By Chelsea Elker – Psychiatric Technician
This story is for any mom or mom-to-be who might be struggling with difficult thoughts or feelings related to motherhood right now. The following my journey through early motherhood, and my unexpected work as an advocate for moms with postpartum mood disorders.
My name is Chelsea Elker, I’m a new member to the PrairieCare family and am excited about my role as a Peer Support Specialist for our Perinatal Intensive Outpatient Program at the Medical Office Building in Brooklyn Park. My journey into having a career in the field of mental health came as a complete surprise to me, a surprise I’m forever grateful for. I’m also grateful to have found a company that understands the importance of the mental and emotional health of new babies and their mothers. A place that is able to support new mothers while simultaneously working to empower them. PrairieCare is an organization with a highly specialized perinatal team, consisting of some of the most experienced perinatal experts in the state of Minnesota. These experts have worked tirelessly and lovingly to design and implement PrairieCare’s very own Perinatal Intensive Outpatient Program. I’m grateful to be part of this team at PrairieCare, because I was once in the demographic of moms who needed these services.
I never knew “what I wanted to be when I grew up”, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to be a mom.
Having children was always part of my plan, postpartum depression and anxiety, however, was not.
Postpartum depression wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I wasn’t supposed to be one of the moms who struggled. None of that was part of “my” plan.
I didn’t struggle after my first son, however, after the birth of my second son I struggled…a lot, and I was completely caught off guard.
How could this happen? He was planned. He was loved. I was prepared. I was supposed to be happy!
I wasn’t happy, however, I was scared. Terrified. Convinced that something bad was going to happen. I couldn’t sleep, I refused to eat. All of my energy was used to worry. The worry turned into sadness. Not slight sadness, but gut wrenching, weeping on the floor, unable to function dread.
I wasn’t myself, I didn’t even recognize the woman in the mirror. I constantly wondered if the people around me noticed too. Did they see my empty eyes? Did they notice my body withering away? Were they judging me for how I interacted with my kids? Would the agony ever end?
It would. It did end. Not only did it end, but the entire experience gave me a new perspective on life and motherhood. It showed me the lengths a mother would go to protect her children. It showed me the strength it took to admit I wasn’t okay. It showed me that every struggle tells a story and teaches a lesson. It allowed me to begin to use my story to help other moms, a gift that has proven itself invaluable time and again. As hard as it was to walk through the storm of postpartum depression and anxiety, I’m happy to say that today I walk free of it.
Today I get to wake up with 3 kids each day, knowing that the unconditional love between us is mutual. I get to enjoy their smiles, and giggles, and kisses. I get to see them when they’re upset, and help them handle big emotions. I get to show them that hard times will come, but they won’t last. I get to go to work and help moms who are walking in the same footsteps I did not long ago. I get to enjoy each day just a little more than I did before, because now I know what it’s like to not have any glimmer of hope on the horizon.
Going through something as traumatic as postpartum depression and anxiety changed me. It rewired every fiber of my being. It caused me to reevaluate my life in ways that hadn’t occurred to me before. I didn’t recover alone, however, I had lots of help getting to where I am today. Recovery included weekly therapy for over a year, as well as going to a perinatal outpatient program for new moms.
Attending a perinatal outpatient program allowed me to begin to put structure back into my day. It gave my son and me a safe environment to go to together every week where I knew we would be taken care of and protected. It gave me a group of women who were having just as hard of time as I was. It showed me that what was happening to me was normal and was not my fault. It surrounded me with professionals who understood my condition. It gave me time to put the pieces of my life back together. It helped me unravel the chaos and confusion happening inside of my head. It saved me.
Implementing structure, creating goals, offering support, monitoring medication, and providing a safe haven for struggling moms are some of the highlights of PrairieCare’s Intensive Outpatient Program. It is a place where mothers can come with their babies to begin to piece their new lives together. Our program focuses on bringing moms hope, healing, and empowerment. We create a safe space for them to “let down their hair” while also learning invaluable life skills. We’ve created a judgment free environment where mothers can share their journeys with each other, all while in the safety-net of top of the line professional care.
I’m honored to be a part of a team that is so committed to helping moms who are struggling in the way that I once did. PrairieCare has curated a team of professionals that are able to give moms some of the best intensive perinatal care in the country. Our program consists of two board certified psychiatrists who specialize in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, one licensed therapist with over 15 years of experience working with postpartum moms, one social worker who has a strong passion for the perinatal community, a former NICU registered nurse who is also a trained lactation consultant, and me, a mom who went through a really hard time and now wants to support other moms in any way that I can.
PrairieCare strives to be a place where a mom can take a break from being everything to everybody and have a little time to work on herself. I’m proud to be a part of an amazing team that is so passionate about perinatal mental health. If you or someone you know could use a little extra help in motherhood, please give our team a call today at (612) 274-7494, our Intensive Outpatient Program may be the support you’ve been waiting for.