Melissa Young is a 31-year-old mom of two girls (currently 4 and 2 years old). Having been surrounded by nieces and nephews (18 total) most of her adult life, Melissa was very familiar with caring for babies and assumed that parenthood would be a piece of cake.
But the experience of becoming a mother was not at all what Melissa had expected.
After the birth of her first child, Melissa suffered from postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, but it wasn't until long after the fact that she acknowledged it. The second time around, in the weeks after her second daughter was born, Melissa reached new lows. At the urging of her husband, she checked her midwife's website and discovered The Postpartum Stress Center in Bryn Mawr. Following a mix of in-person and telehealth therapy sessions, Melissa felt as if the dust had finally settled, but her perspective on maternal mental health was forever changed.
In her career as a registered nurse, Melissa had worked with orthopedic patients in the immediate post-operative period and observed care providers equip their patients with extensive education, both prior to surgery and throughout their hospital stay. During recovery, patients received follow-up care from both a hospital nurse and a nurse from the surgeon's office, as well as a follow-up appointment between two and four weeks.
Why, Melissa wondered, did patients having elective orthopedic surgery receive so many more resources than new mothers?
Nobody ever broached the possibility of perinatal mood disorders of PPD with Melissa until it was too late. She doesn't want new moms to suffer the way she did.
By sharing her story, Melissa hopes to change the way our society approaches mental health and help lift the taboo.
I have wanted to write about postpartum mood disorders for a long time, but there was always part of me that was afraid to bring up the topic. However, I truly believe that we are doing a huge disservice to our mothers by NOT talking about what so many women go through after bringing home a baby.
I came across this photo taken by my sister two years ago. I was 13 days postpartum after my second child. I was in the throes of postpartum depression, sleep deprivation, and crashing hormones. It was the lowest low I’ve ever hit.
Yet, if you looked at my Facebook or Instagram, you wouldn’t see this face - the face of a new mom-zombie who wondered how she was going to make it through another night. Instead, you’d see cute baby photos and my two girls lying together on the play mat and some jokes about life as a mom, because that's easier to share than talking about how bad you feel. Two years ago, I wrote this email to myself while going through this period because I wanted to journal my feelings and hoped that one day I’d have the courage to share them…
August 19, 2018
It’s been a week.
Between a two week old who likes to stay up all night, a two year old who was sick and on the verge of hospitalization for IV fluids, and the stress and exhaustion of postpartum life, I think I almost reached my breaking point.
I thought this time around - my second time bringing home a newborn - I would be better prepared. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t feel anxious about bringing home a baby. I clearly remembered those first few weeks and months with Lacey. I remembered the tears, the panic, the exhaustion that you feel in your bones...but I thought, “I know what to expect” and figured it would be easier.
For the first week, it was easier. I was amazed at how great I felt at first. I felt relatively normal. Aside from being tired and a bit overwhelmed at times, I felt like myself and like a functional person. Then, day 10 or so rolled around.
Suddenly, I was crying again. I was feeling overwhelmed even when things were calm. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t want to leave the couch. I thought of all the things I “should” do....empty the dishwasher, throw in laundry, vacuum...and I felt a debilitating sense of not being able to do anything.
One night - night 15 of the postpartum period - I hit my low. It was following a night of almost zero sleep, running Lily around to the doctor's office and then the hospital for bloodwork, and dealing with Lacey not feeling well. I truly felt like I couldn’t do it for one more minute. I thought about the upcoming night with a newborn and I just thought, "I can’t do this."
I sobbed. I had stopped breastfeeding that morning. I felt like maybe if I stopped nursing, the physical pain would be gone and some of the mental and emotional stress would be lifted. But I was filled with guilt. I thought, this is my ONE job as a woman: feed my baby. And I just can’t.
Any reason or logical sense I had couldn’t