Jen is not only a successful PPD survivor, she's also a fellow Charlotte, NC mom!
Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do. Please include your business name and your role.
Hi, I'm Jen Schwartz, expert postpartum depression survivor and real, bad-ass mom. I'm the founder of the blog, The Medicated Mommy. After kicking postpartum depression’s ass, I learned the importance of accepting myself as the mom I am (one who pops an antidepressant every morning), not the mom I thought I was supposed to be (domestic goddess and Pinterest’s mom of the year). I'm here to tell you, you're not alone. Forget about the mom you think you should be. Tell all those "shoulds" to go f**k off! The mom you are is amazing and she is enough. I am a published author, influencer at Mogul, and regular contributor for The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, The Mighty, Motherlucker, Red Tricycle, and Suburban Misfit Mom. My writing has also been featured in Scary Mommy, Mamalode, Kveller, Blunt Moms, and more.
What prompted you to get into this business? Was there a particular revelation or experience that compelled you to move forward with your plans?
I was hit with severe postpartum depression a week into motherhood. I couldn’t understand why that would happen to me when I was so excited to become a mom and I was going to be the most perfect and happy mom who immediately fell in love with her new son, became a breastfeeding champion, and took him with me everywhere. What actually happened was that when I brought him home from the hospital, he could never seem to latch and I could never seem to stop crying. I switched to formula, struggled to get out of bed, and barely left the house for six months. I had become so obsessed with the mom I thought I should be that I never stopped to realize she didn’t actually exist. With lots of help from my therapist and my own mom, I learned that the moms who pretend everything is amazing all the time are full of shit and ruin it for the rest of us. I accepted my illness and who I was as a mom and that she was enough. Actually, she was pretty badass for fighting her illness and finding her authenticity. I decided then I wanted to share that message with all new moms so they didn’t have to go through what I went through. That not all of us bond with our babies right away. Some of us will love breastfeeding and others will go the formula route. Some of us will get sick and need medicine. Some of us will hate mommy and me classes and playdates. The point is, we are all different and will all struggle and that’s okay. I wish someone told me that when I was pregnant. I wish I saw more of that on Facebook and Instagram. I decided to be that mom who owns her illness, flaws, and openly shares the ugly and messy parts of motherhood. I decided I had an obligation to share my story in a way that was relatable and funny to make it easier for others to do the same without the fear of being judged and shamed. That’s how The Medicated Mommy was born.
How many years of experience do you have in either your business or the baby/mommy industry? And yes, parenting definitely counts!
I have been mom for four years. I kicked postpartum depression’s ass three years ago. I have been writing about it for the last year and a half.
What’s your favorite thing about working in the baby/mommy industry? What fuels your love for it?
I love being able to help other moms struggling at the beginning of motherhood realize they are not alone, are normal and will get better. Nothing is more powerful and empowering than saying to another human, “You are not alone.” The fact that so many moms still suffer in silence, thinking there is something wrong with them or that they are terrible mothers, and in the most extreme cases take their own lives outrages me and fuels my desire to continue sharing my experiences. I consider myself a trench buddy for moms with postpartum depression. I am a survivor fighting next to them down in those trenches. There is nothing more powerful and empowering than being able to say to another human, “I know it’s dark down there, but I am here for you and you’re not alone.” You will get better. It will get better. You are enough.
What baby/mommy product do you recommend the most? What are some of your other favorites? Why?
Wine! Just kidding! I’m sort of kidding! I tell all pregnant women I know that they have to get the BabyBjorn Bouncer and the Fisher-Price Rock N Play. Of all the gear we purchased for our new baby (and we bought way too much gear that we hardly ever used), these were the biggest lifesavers. We even made all the grandparents buy these chairs so we didn’t have to schlep them any time we went to visit their houses. Also, Halo sleep sacks with the Velcro arms. I didn’t have the energy to figure out swaddling because I was too preoccupied by the postpartum depression and anxiety.
What is your number one piece of advice for new moms?
Don’t place expectations on yourself because your baby won’t give a shit about them and it will only set you up to feel like a failure when you don’t meet them. There is no such thing as a perfect mother or the right way to do motherhood. The only way is whatever way works for you and allows you to maintain some form of sanity. And if you meet a mom who tries to convince you otherwise or makes you feel guilty about your choices, she’s not the mom friend for you.
What would you say is the hardest part about being a parent? If you aren’t a parent yourself, what do you think is the hardest part?
The guilt that comes from missing my old life. I love my son and I love being his mom. He has enriched my life in so many ways. As cheesy and cliché as it sounds, it’s amazing to watch him grow, discover the world around him and see it through his eyes. It’s incredible to share the things your passionate about with your children. For me, it’s reading books, watching movies, having dance parties, exposing him to skiing, being silly and laughing, and currently telling him how much he loves Star Wars (i.e. the light saber we just got him for his fourth birthday). But there are many days where I miss the days of not being responsible for another human. I want to sleep in, spend the whole day in my pajamas or just binge watch a show and read a good book. I want to go meet someone for a drink or see a movie the day it comes out without having to schedule it in advance because I need to find a babysitter. I want to pick up and travel to new places with my husband or visit my close friends who live in other cities. All of that is much more complicated to pull off and much less common when you’re the mom of a little one.
In your experience, what helps the most in the first 12 weeks postpartum?
Having a village because it really does take one. I would even suggest building your village or team of support before you give birth to your baby. You can’t do motherhood alone and you aren’t supposed to. Yes, everyone wants to be around when the baby comes, but it’s after you bring the baby home from the hospital where you will want the extra hands. Our family members took turns coming to stay with us and our neighborhood and friends delivered meals for the first couple of months and that made a huge difference. Know that it’s okay to ask your village to help around the house and hold the baby so you can sleep. You need to sleep, even if it’s only for a couple of hours at a time. Not sleeping exacerbates everything. If you can hire a baby nurse, even just for a short period of time, it’s worth every penny. Postpartum doulas are also a great option and often much more affordable. Also, even if you plan to exclusively breastfeed, have some formula available just in case because you never know.
Share your respectful insights on a hot button topic (bottle vs. nursing, co-sleeping, pacifiers, paternity leave, or any topic you’re most passionate about).
Postpartum depression is very real and can happen to anyone. I was completely clueless about that when I was pregnant. I didn’t ever think something like that could happen to someone like me. I am intelligent, financially comfortable, married to a wonderful husband, have a loving and supportive family, and was so excited to be a mom. I still got postpartum depression. Even when I started experiencing it, I still didn’t understand what was happening to me because I never wanted to harm my baby or myself. I didn’t know there are many different types of postpartum depression. I actually had tons of risk factors but no one ever talked about postpartum depression in my circle. It barely came up during the classes I took at the hospital to prepare for having a baby. All I knew about was the magical experience of giving birth to my child, immediately falling in love with him, breastfeeding him with ease, and becoming the perfect mom I thought everyone else was based on their Facebook photos and Pinterest boards. None of that happened to me and I think so much of getting sick had to do with people never talking about the ugly and messy parts of motherhood. If I was more aware and more educated about postpartum depression and the realities of becoming a parent, I think I would have at least been more prepared and I would have understood what I was feeling when I was convinced I had made a terrible mistake becoming a mother. I wouldn’t have thought something was wrong with me, that I was a failure and horrible mother or felt the intense feeling of guilt I did had I been aware. I ended up quitting breastfeeding after a week, started taking antidepressants every day, and seeing a therapist once a week and after a while I accepted my illness, realized all that was okay, and learned I wasn’t alone because 1 in 7 women suffer from what I did, which is a whole lot of moms. We need to talk more about these taboo subjects to lessen the stigma, educate moms, and normalize the experience of suffering from postpartum, which is both common and temporary with professional treatment.
Leave us with something important, inspiring, funny, or wise. Be creative!
I truly believe that happy mommy equals happy baby. You cannot give your baby what you don’t have. It’s just like when you’re on the airplane and the oxygen masks come down. You have to put your mask on first before you put the mask on your child. The same goes for parenting. Take care of yourself, make self-care a priority, plan date nights and girls’ night outs while leaving your baby at home with a sitter or family member, and ask for help when you need it. Most importantly, you need to do you and not what others tell you to do or who to be.
To help you remember all of the above, you can get your free copy of my NO BULLSHIT, PERMISSION TO BE YOURSELF (WITHOUT GUILT) HAPPY MOMMY MANIFESTO here!
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