Unexpected Overwhelm after Weaning
The early days of motherhood were admittedly a bit of a blur. The rapid 4-hour active labor, the 3rd degree tear, the hemorrhaging, and of course, the fluctuating hormones, did not make sleep come easy. To top everything off, my son was born with a tongue tie and was losing weight fast.
Over the next 12 months of his life, I meticulously measured every ounce of breastmilk. I stood over and managed every scoop of formula a caregiver fed him. I kept charts and I met with lactation consultants. I attended several groups throughout the area and went to every meetup imaginable. I purchased every product and gadget.
My desire to breastfeed my son became almost obsessive. That should have probably been my first sign that all was not right but it brought me great relief that in all that was unpredictable and uncontrollable, how my son was fed was in control.
Or so I thought...
By four months, my son was eager to try solids. He would reach for just about anything I was eating eating and was mouthing anything he could reach. By 9 months, my son strongly favored solids over milk. While I stretched our breastfeeding relationship as far as I could, shortly after his first birthday we nursed for the last time as he drifted off to sleep.
Then, without warning, I started slipping down a dark spiral
Shortly after weaning, I began to have a short fuse over just about everything. At first I thought it was just the mounting stress of raising a toddler, working full-time in a competitive field and trying to be a loving wife.
Then “the weepies” came on and they came on strong. Everything made me cry. I was so sensitive to everything anyone said.
Next came the anxiety and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was so debilitating. There were mornings that turned into afternoons when I never got out of my pajamas. On a good day, I could manage the numerous panic attacks I was experiencing with deep breathing. On a bad day, I had to rely on a prescription that often had me struggling to get out of bed.
Despite every article, every group and every piece of advice about breastfeeding that I had consumed, never did I know I’d be faced with an even more dangerous set of challenges after weaning.
That’s when I knew I needed to get help.
Enter Labor of Love Birth Services bi-monthly Postpartum Support Group.
I first met Staci Berry through my Bradley Method instructor. She came over to my house about a week after my son had his tongue-tie clipped to provide a lactation consultation. We kept in touch via social media and I followed her journey as she expanded her business offerings and opened the Village.
The Village offers a wide range of workshops, support groups & events for expecting moms, new moms and moms of all ages. Every other week, the Village hosts a free Postpartum Support Group for all moms in need of a little extra support.
The group is led by the very talented Marissa Zwetow, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in perinatal mood disorders and has endured the struggles herself. Through talk therapy and mental exercises, new mothers and seasoned mothers alike are given the tools they need to cope with the ever-changing stages of motherhood.
At my very first meeting, I was provided with validation for my feelings of anxiety and learned that the onset of perinatal mood disorders post-weaning are common, yet often misunderstood by many general practitioners and obstetricians.
In fact, Catherine Pearson of the Huffington Post reported:
In recent years, public health professionals, researchers and the media have bestowed greater attention upon postpartum depression, broadly defined as depression that begins within the first year or so after a woman gives birth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now tracks it, and recent estimates suggest that anywhere between 9.8 and 21.3 percent of mothers in the U.S. report regular, postpartum depressive symptoms.
But the frequency with which women experience depressive episodes when weaning their babies is far less understood. Researchers have yet to examine the connection between weaning and depression in depth.
This stunning revelation brought a lot of clarity to me as I began to understand how my body was reacting to changes incurred while weaning.
While my postpartum journey is nowhere near complete, this group has given me something to look forward to every other week. Knowing that I am not alone and that there are others who have struggled and overcome has given me courage to seek help. It’s also helped me find strength in a time of great vulnerability.
If you or someone you know isn’t feeling themselves, needs some extra tools in their mom toolkit or just needs to vent about the everyday challenges parenthood brings, I highly encourage you to join us. Together, we can get through this.
See below for more information about postpartum depression and perinatal mood disorders: