My Postpartum Experience with Cameron (Part 2!)

Over the summer, I recounted my experience with Postpartum Depression after the birth of Keegan in 2013. I am inspired to share more on the resources that helped pull me out of the deepest, darkest depths, now that I have navigated a much lighter experience after the birth of Cam, our second son.

Additionally,  I am proud to be joining the 19th annual Postpartum Support Charleston Moms’ Run 5K on May 7th 2022 (just two days after World Maternal Mental Health Day)The annual race is in memory of Ruth Rhoden Craven. Known as a vibrant, stable and vivacious young woman, Ruth suffered from postpartum depression after her son was born -- two months after his birth on December 5, 1999, she succumbed and took her own life. More than 20 years later, suicide is still the second leading cause of death for postpartum women. 

My Path to Healing 

Ruth's experience especially hits home for me. Pairing motherhood with building a business, in particular, was not easy for me. Getting to where I am now has been an achievement, but I weathered an exhausting journey as a new mother suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety.  As I mentioned in the first blog post, I began to pull myself out of the darkness when I opened up to Keith about my struggles, and found a wonderful therapist who specialized in PPD and we met weekly to work through everything. It was so necessary to speak and know that I was not alone, what I was feeling was an actual diagnosis and many women are suffering with it. 

That is why this is my greatest piece of advice: Please know you are not alone, and speak to whomever you trust about how you are feeling. So many professionals are now highly aware of PPD's prevalence, and I feel the rise of social media has helped normalized it as well. It is a horrible disorder that sneaks up on you and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

It's All A Journey, There Is No "Destination"

The healing came also when I began throwing myself into the creation of White Leaf in 2014. My struggles with breastfeeding led me down the rabbit hole of what was my next best option, coupled with my awareness of Biodynamic Demeter standards from Europe and not seeing that level in the US.  Once we transitioned Keegan to biodynamic products, I realized that not only was I not alone with my PPD diagnosis, but that other families were probably struggling to find pure products like we had been. This lit a flame within me and jumpstarted White Leaf, which has been non-stop since. 

Of course, as is the nature of life, our challenges did not simply just stop there. I really feel that my past trauma with Keegan, from a very difficult birth experience to the almost year long battle with PPD, made it so that I subconsciously was terrified to have another baby. This most likely contributed to our inability to conceive in the years that followed (see more on *that* experience, in this blog post on second term infertility). It made sense. Who would want to repeat that level of emotional distress?

The Many Ups + Downs of Preparing for Baby #2 

Once I began speaking up to Keith about my concerns of suffering from PPD again should we have another baby, he calmly mentioned that he expected that it would be different… that he would be actively present this time and that we know what to look for.  We were finally able to get pregnant again once I had fully metabolized this, and I believe, found the faith again that I could withstand another miscarriage, birth, and/or bout of PPD.

Indeed, my second go-around has been incredibly better, though of course, still imperfect. I went through a period of being petrified that history would repeated itself. Then, I went through a period of sheer fear that there could not be a way that I could split the love between the two, especially given that Keegan has been our only child for so long (which, now I look back, and think perhaps this was my PPD masquerading as well as some anxiety around that sentiment). I felt on "high alert" so to speak, looking for any issues that could arise.

The Difference Community Makes

However, overall, I have been blessed with a positive experience. My previous time in therapy provided me with inner resources to assist in understanding the triggers to look for. In the 8 years that had passed, the conversation and awareness around PPD has also been so prevalent that I now have had not only my OBGYN, but the lactation consultant, the doulas, the pediatricians and the nurses screening me every time I see them with a questionnaire.  It is so amazing to see the awareness around this affliction.

The most important factor was that I was not alone this time around. From Keith to my parents gifted us a postpartum doula to offset the first 5 weeks home with a newborn to my dear friends, everyone has played a part in my success this time around. With Keegan, I was alone a lot. With Cam, I had:

- Dawn, (@compassionatecaredoula) the most helpful postpartum doula, provide me with assistance with a newborn and provide me companionship when I needed it most. 

- I had Keith at home now, not heading to work offsite anymore.

- My dear friends were always around, helping with tasks, setting up meal trains with other friends always popping by, and more importantly, people were around to assist emotionally, which I feel a lot of new moms aren't getting.  

-  I worked with an amazing lactation consultant this second time and she showed me how to pump effectively and efficiently where my struggles with breastfeeding were alleviated.  With my schedule with work and wanting to be there for Keegan, this worked the best for the entire family.  

All in all, being around such a village truly helped this time around.  I also was able to look back on my previous experience with clarity to see what could've triggered my PPD... and it was the above mentioned lack of emotional support, companionship, and the pressure to be the perfect mom.
Life tends to make a lot of sense in hindsight. I am so grateful for this second chance at being a new mom, and please know that whatever you may be going through, I have a feeling you're do great. I have learned time again that we do the very best we can -- and when we know better, we do better. 
xx Meghan
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