Some call it the baby blues and some call it postpartum depression, but there are a range of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders that can affect mothers. Click below for stories told by six Shasta County moms. Their honest stories don't sugarcoat motherhood. Instead, they share their hardships -- during and after pregnancy -- and how they found support and joy in motherhood.

Amber Keegan   Amber Poeschel   Amy Ross   Elisa Knopf   Stacey Finkle

 

Shannon Brown: A Snapshot of Posie

“I am Shannon Brown. I am a mom of three. _DSC8244

I got pregnant fairly quickly after my first … about 9 months. One morning in my second trimester, I woke up and I was bleeding a little bit. I called the doctor and was seen. I was told that my cervix was closed and the bleeding had stopped, but the doctor wanted to see me for weekly ultrasounds.

With my first child, I loved ultrasounds and I couldn’t get enough pictures. But with my second, I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do with all of the pictures because we were moving from Guam to California to be closer to my in-laws. I didn’t want to pack more than necessary. As I was getting ready to throw away some of the pictures, I thought, What if these are the only photos you ever have of your kid?  At that age, babies are just a little blip on the sonogram, but I just felt very strongly that I needed to keep the pictures. I am so glad that I listened to that gut instinct.

By December, I was almost in my third trimester. Everything looked good, so the doctors cleared me for the big, cross-cultural move from the Islands to California. In the chaos of the move—somewhere between when we left Guam and when we arrived here—my daughter stopped moving in my stomach. I was tired, I was chasing after a one-and-a-half-year-old, and we were jetlagged. I thought that maybe I was sleeping through the movements.”

 


 

Hope with a New Primary

_DSC7858“During the move, my prescription for hyperemesis (severe nausea and vomiting) ran out and it got to the point where I could not keep any food down. We hadn’t found a new primary doctor in California yet, so we went to the ER at Mercy Medical Center. I received a new prescription, and then the staff used a fetal Doppler to make sure everything else was okay. They found my heartbeat, but only my heartbeat. Right then, my heart sunk. Then, after an ultrasound, they told us there was no heartbeat. They called it fetal demise. They explained that sometimes the heart just stops beating, and that she was gone. It did not really sink in at first. Then, suddenly, it was devastating. We just left our home, our lives, everything. We were in a new place, in a new country, and then this happens.

I had heard stories like mine where a doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat, but then a week later it was discovered again. After the doctors left and gave us a moment to process everything, I told my husband that I didn’t want to do anything until we had given this our fighting best. He agreed.

The staff heard that we wanted to pray over this situation and wait for a miracle, so they ran my blood tests and said that I was cleared to wait a week. Dr. Kang provided so much hope without false promises. It was a tough balance, but she did it. In that moment, she became my primary.”

 


 

Praying for a Miracle

Shrine to Posie

“We went home and we prayed. My body was holding onto my baby. My body was not rejecting her. I think that was the hardest part. With miscarriages, you bleed, your body is rejecting. My body was trying to keep this baby alive, but she was gone. It was not the outcome we wanted, and we took the time to grieve. I will never regret taking that time. 

We gave birth to this really tiny, beautiful girl. We named her Posie. She was too small. She was not ready for the world. When I saw her, when I held her, I knew I could not fight for her any longer. I had done the best that I could. We had some time with her before they took her away. They let us take photos. They let us hold her. They let us make memories with her.”

 


 

Treatment for Hearts and Hormones

“After Posie, I was deep in it because I was dealing with grief, and I was also dealing with postpartum hormones that were all out of whack. I often wondered what was what.

_DSC8184I started experiencing anxiety, and I had trouble breathing and sleeping. My doctor prescribed medication to stabilize me, so I could function and not be this sleepless, hyperventilating mess. She told me that sometimes our bodies need help, and that’s OK. Even though I would never judge a postpartum mom for going on medicine, when it came to me, I judged myself for not handling it on my own. You know, when you watch someone else go through something difficult, you have a lot of grace for them … but we are always our harshest critics. When I compared myself to others who appeared to have it all, I couldn’t understand why I was struggling so much. I felt shame that I couldn’t get it together. But, I finally realized that it was exhausting me. I was too tired to fight it on my own anymore. Medicine allowed me to have some space from the situation, so I was able to just do life.

My doctor referred me to a counseling center, who I started meeting with weekly. I also joined a Facebook group for women with shared experiences. And, I had a friend who had suffered a loss of her own. She was a great comfort. I built a small community of people that were willing to just sit with me in my pain and not try to fix it. I think that was the best medicine for my heart.”

 


 

Finding Community

“I remained on anxiety medicine until I got pregnant again. My rainbow baby has been such a comfort. She does not replace Posie, but she has brought so much healing to me and my family.

_DSC7915I still have my good days and my bad days, though I’m aware that in order to say healthy for my family, I need to ask for help. When you seek help, you cannot be a failure. It is a lie or misconception that seeking help is for failures. It is not. It is quite the opposite. Seeking help is your biggest strength because you realize that you cannot do it alone. We really are not meant to do it alone. We are not meant to deal with trauma alone. We are not meant to deal with relationships alone. That is why we have communities.  That has been my biggest victory—finding friends and unexpected allies who became my biggest assets.

For people struggling—whether it be postpartum or other problems—it’s important to find a community. Or, find a person who can, when your brain is spiraling out of control, remind you of the truth. Remind you of the good things that are happening in your life. Do not get isolated. That is the easy thing to do. When all you really want to close the blinds, and hide …  you need to go against that instinct and say no, I actually need to let people in.”