As many others before and after me, my interest in this area developed during my pregnancy as well as after the birth of my daughter 24 years ago! I was a licensed clinical social worker and also had a background in psychiatric nursing. Yet when I brought my daughter home, I was unprepared emotionally for the changes that I was experiencing. It felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.
It was an isolating time, with little outside support for a new mother. My family was out of state and, at the time, I did not have many friends who were having children. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. I had worked since I was a teen and now had the luxury of being home with my daughter. I remember feeling so inadequate and ill prepared for motherhood. I was receiving so many conflicting messages from well meaning people. My identity was changing, but I was not prepared for the profound psychological changes that I would be going through. Who was I now? Would I be a good enough Mother? I had a small group of very good friends who were supportive, and I met a few women in a pregnancy exercise class. Over time, I built a support network.
What astounded me was that during my nurses training and my clinical social work training there was no mention of the adjustment to this time in a woman’s life or of the risk of mood disorders in pregnancy and postpartum. I knew in my heart that other women were having similar experiences, but I didn’t know any of these women; I hadn’t heard their stories. I felt very isolated and unsure of myself.
It was during this time that I began my research into this field. I contacted the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center library and asked them to do a library search for me on pregnancy and motherhood. When my daughter was napping, I was reading. My own experience was validated as I read and learned about the developmental stages of becoming a Mother, the identity changes one goes through and the grieving of one’s past. I experienced mild postpartum anxiety but did not know what that was until years later when I was reading a book entitled The Mother Syndrome by Carol Dix that further explained postpartum depression and anxiety.
When my daughter was about six months old, I returned to my private practice part time. It was then that I began to focus much of my work on educating professionals as well as expectant parents. Over time I gained confidence and began to feel very comfortable in my role as a Mother.