By Lauren Bretscher
Hi everyone! I would like to share my appreciation for the work Jess and Taryn (my sister) are doing on Extra Lucky Moms.
Your platform: wisdom, bravery, advocacy, leadership, and so much more, are admirable and inspiring. The community you’ve built and will continue to expand are “extra” lucky to have you (ok, pun intended)! Thank you from a fellow Mama, your friend and little sister, but more importantly on behalf, I’m sure, of all your readers and viewers. I look forward to all that is next for Rhea, Adeline, this community, and you ladies.
My sister approached me a few weeks back to share my story on Postpartum Anxiety. I too am an Extra Lucky Mom with an emphasis on the word “extra.” My first pregnancy ended around 10 weeks due to a miscarriage. Something very common, however not talked about enough. I found strength to continue in my pregnancy journey through many outlets (family, friends, self-care), but mainly through stories so many offered to comfort me - - sharing their own personal miscarriage travails.
I forged on and I am so happy I did because I became pregnant again (about 4-5 months after the miscarriage)! I’ll never forget the day my morning turned a little “extra.” I told my husband not to rearrange his schedule accompanying me to this doctor’s appointment. We had so many visits by now due to the miscarriage and balancing work and appointments became tough. Subconsciously, I think I was afraid of the outcome. Would I hear a heartbeat, or would I face a second loss? I should have realized then my suppressed anxiety was starting to surface. Anxious people tend to worry about the future often conjuring “what if,” scenarios. I was and still am one of those people. Anyway, all checked out well with the doctor and now it was time for a sonogram. My heart was racing as I waited to hear a beat…instead I heard this: “Lauren, I don’t see one, I see two.” My response “two what? two feet?” I was so focused on listening for a heartbeat I don’t think I gave myself a chance to think before I responded. The nurse laughed and said “no, two fetuses.” I WAS PREGNANT WITH TWINS! How extra lucky am I?
For me, pregnancy wasn’t what I had envisioned. I was in the hospital 6 times before I gave birth to two, beautiful, healthy babies. To reflect is challenging because, quite frankly, it was stressful. My doctor and I now attribute my pregnancy rollercoaster to a carrying multiples, but it was rough and something I just powered through. At 21 weeks, during one hospital stay, and before I got placed on bed rest, I had a nurse stand over me telling me the babies could come at any day. Prompted by my many questions, she then shared their survival rates had they to come (too) early. Scared is an understatement. Fast forward, I made it to 37 weeks and on New Year’s Day 2019 my babies were born. They were healthy, required no NICU stay, and all was good again, right? For them and physical me, yes, but mental me, was a strong no.
Sitting here today I am proud to share I have been diagnosed with pretty a severe “anxiety disorder.” I’ll get to the “proud” part later. When the babies were born, I suppressed, ignored, or hid, or was unaware of, (depending on the day) all warning signs. I hid these “signs” from my family and more astonishingly, from myself. I now understand I like control, familiarity, structure, routine, and predictability. I lost all those things through the life change of having children. As a result, my work to suppress my anxiety all those years surfaced in a big way. Ignoring my reality went on for 13 months before I raised my hand to my supportive husband and said, “I give up.” I cried in our kitchen and simply put, surrendered. At the start of the pandemic in 2020, I started therapy and went on a SSRI (depressant and anti-anxiety medication).
Fast forward again. I can share that I have worked incredibly hard since February of 2020 and just recently, as in 3 weeks ago, I was diagnosed with the aforementioned “anxiety disorder.” When I mentioned “proud,” earlier I meant I feel at peace knowing and understanding what a large part of me is. I have learned so much about myself through this journey, but even more so through my diagnosis. Looking back, it was triggered by the postpartum phase, but, in hindsight I have come to realize that I’ve suffered my whole life. I am working hard on self-care, self-love, self-awareness and controlling intrusive thoughts and forward looking “what ifs,” that I mentioned earlier. I have several coping mechanisms that I rely on and an exceptional therapist who helps me on a regular basis.
So, how do I wrap this all in a pretty bow? The year 2021 hasn’t been easy for me. I am working on “me” (mentally and physically), my husband and I are raising twins (two toddlers right now, eek), I have a full-time job, I’m dedicated to my marriage, I have a crazy (but fortunate) social calendar, I am grieving the recent loss of my Mom alongside my wonderful Dad and sister and my mother in-law is actively undergoing chemotherapy - all while navigating, like all of us, an on again, slightly off again pandemic. I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad for me. I am sharing this because read what I wrote first when I described 2021. I started with, “I am working on me.” I find the time to put my mental state first as I understand this is better for me and allows me to be there and care for my family and friends properly. If you related to any of this, my advice is to find this “me” time for yourself.
Mental health should be talked about more. With the direction society seems to be headed I am hopeful. Mental health does not have to be a derogatory two words. Your health is important. That doesn’t just mean caring for your heart, lungs, bones, what you put in your body, etc. Your brain needs love too. Going forward, I want to debunk all previous misconceptions about mental health, anxiety disorders, therapists; you name it. I look forward to applying some of the heavy topics I’ve worked through and supporting my own children as they navigate life. I want to help them learn how to cope, express and find themselves, communicate (in-person and through all the technological vehicles we enjoy) and deal with all thing’s life – the good and the bad. I am fortunate to have gone through this and will seek to turn a negative into a positive for the rest of my life.
Be kind to one another and yourself. Time is precious - never spend it struggling. Someone can relate, someone can help, and believe it or not you can help yourself through the power of what is in your control.
You made it this far, thank you for reading my story. Taryn and Jess, thank you for the opportunity. ❤️