Our Story, by Debbie & Matt

In July of 2021, we welcomed our daughter Sadie into the world. She surprised us by coming two weeks early but apart from that, the birth was relatively complication-free (minus some high blood pressure). I (Debbie) had the typical struggles of a first-time mom, lack of sleep, learning how to breastfeed, and struggling to adjust to new rhythms of life. While it definitely felt overwhelming, there was also a lot of joy, and I was excited to be a mom. 

For the first few months, I continued to adjust to my new role as a mother, and things were going well. Throughout my adult life, I have struggled off and on with mental health, specifically anxiety, and around six months postpartum, it had started to surface again. Some physical health issues popped up, and as I was working through those, I started to have fears about something happening to me and Sadie being left without a mom. It got so bad that one night I had a panic attack that caused my body to seize up, and my husband called 911. 

That night led me to seek out help, first from my general practitioner for help managing it. I started taking anxiety medication and working with a counselor. That combination helped me to come to a more stable place. I was able to come off the medication a few months ago, and am continuing to meet with a counselor as we work through my anxiety. Both the community around us and the ways we’ve pushed ourselves in trying new things with Sadie has given us so much confidence and we’ve found so much life and joy in getting to parent her. 

The first year of motherhood can be so lonely, I want to encourage new moms to pursue community and find others to share life with. Don’t be afraid to seek out medical help or counseling!

I, (Matt) also struggled with a lot of the same things Debbie wrote about those first few weeks, lack of sleep, feeling unsure about how I was doing, maybe not breastfeeding, but you get the idea. For me, I had never really struggled with mental health in my life, so when postpartum anxiety came about a month and a half after Sadie was born, it really threw me for a loop. 

It started with feeling overwhelmed and anxious every morning, feeling a sense of sadness and even regret over what my life had become, then feeling guilty for feeling this way. I often felt afraid that this would be how I felt for the rest of my life. When I started going back to work at two months, most of those feelings intensified. I felt so overwhelmed and felt much lower capacity that I began to think I was failing everyone, failing my coworkers, failing my wife, and failing my daughter. I would wake up every morning and wonder how I was going to make it through the day. I became really emotional and would often break out into tears.

What really turned things around for me was reaching out to other men and my faith. Rather than trying to run from what I was feeling or try to muscle through it, I began to share what I was feeling with close friends and process it with them. It was especially helpful to talk to other dads and hear I wasn’t the only one going through these things. In the context of faith, getting to be open about my struggles with God was also really helpful for me. 

I don’t know if the audience for this is other men who are going through postpartum, but if there are, I would encourage them that they aren’t alone in feeling these things. Talk about it with other men. Find other dads. Getting to verbalize out what I was feeling to someone other than my wife was so helpful!!