BIO: Jen Schwartz, expert postpartum depression survivor and real, bad-ass mom is the co-founder of The #MomsWhoMeToo – Empathy Gone Viral Platform and the creator of the blog, The Medicated Mommy. She is on a mission to empower moms everywhere to accept themselves as they are, let go of the “shoulds” and share the uglier sides of motherhood so other moms can feel less alone. She’s revolutionizing the conversation about the mom experience by coming from a place of much needed empathy, authenticity, and sisterhood and asking every mom out there to join her. Follow the movement on Instagram and Facebook and show your support by posting a #momswhometoo photo on your own Instagram and Facebook. Jen is a published author, influencer at the women’s online platform, Mogul and contributor at HuffPost, The Mighty, Thrive Global and Motherlucker. Her writing and commentary have been featured all over the mommy blogosphere at top websites such as PopSugar Moms, Scary Mommy, CafeMom, Mamalode and more. Jen is a New Yorker living in Charlotte, NC with her husband, four-year old son, and dog, Harry Potter.
Hi, I’m Jen Schwartz and while I’m not a medical professional, I consider myself an expert postpartum depression survivor. I know what it’s like to feel as if something is terribly wrong with you when you don’t experience those immediate feelings of joy and bliss after the birth of your baby. When its seems as if motherhood comes naturally to every other mom but you. When every mom you know is madly in love with her child, but for some reason you can’t stop crying or maybe it’s the opposite: you feel nothing at all. You’re miserable, crippled by anxiety, have zero interest in that adorable little baby in the next room and declare that you’re never leaving the house ever again. You feel like a failure, a horrible mother, and completely alone. That you are the only one living this personal hell during what you believed would be the most magical time of your life and you will never, ever get better. I’m here to promise you, there is nothing wrong with you, you’re not a failure or a horrible mother, you’re not alone, and you can get better. I did…
Here I am, a few years after kicking postpartum depression’s ass, sharing my journey with all of you because I want to make yours less painful and more authentic. I want to keep speaking out to help you find the courage to do the same. I won’t stop speaking out until the stigma surrounding these taboo subjects of motherhood are destroyed and no mom feels she has to suffer alone and in silence.
When I became pregnant with my son, I had dreams of becoming the perfect and perfectly happy mother who immediately fell in love with her son and motherhood after he was born. I would be a domestic goddess, breastfeeding champion, and want to spend every waking minute with my new baby, taking him everywhere with me, especially to mommy and me classes. What happened instead was that on the second day home from the hospital, I started thinking about getting hurt or injured so I could return to the hospital where everyone would take care of me and I wouldn’t be responsible for taking care of a baby. I couldn’t stop the tears, calm the anxiety, or get out of bed. I quit breastfeeding, switched exclusively to formula, and barely left the house for six months.
I was lucky that both my husband and mom quickly noticed something was wrong. My mom would tell you she knew something was off because all of a sudden the light went out from my eyes and I resembled a ghost of my former self. When she approached me, I broke down in tears, sobbing about how I made a terrible mistake becoming a mom and I couldn’t understand why I was failing at something I thought every other mom was so good at. I had no idea what was wrong with me.
The fairy tale of motherhood I sold myself (thank you Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest) became one scary nightmare as I was quickly diagnosed with postpartum depression, thanks to finding the right therapist who specialized in my illness. After weeks of therapy, I slowly began to accept my illness and begrudgingly gave up my dream to be Pinterest’s mom of the year. Instead, I became the mom who quit breastfeeding after five days, had to take an antidepressant each morning, avoided all mommy and me classes, and walked laps around my neighborhood in pajamas while ugly-crying on the phone to my mom that I would never get better. I refused to believe my mom or therapist when they promised me I would get better.
During my year-long battle with postpartum depression, I had good days and bad days. One day I would be able meet a mom friend while we walked our babies around the park and other days, I couldn’t do more than get out of bed, change from the sweatpants I slept in to new sweatpants, and get back in bed again. I constantly felt frustrated and defeated. But slowly, I started to have more good days. I remember the first bath I willingly gave my son at four months, the first date night I went on with my husband at five months, the first hot yoga class I went to at six months, and the first photo I truly wasn’t faking a smile in at seven months. By a year, I finally felt like myself again and that I had won, something I was only able to do because I was armed with the right tools and support.
With the right combination of medication, weekly appointments with a therapist who specialized in postpartum mood disorders, and check-ins with a psychiatrist, I finally did get better, started smiling again, fell in love with my son, and rediscovered myself in the process. I found tremendous inner strength and learned the importance of accepting myself as the mom I am (one who pops an antidepressant every morning and hates mommy and me classes), not the mom I thought I was supposed to be (domestic goddess and Pinterest’s mom of the year). I not only fell in love with my son, but I fell in love with myself, just as I was.
What I realized when I got better was that I had become so obsessed with the mom I thought I should be that I never stopped to understand she didn’t actually exist. I was so focused on everything I thought I should be, that when motherhood didn’t fit those unrealistic expectations I put on myself, my body went into shock and I physically got sick.
I think so much of getting sick had to do with people never talking about the ugly and messy parts of motherhood. I was completely clueless about postpartum depression when I was pregnant. No one educated me about the risk factors, which I ended up having many of. I had no idea that 1 in 7 women experience some form of postpartum depression each year, which equates to hundreds of thousands of new moms. I thought it was just me! I didn’t ever think something like that could happen to me, but it did and now I am actually grateful for it and all I have learned about myself and being a mom, including the importance of making my needs, health, and happiness a priority.
The reality of being a mom is that not all of us bond with our babies right away. Some of us will love breastfeeding and others will go the formula route. Some of us will get sick and need medicine. Some of us will hate mommy and me classes and only attend playdates that come with a bottle of wine. Sometimes we might be found hiding out in our closets sobbing over a martini and pint of ice cream. The point is, we are all different and will all struggle and that’s okay. I wish someone was that real with me when I was pregnant. I wish I saw more of that on social media. The moms who pretend everything is amazing all the time are full of shit and ruin it for the rest of us. I know that now. I’ve chosen to own my illness and who I am as a mom, without guilt and without apology. I am enough. Actually, I am pretty badass for fighting my illness, finding my authenticity, and letting go of all those “shoulds.” I want to make it easier for you to do the same without the fear of being judged. There is no room for mom-shaming here.
Forget about the mom you think you should be. Tell all those “shoulds” to go fuck off! The mom you are is amazing and she is enough. I bet she’s pretty badass too!
MORE FUN FACTS ABOUT ME
- I like to say I kicked postpartum depression’s ass! (And I’ll tell you anything you want to know.)
- I believe in happy mom equals happy everyone.
- I believe in making self-care and girls’ nights out a priority.
- I don’t believe in pretending unless I’m ordered to by my child.
- I’m a medicated mommy (thanks PPD) and I’m not ashamed.
- I hated breastfeeding. (I quit after five days & I don’t give a fuck if you judge me). Fed is best.
- I don’t judge. Life is hard enough and motherhood is even harder.
- I’m more of a type A-/B+ personality, according to my therapist.
- I don’t feel guilty saying no to things. My time is valuable and limited. I’m a mom!
- I’m not the do-it-yourselfer mom I dreamed of being when I got pregnant.
- I prefer small group activities.
- I don’t buy everything organic.
- I’m a stay at home mom (SAHM) with a part-time nanny.
- I don’t know how I would feed my son dinner without the microwave.
- I let my son watch TV…lots of TV.
- I suck at crafting.
- I drink too much wine.
- I curse too much.
- I’m a professional TV binge watcher.
- I won’t be having any more children. (One and Done-er)
- I’m a New Yorker living in Charlotte, NC with my husband, four-year old son, and dog, Harry Potter and compensate for living in a house of all boys by planning lots of girl time.
- I refuse to apologize for any of this, ever!