Monica: Jen, I love the work you’re doing to give a platform for moms to voice their stories in such real, raw, and honest ways. What first inspired your work?
Jen: When I was pregnant (seven years ago), I thought motherhood was THE role I was born for. It was going to be my Cinderella moment where I fell immediately in love with my son while magically transforming into a domestic goddess, Pinterest queen, breastfeeding champion, maker of my own baby food and that mom who took her baby everywhere and told everyone this was the MOST AMAZING thing that’s ever happened to me.
What happened instead was that I was hit with severe postpartum depression the day after I got home from the hospital. I found myself quitting breastfeeding after five days, going to therapy twice a week, taking antidepressants for the first time ever, and barely leaving the house for six months unless I was forced to.
Monica: That experience must have shifted your perspective about motherhood in so many ways. What were the biggest revelations for you?
Jen: Nothing about motherhood felt amazing and I felt blindsided that I could feel anything other than love, joy, and connection for my baby.
No one talked to me about maternal mental health during my pregnancy. No one educated me about postpartum depression or any of the other types of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders,, the risk factors (I had tons of them), symptoms to look out for, and who to call for help. Because I wasn’t prepared or aware, I literally believed I was the only new mom on the planet suffering.
I had no idea that my experience was shared by hundreds of thousands of mothers each year. Had I been educated about maternal mental health, I would have known exactly what to do right away, would have gotten help sooner, gotten better faster, and would have missed fewer milestones in my son’s first year.
I didn’t want my story to be the story of any mom who came after me, which led me to the creation of Motherhood Understood, a platform and story-sharing hub dedicated to providing women with education, resources, support, and community so that no woman has to suffer from a during-pregnancy or postpartum mental health illnesses isolation and all women get the help they need to feel well.
Monica: What an amazing, beautiful way to give back to the motherhood community! How has this impacted your own view of health and happiness?
Jen: True health and happiness mean being free to be exactly who you are and getting to be part of a community that accepts you as exactly that. It also means treating yourself and your body with respect because you know you are worth it (something I still struggle with) and having non-negotiable boundaries in place that protect your energy and well-being.
At Motherhood Understood, we accept you exactly as you are. We support you exactly as you feel. You’re never alone. There is always someone who has been where you are and understands. My work has shown me the power of knowing you are not alone and that you have a community of supportive, empathetic, accepting women behind you.
The subjects we cover at Motherhood Understood can be very dark and heavy. There are so many women in our community who are carrying so much and often carrying it alone. I’m just extremely grateful to be able to offer them support and help them feel understood. And I’m also grateful for all the women I’ve connected with in this space who have become close friends and brighten my life every day.
Monica: It really takes a village to get through life, and allowing yourself to open up, share stories, and be supported. How have you found those elements to help you on your journey?
Jen: I always knew I wanted to be a writer who shared meaningful stories that others could relate to. When I became a mom with postpartum depression, it was as if the material found me. When my son was two, I started blogging as The Medicated Mommy to share my story and that snowballed into the Motherhood Understood platform and community I built and run today.
Writing my story evolved into holding space for other women to share their stories and I feel like I get to make the most meaningful impact through this work because it gives other women the courage to admit their suffering and ask for help.
The best part of helping others is receiving messages from women who say that this platform helped them realize they weren’t failing, but were suffering from anxiety or depression. It gave them the courage to speak up about it, talk to their partners about their feelings, makes that first call to the therapist and/or doctor who can help them, or take the medication they need and have been afraid or ashamed to take.
Monica: It’s incredible when you start to see why you were never really alone in the dark. How do you hope to empower more mothers as you grow your community to help them thrive?
Jen: We can’t be truly happy and healthy if we aren’t being who we truly are and this means owning our stories and feelings, especially the messy ones, especially if who we are is a new mom who is really suffering. We don’t need to sit in that suffering by pretending it doesn’t exist. We need to share it and take care of it so we can move through it and thrive, not just survive.
As women, we can’t thrive in isolation. Women need other women. We need connection, community, and to feel understood. We get this by surrounding ourselves with real women who want to talk about real things, empower us, lift us up, can handle being with us at our worst, and truly want the best for us. Women who don’t always try to give advice or one-up our struggles with theirs, but rather give a hug and an “I’m here to support you in whatever way you need to be supported.”
If this doesn’t describe the women you hang out with, maybe it’s time to find a new community of women and I promise, they are out there.
You can always come and be part of ours.
Learn more about Jen at: http://motherhood-understood.com