Kat Schuknecht: We Are Working to Change Things for the Mothers Who Come After Us

My name is Kat and I’m extremely excited to be a part of MMHRC! I’m the mama of two girls – ages 9 and 5. I developed postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA) shortly after my oldest was born. It wasn’t until my younger daughter came along four years later that I was really able to take a look at my life over and realize that something was wrong.

My symptoms were missed by my providers, my doula, my family, friends, and by myself. Although it was scary to realize something was wrong, it was also reassuring to know that there was an explanation for my anger and irritability and intrusive thoughts (something other than “I’m a bad mom and a bad wife”). When I mentioned my concerns to my OB at my 6 week checkup, she didn’t provide any real support or resources.  My PPA continued to be missed by the screening done by my children’s pediatrician.

Working With Other Mamas

Shortly after this time, I learned about postpartum doulas. These are non-medical professionals who provide in-home support to parents after baby’s arrival. Immediately I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. As I devoted my spare time (the little there was!) to reading and training, I learned more about maternal mental health. It was then that I was able to truly recognize how terrible our society is at preparing parents for – and supporting them through – the postpartum period.

As I talked with more moms about my work, I became more comfortable talking about my PPD and PPA. I was surprised – and angry- that so many of us were dealing with these illnesses and had no prior information or current support. Many women I spoke with didn’t have any idea what their first step should be. Those who did reach out to their health care or insurance providers were often faced with a brick wall or a 3-month waiting period.

The Power of “Me Too”

I found the support I received from and gave to other moms was invaluable. We were able to say “me too” during the hardest periods of our lives, knowing we weren’t bad moms and we weren’t suffering alone. Talking about symptoms and experiences in plain English was extremely beneficial to my understanding the steps to recovery.

It’s unfortunate that so little is known about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and that women are often the ones who have to take it upon themselves to notice symptoms and seek help. But we are strong and persistent and we are working to change things for the mothers who come after us.

Kat is one of the Maternal Mental Health Research Collaborative’s Patient Expert Advisors. Click here to find out more about this incredible group of moms with lived experience.

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