October 10th is World Mental Health Day and Wooly Doodle founder Elizabeth shares her story below:
I’m no stranger to mental health challenges. Depression and anxiety have been present in my life in varying degrees for as long as I can remember. Up until the birth of our son Asher, I always managed this with exercise, therapy and at times, online shopping (gulp).
In 2015 we suffered a late term loss as a result of fatal abnormalities discovered at our 20 week ultrasound and on December 7, 2015 gave birth to our first daughter Everly Grace and then said goodbye. These were some of my darkest days and I navigated them the best way I knew how - therapy, sewing (that’s how WD started) and fixating on getting pregnant again.
On December 21, 2016 we gave birth to our son Asher and the crying began (literally, he was screaming machine from day 1). I had spent so much time focused on getting to the “finish line” and having a healthy baby that I hadn’t spent any time thinking about what it would be like post-birth, especially with a colicky baby. The days and months that followed (4 months to be exact) were filled with hours of crying. Despite our best efforts to comfort him and several doctors appointments to try to find some magic answer, the more he cried, the deeper and deeper I went into a black hole.
I finally hit rock bottom of that hole when Asher was about 2.5 months old and it resulted in me walking into our hospital ER out of absolute fear of what I was thinking and feeling (something I haven’t told many people). From there two major things helped - I began taking medication and we hired a post-partum doula to provide some assistance a couple days a week. By 4 months, Asher had learned to soothe himself and the funny and happy personality we know today began to emerge.
While life returned to a much happier state for me, I also had moments of PTSD and felt myself being very quick to anger at times - a reminder that my mental health struggles can come and go and the importance of recognizing the signs and triggers.
Deciding to grow our family was an incredibly difficult decision. We both knew we wanted two kids but I admittedly didn’t know if mentally I was strong enough to handle it (note: I struggled with writing that sentence because of extreme mom guilt. I froze trying to find another way to phrase this so I wouldn’t feel like such a shit mom but it’s the truth - I didn’t know if I could mentally handle the newborn stage again. Not because I don’t have love for another child but because I know what triggers are and sleep deprivation and excessive crying are way up there on the list).
Despite this self-doubt and fear, we decided to start trying. We conceived again in May of 2019 and had a miscarriage that July on my birthday. I told myself I had it in me to try one more time and if we didn’t have a successful pregnancy, that was is. I couldn’t face another loss. We got pregnant again in December of 2019 and gave birth to our daughter Clarke in August of this year.
I went into this birth knowing I was at very high risk of PPD/PPA given my history and the added bonus of living in a global pandemic and the extra anxiety that tossed onto my plate. I wanted to hope for the best but plan for the worst and so I booked a phone appointment with my doctor to start my medication again (I stopped taking it when we started trying to conceive) as soon as Clarke was born - literally, I was on the phone with her getting my prescription written as I was being induced because little miss was early!
The first two weeks with Clarke were completely different than with Asher - all she did was sleep, eat and poop like most newborns tend to do. After those weeks, the crying, fussiness and difficulty sleeping began much like it did with her brother. I had a few weeks where I spiralled and went back to that dark place and just assumed history was repeating itself but the truth is Clarke is a different baby and I’m a different person now too. I am much more in tune with myself and when I need to ask for help and while Clarke does enjoy fighting sleep during the day like it’s her job, I’ve learned what works and we take many carrier walks together (hey - I’m getting those steps in).
Nothing about this is easy. I take my medication daily, I have days where I just want to cry and days where I resent my husband deeply for being able to walk out the door and go to work. Most days I feel some degree of mom guilt or failure or like I’m broken, especially when I see people who make it look so easy. But I’ve also learned to open up about what I’m feeling and in doing so I’ve learned that I am definitely not alone.
So, today on World Mental Health Day I wanted to share my story. I am by no means fixed and I know my story will continue long past this newborn stage but if there’s anything I can leave you with if you too have or are struggling it’s this:
- Talk to someone. It doesn’t have to be publicly on social media, it can be a friend, your spouse, a professional. It’s ok to not be ok and the scariest and most damaging thing you can do is keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself. Find an ally and begin your conversation.
- Know that joy and struggle can co-exist. Being a mom and starting our family has resulted in the highest highs and the lowest lows. When you’re in those lows, be kind to yourself. Mom guilt is no joke but YOU 👏🏼ARE 👏🏼A 👏🏼GOOD 👏🏼MOM.
- Ask for help. It really does take a village. We have been fortunate to hire Emily, the same postpartum doula we had with Asher, a couple times a week so I can spend a few hours at the office. There is so much pressure on us to do it all and the reality is sometimes we need that village to step in to help us be the best moms possible.
- Know that this season will pass. I used to hate it when people would talk to me about seasons as it relates to babies and kids but it is actually so true. When you are IN IT it’s hard to imagine life being any other way but every stage of parenting is so temporary. Right now my husband and I barely see each other. We split the night into two shifts and communicate by text message from separate rooms after 9pm. It sucks and I miss him and we are dreadfully tired but every night when we trade off there’s an unspoken look of “this too shall pass” and it will. It doesn’t mean another exhausting and trying stage won’t soon follow but the one you’re in right now - it’s temporary, love.
Sometimes I wish I wasn’t this way and that I didn’t have to experience these mental health struggles but I also know that some of the greatest joys in my life (this business included) are a result of those struggles.
I’m not here to tell you it’ll all be ok. I’m not here to tell you that my path should be your path but I am HERE. Here to talk, here to listen and here to share.