While we wish every mom only a happy and healthy postpartum period, we are so thankful that people are finally openly talking about postpartum depression. And we have Katherine Stone to thank for it. Her own heart-wrenching experience suffering from postpartum OCD after her first baby prompted her to found the nonprofit organization Postpartum Progress. She now works to raise awareness, fight stigma and provide peer support to women with maternal mental illness.
As someone acutely aware of the challenges that come during those first few months after baby, we were curious to get her thoughts for our “It’s Working” series with Forty Weeks. “I wish I had let go a little more,” Katherine told us, of that postpartum period. “I was trying to plan and plan and plan, thinking that could somehow give me more control over what was going to happen, and that just wasn’t the case.”
Below, she gives us a little more insight into her transition from postpartum back to work, and shares her best advice for balancing baby and business as a working mom.
What is one piece of advice you wish you could offer your former expectant self?
My one piece of advice is that you can read every single pregnancy book ever written and still not know exactly what is going to happen once you become a mother. Books and classes are helpful, for sure, but they can’t prepare you for every eventuality or tell you exactly how you are going to feel. I wish I had let go a little more. I was trying to plan and plan and plan, thinking that could somehow give me more control over what was going to happen, and that just wasn’t the case.
How did you share the news of your pregnancy with your employer? How far along in your pregnancy were you when you had the conversation?
It’s been a long time, but as I recall I was probably a good solid 12 weeks before I said anything. I worked at a large corporation that had pretty good policies in general so I wasn’t at all nervous about telling my boss. I just walked right into his office and told him.
How long did you take for maternity leave before heading back to work? How close was your back-to-work plan with the reality upon your return?
I was home for 4 months before I went back to work. I had planned on only being out for 3 months, but I ended up having postpartum depression and I really needed that extra month to be able to get even close to any sort of place where I could contribute. Even then I really didn’t feel like myself until about a full year postpartum, but I was able to muddle through with work until that point.
Once I went back to work the hardest thing was the daily competition between being needed at work and needing to leave so I could make it in time to pick up my son at daycare. That caused me constant stress, much more than I could have ever imagined. I always wished we’d had a “Grey’s Anatomy”-style on-site childcare with super flexible hours so that at least he’d have been nearby at all times and I wouldn’t have had to freak out about picking him up on those days when senior management needed me for 5 o’clock meeting.
Your biggest pregnancy indulgence?
I ate a $35 tennis ball-sized hunk of imported parmigiano reggiano cheese that I stopped by to pick up at a gourmet shop on the way home from work one day. I chowed down the entire thing while driving in my car, like a rat or something. There must have been something in that cheese my body needed!
Fill in the blanks:
As a working mom, I never expected the push/pull between work demands and parenting demands would be so hard, and that having other working moms nearby to commiserate with would be one great benefit.
Want to do more to raise awareness of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders? Head to Hudson River Park on June 14 at 10:30am for Postpartum Progress’ 3rd annual Climb Out of the Darkness to show women with maternal mental illness that they are not alone! Not in NYC? Find other Climbs and get involved, or visit crowdrise.com/COTD2015 to donate.
Learn more about the “It’s Working Project” and read more stories of parents in the workforce.
Reporting by Rebecca Gale.