Just another example of how a symbol can hold great meaning and power.
Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit blog that offers information and support for pregnant women and new mothers who have postpartum depression (PPD) and other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth, posted a raw and heartfelt story on its Facebook page from a #WarriorMom.
Lucy McEwen, a mother of two who came across the organization during a dark period in her life after her first child was born, recently headed to a tattoo parlor to receive her first body art. The design: Postpartum Progress’s Warrior Mom logo, which “depicts a strong woman who does the best she can to care for herself and her baby, protecting them both by fighting her illness with treatment and support from others.”
In this personal essay, McEwen explained the difficulty in expressing how debilitating living with PPD can be.
“I hardly fed myself, showered, got dressed, or went out of the house,” she wrote. “There were nights I sat up in bed, tears streaming down my cheeks. My daughter would wake to eat throughout the night, as newborns do, and I’d cry throughout the diaper change, the breastfeeding, the swaddling.”
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), PPD is defined as a serious mood disorder in women that can appear days or months after delivering a baby. Unlike the “baby blues,” which lasts for a brief period (usually one to two weeks after giving birth) and goes away on its own, PPD can last for weeks or months, especially if left untreated.
In fact, between 10 and 15 percent of women experience PPD, and about 30 to 70 percent suffer from symptoms for at least one year, states the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. At least five of the following symptoms are commonly present:
- Sad mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in things that you normally enjoy
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Appetite increase or decrease
- Sleeping too much or insomnia
- Feeling restless or as though you are slowed down
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- Difficulty concentrating or indecisiveness
- Thoughts of death or suicide or a suicide plan
- Anxiety and ruminating thoughts, which may occur with other mood symptoms
“We all have bad days,” explains Postpartum Progress on its site. “Postpartum depression and anxiety are not just bad days. Women with PPD or anxiety have symptoms like these most of the time, for a period of at least 2 weeks or longer, and these symptoms make it feel very hard to live your life each day.”
Early detection and treatment make all the difference, states the APA. Various forms of psychotherapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy), often combined with antidepressant medication, have been shown to be effective.
There’s no doubt that McEwen’s story is an inspiring one. Today she serves as a Warrior Mom Ambassador for Postpartum Progress, is certified in mental health first aid, and is currently working on her certification through CAPPA (Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association) as a postpartum doula.
And the new ink on her left wrist — which is considered upside down in the tattoo world since the symbol faces her — is a forever reminder of her strength and determination.
“That’s me,” she wrote about her tattoo. “That’s me, and that little baby represents my children. And that shield is everything I have chosen to do to protect myself. … It’s me, surviving. It’s me, powering through. It’s me doing everything it takes to stay here, day after day, and push through the bad days for the sake of the good moments. And I will never stop fighting.”