I am honored to have talked to my dear friend, Kaela Servais, about her journey with mental health and maternity. Kaela was pregnant during covid and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Charlotte, in March of 2020. She handled a newborn and motherhood during the pandemic and her story can definitely help many new mothers going forward.
Can you share about your experience with mental health after Charlotte was born?
Of course! Thanks for asking. After having a baby and immediately going into a lockdown, the world and persona I had personally carried for so long came to an immediate stop. I had been so social and on the go most of my life, and without that option it became hard to recognize who I was or what I enjoyed anymore. I channeled all that energy into my role as a mom, and truly felt a love for my daughter I had never experienced before. What came with that immense love was the overwhelming stress and anxiety of doing the right by her, which became unbearable. I didn’t sleep...at all. It’s amazing just how dark of a place your brain can go when it doesn’t have the proper restoration and relaxation it needs to recharge.
When my daughter was four months old, I finally got a proper diagnosis of postpartum depression, ocd and anxiety. To finally have the validation that I was not crazy, and that what I had been feeling was not truly WHO I was, just what I was currently experiencing- WOW. It made me realize there would be a light at the tunnel. There are still tough days and sleepless nights, but now I can truly be present and love every moment with my precious girl.
What are some things you would want others to know about the journey into motherhood?
Oh man...There are no number of books, classes, or deep dives on the internet that will fully prepare you for motherhood. Every baby is different, and my hope for new moms is they allow themselves to find peace in the uncertainty. You were made for this. And your baby loves you for exactly who you are and the safe arms you hold them in. Please know there are people who have walked this journey before you who want you to know it will be okay, and your whole experience is valid. You can feel frustration and joy in the same moment.
Tears do not = weakness.
How can friends/family/loved ones support those experiencing postpartum depression/anxiety?
BE PROACTIVE IN SHOWING YOUR LOVE AND SUPPORT. Moms can be lonely... especially when they are facing POD/PPA and isolated with intrusive thoughts on the daily. It is hard to know where to even start to seek help. It can also feel impossible when a small human is dependent on you to remember to text someone first or reach out to friends and family. I see a lot of people comment on mom’s pages and have personally been told, “I’m here for you!” “let me know if you need anything!” and then that’s the end of it. Trust me, moms need lots of things! A nap, a shower, a solo trip to the grocery store, a coffee date with a friend, a meal they do not have to cook themselves, a date night, etc. There is so much when there is so much guilt/shame a mama feels when she has so much love for her child but still struggles with their mental health.
Now that I’ve experienced this firsthand, I’m really trying to step up and show up for moms in my community and in my life. We all need love and grace, even if we’ve “got it together”. So if there’s a mom in your life that you want to give some love to, ask them what their favorite type of pizza is and have it delivered to them on a random Tuesday night. Or ask what time you can come over for an hour to watch their kiddo so they can have a midday nap. It might be something small to you, but I promise it will make a world of a difference in their lives.
What can moms do to feel better?
Create a safe space! A small moms’ play date group, a Facebook group, church, your high school best friends- anywhere you can create a safe space to be vulnerable and also ask for help. Feeling seen, loved, and validated for how much they do and take on changes the game. Therapy is widely available now and beneficial to EVERYONE these days and I can’t recommend it enough! I also want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with seeking help through medication. You being a healthy and happy mom is the most important thing you can do for your child. We are their model of the world, and so I know personally, I want to be open, honest, and constantly humbling myself in a state of growth.
Let's talk about having a kid during a global pandemic. How did the pandemic/social distancing affect your first year with Charlotte?
I kind of touched on this already, but there was both incredible highs and deep disparaging lows. I see the true blessing in this season of being fully at home with my baby with no other obligations. I got to know all of her quirks, and never felt rushed or guilt for needing to be anywhere else. I know that’s not often the case for new moms and so I don’t take this gift lightly. It felt like it was Charlotte and I figuring out this crazy time and pandemic, together. We now have an unbreakable bond that I thank God for every day. It makes all the moments of darkness and uncertainty I face/d, all worth it.
How has the pandemic affected you as a mother / person?
As a person, the pandemic has taught me to be present in stillness. To tap into my emotions instead of distracting myself with errands, meetings, and things to do. I had to get good with silence and my personal talk track. I had to truly figure out who I was when the chaos of life was stripped away.
As a mom, it’s affected me by not being able to build a community in the parent world like I had hoped. Social media is great for connections, but there is something missing without the face-to-face intimacy in our conversations. On the flip side, it’s taught me how to be resourceful and ask for help/support! That was not something I knew how to do beforehand. I learned how to be vulnerable and open with people I didn’t know beforehand, but the relatable things we face as mamas binds us in an authentic way I value immensely.