How Postpartum is Going This Time Around

My Postpartum History

I’ve had a lot of family and friends checking in on me since sweet Zelie was born. It’s been so nice, and it’s something I try my best to do when my friends and family have a baby as well.

This is because of my history with postpartum depression and anxiety, which I first identified after August (our second) was born, and when things were pretty severe. I’ve chronicled a bit of my postpartum experiences here.

So now, with our 4th baby clocking in at 5.5 months old, I think I can say with confidence that this has been my best posptartum ever.


Hooray!!! And, indeed, I think this is something worth celebrating. But the reason it has been my best postpartum isn’t because I haven’t dealt with any issues, but it’s because I feel like I knew what supports I would need and prioritized putting things into place ahead of time so I had the best chance possible of being a happy momma with my new baby.


I very much believe that mental health is really important for moms to consider and to talk about when preparing for and living in the postpartum days.

However, I would never presume that what has worked for me will work for all moms, or even another mom. What I do hope is to share one example of one mother’s journey towards taking care of her mental health during her postpartum period. And in this way, to provide an encouraging example of someone who lived through postpartum depression and anxiety, who came out the other side, and who was able to successfully manage postpartum with future children.

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Photo Credit: vJoy Photography

My Strategy

This pregnancy was definitely my hardest both physically and mentally. I had nausea for the entire 9 months, to the point that I took medication for it each time I ate a meal. Feeling so much discomfort inside my own body, and for so long, definitely started to take its toll. I was feeling pretty sad, and found myself just going away to break down and cry sometimes. So, during my third trimester, I communicated with my midwife team, and we started me on a low dose of an antidepressant (sertraline). And…it helped me get through the rest of the pregnancy in a healthier mental state.


Once Zelie was born, we planned on me increasing my dose of sertraline from 25 mgs to 50 mgs. This is due to my strong history of postpartum anxiety and the fact that I decided I’d just rather be happy and able to enjoy my time with my baby instead of waiting to spiral into anxiety and only then getting help. I’m quite sure my postpartum struggles have a large chemical/hormonal component, and I can confidently say that with sertraline’s help, I enjoyed the newborn weeks with Zelie. It is a lovely, exhausting blur, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed or unable to function. I usually stay on an antidepressant postpartum for about 6 months, and then taper off.


I have had some anxiety this time around even with our good preparations. The biggest spike was when I returned to my day job half time, and transitioned to the change in pace and leaving Zelie with a babysitter. During those times I worked really hard to communicate with JP what I was feeling, and also to keep in mind that this spike was likely due to the transition, and would not last forever. And we did fall into a new rhythm after a few weeks.

Postpartum Doula

This required some advance budgeting on our part, but we again utilized a postpartum doula to help with the first weeks after JP went back to work. Ashleigh at Guiding Mothers, who we also had help us after Mary was born, joined us again. And, like the Mary Poppins she is, she helped care for Zelie so I could do some self-care. She also cooked bulk freezer meals for us, helped with laundry and tidying up, joined me on errands, and provided much needed emotional support. It was so nice to know I had that break and that help coming as we transitioned to having 4 children.


Doing a 20 minute work-out about every other day helps boost my mood, so making that a priority and having JP or the other kids help with the baby while I do it also is something very important that I prioritize to take care of myself.


Whether it’s a trip to Starbucks to work on writing, reading a book, taking a bath, etc. When I need a break, I let my family know and I take a break. I don’t feel guilty about it, because a mom who has time to recharge her batteries is a better mom for her kids, at least in my case. Sometimes it’s funny how even a short period of time of knowing I’m going to be uninterrupted and do something I specifically enjoy, can have a long lasting impact.


I know this is an area that divides many a parent and expert alike. However, I’ve found that I am in a better mood when I sleep better, and sleeping better, for me, means sleeping next to my child so I can easily nurse her in the night and so we both drift back off to sleep. For Zelie’s first 5 months, we’ve slept on a firm mattress on the floor in our bedroom, without any heavy blankets. I sleep in what’s known as the “C” position with her, which both protects her and makes nursing easy. I’m cozy, she’s cozy, and we both wake up less and to a lesser extent than we did when I slept separately with Felicity. I’ve co-slept to some degree with my youngest three children. Others I know have used co-sleepers next to the bed, or the pack-n-play with a bassinet attachment. We’ve used some of these too as we transition the babies to sleeping alone over time, but co-sleeping for the first few months has helped me.

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Photo Credit: vJoy Photography


Overall, I’m very thankful for the relatively few bumps we’ve had along this postpartum journey. I’m thankful for the friends and family who have been checking in, and for our family’s commitment to being proactive so I could really be present as we welcomed Zelie into our family.


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Strong But Not Superhuman

The Swells and Crests of Life

We had a period of time this fall into early winter where things were relatively calm. I remember thinking to myself during that time, Remember to appreciate this. Be thankful for this.

Because I’ve been around at least long enough to know that life comes in seasons, in swells and crests, and that something would come to stir up our temporarily calm seas.

Mary was in the hospital for two nights just before Christmas, and RSV spread through the rest of the family for most of Christmas break.

Then, in January we caught our breath.

In February, we lost my aunt to suicide, and we are still recovering from that loss. The pain continues to come in waves. There are good days, and there are difficult days. The air leaves my chest and my stomach sinks every time I go in the basement and see a pile of boxes there. All her stuff. Filled with clothes and baking supplies and art that I have no idea what to do with and no clue if or when or how I will be ready to see it, to touch it, to use it again.

Coming to terms with the pain she felt, our own powerlessness to do anything to change it, and the hope that my prayers can help her still all make for a complicated mix of emotions. I can’t control when the grief hits. And when it does, it isn’t always convenient.

And it just seems like right now there is an abundance of regular but personal and professional business that make finding balance more tricky than it is at other times. I’ve wanted to have time to write more on the blog, but it’s been difficult to find the words to say amidst all the sadness.

I’m struggling with knowing the best direction to take my novel, and in discerning if it’s time to let it rest for a bit and start something new. It’s tough for me to leave a thing unfinished, in any area of life. And it’s also tough for me when there is no clear end point. I can’t say for certain when it will be ‘done.’

We are making some positive, needed, good changes, like moving to a bigger home to account for the growing number of people in our family. I’ve started being asked to speak even in different states, which is super cool and exciting.

Managing Self-Care

But compartmentalizing is tricky for me. It’s tough for me to keep everything in it’s own separate baskets in my mind and things tend to spill over. Today, I wrote an outline for myself to make sure I’m managing my self-care. Blocking time to write, to read, to exercise, to sleep. To make sure I respect the rhythm of my own body and the way God has made me. I recharge my batteries by having time alone. By writing. By reading. And by prayer. If I don’t make it a priority, then I can go too long without making it happen, get caught up in the current, and I start to feel anxious.It was good to take time to actually write out those priorities.  And it’s amazing what a quiet hour by myself can do for my peace of mind and ability to be present for my family.

The long and short of it is, I need to remember to give myself a break! I can’t be All The Things All The Time to All The People. I can’t read an article while Mary is crawling on my lap. I can, however, set aside time specifically for Mary crawling on my lap and other kid related endeavors, and also set aside different time to read that article.

I am strong, but I am not a superhero. And I think consistently trying to do more than one thing well at one time is a way to drain this momma fast.

If I need some time to grieve, I need to take some time to grieve. Not grieve AND feed the kids dinner. Not grieve AND coach a teacher. I need to open up time to just let myself grieve, at least at some point during that day. And respect it. Likewise, I can’t write a super cool blog post AND interact with my kids (with any level of patience). I can work on house hunting/building stuff, but not at the same time as I pack my lunch.

It sounds so simple, but it is something I try and do so often! Not only am I going to do this one thing, but I’m going to do more than most other normal people and try and do more than one thing at the same time and then take pride in the fact that I am able to be so productive and efficient!

But at the end of the day, I just make myself tired.

So this is a good, recurring lesson for me. We won’t ever be able to finish All The Things when all is said and done. And learning to let myself take a slower pace, or set something aside for a while will only help maintain some much-needed balance. During the times when the seas are calm, but also when they are rougher too.


What helps you keep balance when things get busy? Have you had seasons of your life where you learned new ways to keep a healthy perspective?

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The Invisible Struggle: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, Then and Now

One of the biggest things I’ve learned through my own journeys through postpartum depression and anxiety is how good we humans can be at looking like we are okay. That’s partly why if I know you, and you have had a baby recently, there’s a good chance I will do my best to check in and ask you how you are doing. And, based on my own history, I might ask you more than once to make sure things haven’t changed, or to give you another chance to tell someone if something is wrong and you’ve still been keeping it to yourself. And if I’ve missed any of my friends because you seemed to be doing fine, I’m sorry. I know better.

And that’s also why I feel it’s important for me to be honest about my own experiences. I hope that women will be able to talk about postpartum issues easily and without shame and get the help that they need before things get too serious.

You see, this isn’t my first time at the postpartum depression/anxiety rodeo. But, there are some very significant differences in how things are going for me this time, versus how they went for me before.

The first time I had significant postpartum issues that required intervention was after the birth of our son, August. The second, right now, after the birth of our little Mary.


I stayed silent. Even after I knew something was terribly wrong, I kept it inside for weeks.


I started seeing a psychologist 2 months prior to Mary’s birth. She taught me strategies for dealing with depressive feelings and anxiety that I could later put to use if needed. I knew I had a significantly higher risk of dealing with depression/anxiety this time because I had experienced it before. I didn’t want to be silent if it happened again.


Postpartum anxiety and depression hit me like a freight train. I was having panic attacks, which I had never experienced before. I was driving erratically.I felt like I was stuck behind a wall and couldn’t access my own life. I was spending time thinking about the least traumatic ways to make myself disappear. All very abnormal for me, and all very scary. And I didn’t see it coming.


We knew exactly what to look for, and didn’t take it lightly. JP and I monitored my mental state regularly after the baby’s birth. I kept my counselor updated. I was honest. When, early on, I had some depression, and now, when I’m still dealing with anxiety, the conversation had already been started.


My treatment plan included me needing to take Zoloft for approximately 6 months. I also did every. single. thing. that I was told would help me recover. I saw a counselor, I exercised, I made myself shower, I started eating right, I let family help. Looking back, I don’t think if it were up to me doing it for myself, that I would have had the strength to do what I needed to do to heal. But as I read about depression, I learned about the effects of a depressed parent on her children. And so I took the medication for their sake. I did what I was supposed to do to recover for their sake. And, after a few weeks, little bits of my normal self began to peek through.


My treatment plan started before Mary’s birth with developing a relationship with my psychologist. I still see her regularly. I also began implementing all the things I learned the first time around, and the new tools I’d acquired as early as I could. I’m using a light therapy box and taking extra vitamins. Once I was cleared to exercise, I started to exercise. I journaled so I could track my mood and anxiety levels right from the get-go. We hired a postpartum doula to help with cooking, cleaning, laundry, and baby care. My mom comes to help for 3 days every other week. And when I started having symptoms, I put into place the strategies I learned from counseling. I wasn’t hit by a freight train this time around. I knew what to do, and was already getting the support I would need. So, overall, things have been less scary and less severe.


I considered myself fully recovered by the time my son was 7 months old. I put a lot of hard work into that recovery. And, thankfully, postpartum depression and anxiety is not a chronic issue. It might be reoccuring, depending on whether or not we have any more children, but it is not something you live with forever. And I held on to that hope that first, long, dark time through. Thankfully, it was true. I was totally back to my normal, functioning self. Morning had broken.


I don’t know how long I have until I will be fully recovered. I’m hopeful that based on the timing of my recovery the first time, that my body chemistry will level itself out by mid-summer, maybe sooner, especially with all I’m doing to help the healing process. I’m managing right now without medication, but I’m needing to keep things really simple. I know from experience that if I try and do too much on a given day, my anxiety will be worse. I know if I don’t get enough sleep, or can’t make up sleep with a nap my anxiety will be worse. I know if I don’t exercise, it will be worse. And, because of how I’ve been able to manage my symptoms much more effectively this time around with this treatment plan, and because we know that pace of life is a huge contributing factor in how well I do on a given day, we’ve had to make a difficult decision to extend my leave from work while I make sure I continue to recover well. This time I’m able to know that I want to recover fully and as soon as possible not only for my children, but also, for myself.

Beyond The Surface

Having postpartum depression and anxiety has helped me to desire to look more deeply in situations where people that might otherwise appear to be fine. We often put our best face forward for the world to see, and that best face can hide some deep pain or struggle underneath. I want to give a couple of personal examples of that, in the hopes that it can continue to remind me and others to extend compassion, and to encourage vulnerability.

Anyone who spotted me driving in the car last week with the kids would have seen what appeared to be a woman, simply driving. But they wouldn’t have known that I overscheduled myself on that day, and we were running late to get Felicity to theater class. In reality, we were going to be 2-3 minutes late. Which for normal Lorelei wouldn’t be a huge deal. But the hustle of trying to get there on time when I had attempted too much triggered my anxiety. I was working very hard to stay calm with the kids, but I assigned more blame on their lack of speed getting ready than I should have. My mind was racing as I tried to utilize the strategies I had learned to keep from panic taking over. And someone looking very closely would have noticed that as I drove, my hands were shaking.

Also this week, friends of mine on Facebook would have seen this picture of JP and I waiting for a concert to start:

Don’t we look so happy and excited?!

Cute pic. But what this picture doesn’t show is that not even ten minutes later, one of the opening acts came on, and the way the music was mixed was very heavy on the bass. It was so much bass that my insides were shaking. And my thoughts started racing… I thought the building was going to come down, or that something inside my body would stop working from all the shaking. There were people on all sides of me and I felt trapped. I tried to breathe, and tried to ground myself, and stick it out, but I just couldn’t.

None of those thoughts were rational. But that’s how anxiety works. So I used another strategy. I removed myself from the area, and sat out that act’s entire set in the concourse where the sound was much more muted. I told JP I was worried if the main act had that level of bass that I would struggle to be in there during their concert. Thankfully, their sound mix was very different and we were ok. But… the point is, that picture of me didn’t tell the whole story of the night. I didn’t put nearly running out of the area in a panic as my Facebook status for the evening.

I hope to be able to continue to be honest about what I’ve been through with others. Perhaps it will help someone feel less alone. Perhaps it will help someone make a decision to reach out. Because postpartum stuff is nothing to mess around with. Suicide is way up there with other leading causes of maternal death. But, taken seriously, it is so, so very treatable. And you totally get yourself back after you’ve done the hard work to recover, whether that be taking medication for a while, or excercising, or therapy, or any combination of the many, many tools available that help you get yourself back from the darkness.

Other Resources

Below are 3 resources I have taken advantage of at different points in my own postpartum journey, and that I found to be very helpful.

This Isn’t What I Expected. This is an amazing book that helped to normalize my experiences, and start me on the path of having tools to recover. It also has a whole chapter devoted to helping husbands know how to help their wives.

Postpartum Progress. This website contains stories from women about their postpartum experiences. It also has articles and links to resources for help.

Postpartum Support International. A hotline that connects women to resources for help.

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