayed with us for 26 months. But when Gilead was about 15 months old, Lynnelle got really sick. It was soon very necessary to have more help. At the same time, my sister Melissa was at the end of her job, so she came to help us for 2 months. But she ended up staying for 14 months.
During your recovery, what did a “typical” day look and feel like? Did it feel different than before you recognized there was a problem?
I went to every WellMama group for a long time. I went to counseling every week for quite a while, too. I was on high doses of medication. But I still struggled to care for my family. I didn’t see how I would ever get any better.
I was never suicidal, but I didn’t care if I died except my exclusively breastfed baby needed me. I was never psychotic, yet I dreamed and longed to go to the hospital, because I was so tired and I knew (or thought) I could rest there. I never breathed that fantasy to anyone. I knew if I went, I would not be able to even help care for my baby. And I couldn’t live without him.
Recovery felt worse than before I realized I had problems. It felt like I had been in this trench forever, and it would go on for forever.
What advice would you give to another mother going through postpartum depression and anxiety?
You are not alone. Find the support you need. Take care of yourself. Self-care is so, so important.