Motherhood can bring on immense joy, but equally possible are feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt and anger. How do we get the clarity to realize what is happening? Where do we turn to seek help? Who can help us see the light? Postpartum mental health issues are no secret to those who have experienced them, whether they’ve been shared publicly or kept private. But one thing is for sure - if nobody shines a light on these complexities, many of us could remain in the darkness.
Jen Schwartz is the founder and CEO of Motherhood Understood, the leading community, education, and story-sharing hub for women impacted by pregnancy and postpartum mental health issues. Jen created the resource she needed herself, after surviving postpartum depression and anxiety with the birth of her son, and realizing just how many mothers suffer in silence, alone and ashamed like she did.
You are one mother of…?
The short one is I’m one mother of a CHILLER. I love my down time and me time and I know how to claim it. I learned that very early on in motherhood when I had no choice but to claim it to fight postpartum depression. Now, I know that time makes me the best Jen possible for myself and everyone else including my family. The longer answer would be I’m one Mother of a VOICE.
How’d you become that way?
It’s funny actually. In college, if a class had public speaking, I would purposely avoid it. People don’t really believe me when I tell them I was fairly shy growing up. I think I lost my voice when my parents went through a messy divorce, and then becoming a mother and fighting my ass off to overcome postpartum depression and anxiety led to me re-discovering it. Somehow, going through the experience of motherhood as the opposite of the fairy tale I had envisioned it would be and ultimately realizing just how many other women go through the same thing, in silence, alone, and ashamed, and never getting the help I was lucky enough to receive, well it lit a fire in me and showed me a resilience and strength I didn’t realize I had.
When I started sharing my story through speaking and writing, so many women shared back, and when others praised me for my honesty and boldness and told me how brave and fierce I was, how my son was lucky to have me as his mother, I realized how powerful my voice was and that I could use it to help the moms who came after me. I went from avoiding my voice to using it to empower myself and others, to always ask for what I want and stand up for mothers who are still trying to find their own voice.
You pulled yourself out of the darkness and anxiety that can happen in motherhood and created a community dedicated to postpartum mental health. That must have been one mother of a fight. What has been its greatest impact?
The greatest impact Motherhood Understood has made has been giving women a space to feel seen, heard, and understood — a safe place to share their stories, connect with other moms, and get the education, support, and resources they need to feel prepared postpartum and thrive in motherhood.
Over the last few years, creating and building this platform, I’ve received countless messages from women thanking me for the content that makes them feel less alone, that shows them what they are feeling and experiencing is common and temporary with the right care. And the ones that always get me the most are the messages from moms who say that finding Motherhood Understood is what led them to speak their suffering, admit their feelings to their partners, and pick up the phone to make that first therapy appointment or fill the antidepressant prescription they thought meant they were weak or failing as a mother, when in fact the opposite is true — caring for ourselves and making our mental health a priority is an act of necessity and survival and makes us strong, resilient, and the best mothers for our children.
Jen is a thought-leader in the maternal mental health space and has written prolifically on the subject for sites like Forbes, Healthline, The Mighty, Romper, Motherly, The Bump, Happiest Baby and Thrive Global. She recently launched Maternal Mental Health in Minutes, an educational video library breaking down pregnancy and postpartum mental health illnesses and their treatments.
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