Hayden Wilson is a mother, wife and artist. She owns her own small business, Singing Birds Art and creates beautiful artwork “in hopes to create happy and colorful memories.”
She has supported Postpartum Support Charleston for four years as a participant in the annual Moms’ Run event. After struggling with postpartum depression last year, she decided to reach out to see if she could do more to help. We are so thrilled at this amazing artwork she created for our 16th annual Moms’ Run event! As a survivor of ppd, Hayden wants to spread support and let women know that they are not alone. It is so important to SPEAK UP!
We could not agree more! Thank you, Hayden for sharing your journey to becoming a new mom.
Here’s a really long story full of extremely personal information. If you’re a mom, it is very likely you recognize yourself in at least one piece of this, and others may be right there with me the entire time. Either way, you know the value in sharing your story because sharing it most likely means you’re validating someone else’s experience and likely helping them. Being a part of this story means you know how to love- and more importantly, how to help- the women in your life who fit this bill. I am very fortunate that I am a healthy and happy person who has sought professional, medical, and spiritual help to be where I am; I fully acknowledge that there are far more severe cases of grief and pain that other women experience, and for them, I ache and pray.
My husband and I knew we wanted kids relatively young; his career path was long and set (four years of med school and four years of residency meant 8 total years of being poor and with no spare time—perfect time to have kids, amiright?!) I got a severe case of baby fever when my friend gave birth to the juiciest, sweetest cherub named Olive, and I went off birth control ready to make my own. We got pregnant quickly and easily, but we wouldn’t meet this baby.
Explaining the grief of miscarriage is so difficult to anyone who has not experienced it firsthand. I heard: “Well my friend Sally had a miscarriage and now she has three beautiful children,” or “It’s just not God’s timing,” and “Well Susy lost her baby at 19 weeks so at least you were only 7 weeks.” I learned the most hurtful things are said by people we love most because they don’t understand how to handle something so fragile and so invisible. There’s no funeral; no memorial; no physical acknowledgment other than the private turmoil inside your body as you cramp and bleed and cry and hurt and wonder and plea.
Six agonizing months later, I became pregnant with my now-5-year-old daughter, Ellis. I participated in Centering Pregnancy where we had in-depth group discussions that far extended “what to expect when you’re expecting.” I learned what it meant to have a doctor who advocated for me, which gave me the confidence to seek healthcare professionals for myself and my daughter who were engaging, instructive, and encouraging. Ellis’s birth was textbook. I was prepared for a baby and breastfeeding and healthy sleeping habits; our transition to parenthood was smooth and natural.
Two months after her birth, my husband graduated med school and began his residency. We bought a house, moved cities, and I quit my job to become a stay-at-home-mom. A few months later, my “other mother” passed away, and we had suddenly experienced like 5 of the most stressful life events all in the duration of Ellis’s 6-month life. I was feeling homesick, overwhelmed, overweight, friendless, and worthless. I had always been a busy worker, and not having a workplace or daily tasks that didn’t include pumping and cleaning was taking its toll. I was vocal (with my closest inner circle) about my struggles and feelings, and they came to the supportive rescue you’d expect from your loved ones. My mom encouraged me to find a gym, and a friend pushed me to open an Etsy shop to sell my art, and within six months, I was happier and healthier and made a best friend in Charleston! Whew!! Crisis averted!! Things were great and all was well! (note my obvious jinx and foreshadowing).
We decided to try expanding our family by Ellis’s third birthday, and just like the first time, getting pregnant was quick and easy. And for some reason, I just knew that meant the outcome would be the same. This one was over before week 6.
I experienced moments of intense anxiety and insecurity in addition to the grief and physical pain of miscarriage. The depression was later onset- about a month out- and I initially chalked it up to events in my personal life. I would bounce in and out of feeling completely helpless and sad to suddenly feeling completely normal. When I was in those depressive states, I felt like I was in a hole and could not climb out, even though I daily went through the routine of the waves of depression hitting and lifting, moving and rolling; every time, I felt sure that this was the hole that would bury me, and I wouldn’t see the light again. Luckily, this phase of depression only lasted a few weeks, and a healthy pregnancy was soon to follow; however, it wasn’t until months later when I saw a friend post about her experience from PPD following a miscarriage did I realize that I had likely experienced the same thing.
About a month after the very healthy and completely normal birth of my now-14-month old daughter, I felt it coming again. Even though I was in bouts of bliss and joy over our fluffy and feathered-hair Valley, my baseline mood was irritable, insecure, and anxious. I got irrationally and disproportionally tense whenever my settings were loud, chaotic, messy, or unorganized (ya know, just the natural state of motherhood). I was finding myself back in those holes, sometimes they were frequent but shallow; other times, they were deep and daunting. During my six-week postpartum visit, I told the doctor that I was only occasionally feeling kind of “funky,” and my Edinburgh score was a 10. She told me to call back if I felt any worse, and sure enough, I got home and [figuratively] fell back in the hole and called immediately. They saw me the next day and prescribed me medication after scoring a 14 on the scale.
My consultation with the nurse was the most insecure but comforting place I’d ever been. I knew I needed help; I was embarrassed but also proud. I was scared, but I was hopeful. I didn’t let anytime waste between thinking I needed help and GETTING help, and this is where my story is likely different from some survivors. I had tasted PPD and knew what it felt like; I had a certain expectation of patient/doctor communication and was never scared to ask questions or stand up for myself. I started medication and was given multiple sources of groups and therapy where I could seek help and comfort. I knew my personal history and childhood traumas were lengthy, and so I sought weekly therapy with a psychologist. My husband is a doctor; my sister suffers from anxiety. To say the very least, my support system is strong and smart, so I had no hesitation (or place to hide) when it was time to take the next step to wellness.
It is my sincere hope that women feel strong and encouraged by their doctors and their families the INSTANT they feel uneasy, and more importantly, it is absolutely vital to have strong support systems in place. Beyond your partner, beyond your mom and sister or best friend, but actual moms with whom you connect, even if it’s for a walk in the park every other Monday. Someone who normalizes poop on your shirt and peanut butter stuck to your cheek, or who says “you don’t look like you feel good,” or “how was therapy last week?” Ladies- particularly moms- get a pretty bad rap for being this judgmental obsessive beast on social media, but that cannot be further from the truth with the moms who come together in real life. I am so lucky to be a part for the Fit4Mom where I see these women multiple times a week where we share our stories and help and encourage each other through our own wellness journeys.
Ladies- tell your story, even if it is crazy long like mine. Whether it’s super trivial or grief-stricken and heavy, you never know who you may help. That doesn’t mean update your Facebook status every 10 minutes or wear a shirt every day that says “Ask me about my miscarriages,” but make connections with the women who are suffering from similar experiences. Encourage, love, and help one another. We are women and moms and we all share the unconditional love for our children and the desire to make them happy and prosperous little beings. I challenge us to extend this grace and support to our fellow moms, and most importantly, have an in-person support system that checks on you and loves you, and never be afraid to SPEAK UP!