Alyssa is our Mama Moments “Spotlight Mama” for August 2022!
Alyssa is a first time mama to a sweet and handsome baby boy! He is a year old and he continues to make Alyssa and her husband smile and laugh. Alyssa loves all of her son’s cuddles and has enjoyed all of his firsts and exploring new things through his eyes.
I continue to be in awe of Alyssa and her strength, her persistence and her vulnerability. Alyssa’s story is so different than my own and I am so appreciative of her sharing it with me and her help to share it with all of you.
When Alyssa and I first connected she shared that she experienced significant Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) following the birth of her son; on top of her preexisting conditions of OCD and Anxiety.
To explain the difference:
- Postpartum Depression is a longer lasting more intense feeling of depression that begins to interfere and affect your ability to take care of yourself and your baby. Although PPD may start or show similar signs as “baby blues”, the symptoms of PPD are reported to be stronger and may impact one’s ability to function in a productive, healthy and safe way. If left untreated, Postpartum Depression may last for many months or longer.
- Postpartum Anxiety is severe anxiety or worry following the birth or adoption of a child. Noted by an “all-consuming” type of worry, day and night.
Alyssa shares that she experienced PPA more than PPD. One of her main symptoms was feeling like everyone was out to get her and she often found it difficult to leave her bedroom and her house.
Alyssa also shared that she has a very big family who has supported her throughout her pregnancy and continues to support her and her little family to this day. When she was experiencing severe PPA, she had difficulty trusting anyone with her son (even though they have a close relationship). Alyssa also found herself laying awake to make sure her son was breathing. She found baby wearing really helpful as she navigated all of these big, scary feelings. When she wore her son, she could feel him breathing and knew he was okay, allowing her to continue on with her day and focus on other things.
Alyssa felt that she was still navigating PPD and PPA a year after her son was born. Even though she continued to feel these heavy feelings, Alyssa participated in a clinical study through Clarkson University for PPD and new moms. One of the recommendations Alyssa made to the researchers was that there should be a mental health class before, during and/or after pregnancy. She noted how many classes there are for Labor and Delivery but not Mental Health and its such a huge piece of life and of being a new parent.
From the Beginning
When Alyssa first volunteered to be part of my Mama Moments, she responded to one of my questions and provided a quick overview of her pregnancy. It looked like this:
- Unexplained female infertility
- High Risk pregnancy (preexisting condition-clotting disorder)
- Pregnancy related complications of preeclampsia
- Natural Delivery
- Emergency Induction
- 70 hour labor
- Drug-Free delivery
And I said, “woah”, all of this seems like a lot for one person and one pregnancy. And then I found out more and received a whole new vocabulary.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
During our conversation, Alyssa shared that she has PCOS: a hormonal disorder with a spectrum of symptoms, making PCOS a very individual situation–everyone presents a little differently. For Alyssa, PCOS meant that she only ovulates from one ovary. So becoming pregnant was a really big deal!
Alyssa and her husband were through the first hurdle: getting pregnant. Then, Alyssa experienced a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum: a rare condition where a person experiences persistent and extreme nausea and vomiting throughout HER WHOLE PREGNANCY.
This was not only uncomfortable for Alyssa, it became dangerous too. With Hyperemesis Gravidarum, it is really easy to become dehydrated and Alyssa was hospitalized twice, once at 14/15 weeks and again at 26/28 weeks. When she got to the hospital, Alyssa needed fluids and was given nausea medication to help regulate her system.
Women who experience Hyperemesis Gravidarum are also at risk for losing a significant amount of weight. To this point, Alyssa reported losing 50lbs while pregnant. She shared she had a little to lose and the baby was not at risk because of her weight loss. The opposite occurred in her case, her weight loss actually put her in a healthier spot to continue carrying her son.
So picture this, Alyssa experiences anxiety and OCD. She has a rare, uncomfortable (to say the least), nausea and vomiting condition because she’s pregnant and becoming pregnant in and of itself, was a miracle…and yet, there’s more.
Labor, Delivery & More Surgery
Alyssa had an emergency induction after three appointments where her blood pressure was high. She was 36 weeks pregnant.
While in the hospital, Alyssa had very specific requests and was very pleased that the hospital respected those wishes.
Here’s some of the things Alyssa made sure she had when she was in the hospital:
- No Male Providers
- Alternative Pushing Method
- Hemorrhage Cart in room
- Drug free
Some of these requests were made for religious reasons and some, because they helped Alyssa manage her OCD and anxiety. Alyssa purposefully requested that any statements or information be given to her in the form of a question…she needed to be in control and everyone respected this wish.
This information was included in Alyssa’s birth plan and she made sure everyone could recite her plan and wishes back to her to ensure that when she was in labor, she didn’t have to make any big decisions.
Alyssa gave birth in a side-lying position. She did not want an epidural and her son was in a sunny-side up position- meaning he was face up instead of face down.
Alyssa also insisted that a Postpartum Hemorrhage cart be in the room when she gave birth. She has a clotting disorder where her body has difficulty breaking down blood clots. By having the Postpartum Hemorrhage cart in her delivery room, Alyssa was ensuring a quick response from medical staff if her body needed any of the supplies/medication on the cart following the birth of her son. Turns out, Alyssa did need blood and iron transfusions, which she was able to receive quickly and efficiently because of her insistence and access to the cart.
- Quick Note: Obstetric hemorrhages is a leading cause of PREVENTABLE maternal morbidity and mortality. The creation of and access to a Postpartum Hemorrhage cart ensures all women can deliver their baby safely.
Another thing that Alyssa found helpful was a one on one birthing class with two midwives. The one-on-one approach was largely due to Covid. However, through this experience, Alyssa was able to really get to know two midwives who out of luck, happened to be the ones delivering her son.
After delivering her son, Alyssa found out she needed Gall Bladder surgery. Within the first six weeks of her baby’s life, Alyssa was back in the hospital for surgery and then at home, recovering and caring for her son. This mama didn’t catch a break.
Find Your Village
We all need to find our village, our team of people, professionals, friends, that help us on our journey- before, during and after we have a baby. Alyssa’s team consists of her son, her husband, their family and her team of counselors and therapists.
Alyssa has been seeing a therapist since she was 16 for her OCD and Anxiety. She credits her therapist and her use of Cognitive Therapy to provide Alyssa with strategies to reframe her thinking and approach to the world. Their relationship and years of working together, helped Alyssa prepare for potentially having PPD and PPA following the birth of her son. She reports that her therapist shared she was at an increased risk for experiencing these two postpartum challenges and her therapist ensured Alyssa found a counselor while she was pregnant to begin talking about PPA and PPD.
Why was this important? Because two days after Alyssa had their son, she was able to meet with her counselor, someone she was already familiar with, who knew her history and who was ready to help. Alyssa was prepared, organized and already an incredible mama.
Alyssa shared that there is so much more to bringing a baby home then the nursery and supplies- while those are important, your mental health and having her counselor and care team on the same page made a very bumpy road ever so slightly, more manageable.
Alyssa’s Favorite Baby Gadgets!
- Owlet Sock & Baby Monitor
- Baby Wearing Wraps/Carriers
Alyssa’s advice for new moms is that if you find yourself feeling anxious, depressed or off…you are not alone, you are not broken and there is nothing wrong with you. Find someone to talk too. Your baby needs you, your family needs you and you need YOU.
A lot of people fail to talk about the gray area of being a new mom; how much it hurts to go to the bathroom, how much your nipples can hurt, how long it takes to lose baby weight…there needs to be more honest and open communication about all of the after-baby experiences, joys and difficulties.
Have a routine. Alyssa’s cognitive therapist taught her how to manage her OCD with behavioral changes. Everyday postpartum, she had to get up at the same time and get dressed with “real” clothes. She also had to leave the house each day; whether it was a walk, going to the store, taking a drive or going for coffee.
Alyssa has helped other mamas find their village and support systems. She wants to help more and is open to answering any questions you have and provide more insight to her own experience. Alyssa can be reached on Instagram @lissalou90.
Thank you Alyssa for sharing your story and your Mama journey. I am forever changed because of you and so appreciative of your openness and willingness to help others. You are incredible!