Motherhood didn’t start out the way I had planned. In my head, through a rosy, soft-focus lens, I imagined scenes of serenity and bliss. Sure, the late nights would be rough and the inevitable GI-related mishaps would be icky. But generally, it would be fine. Right?
Cut to me, literally sobbing over my infant’s crib, pleading with her to sleep so that I could regain just an atom of my sanity. Instead of a gradual move to a peaceful baby sleeping through the night, I had experienced over seven months of almost constant sleeplessness. And when the baby woke up in the night, the only surefire way to calm her was to nurse her back to sleep — which turned me into a one-woman show, tackling the childcare, the pet care, the housework, the cooking, and trying to go back to work full-time.
Hence the tears and outright begging. It wasn’t pretty.
No, early motherhood was not how I imagined at all.
Instead of the bliss I had imagined, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. It took me almost nine months to see a doctor to address my deteriorating mental health. Getting back to my pre-baby normal was a long, hard road.
I tried it all. Okay, not yoga or essential oils, but almost everything else. I did medication for better living through chemicals. I cut out caffeine, sugar, and alcohol at first, too. My therapist was on speed dial for a few weeks. Plus, I doubled down on working out — something to which I was already fully committed. Honestly, running and lifting was likely what enabled me to hang on as long as I did before seeking help.
Slowly, with lots of work and honesty, I regained a sense of myself. I felt okay about motherhood. My spouse and I learned how to rebalance the household work so that I didn’t feel like it was all my responsibility.
Living through a serious mental health struggle and coming out the other side impacts the way you approach life. There will always be something lurking in the background, especially for situationally-connected concerns like post-partum depression. I knew that my risk factor for another bout was increased for subsequent children.
When I was pregnant with my second child, we decided to combine early pregnancy with an OCONUS move, taking me as far away as possible from my major support networks. Even though we hadn’t lived super close to our families when our first child was an infant, we were at least on the same continent and in the same time zone. Getting help, even over the phone, was simple. Now, I would need to make sure I called during the tiny slivers of time when we were all awake. There would be no option for my mom to just hop on a cheap flight and be with me in a few hours.
Knowing how awful post-partum depression had been for me the first time around, I decided that I needed to arm myself with all the options possible. I didn’t want to go down that hole again. Honestly, I was afraid that if I went that far down again, I wouldn’t be able to pull myself back out this time.
Before my baby was born, I was researching mental health options in our location as well as access to prescription supports should I need them. There were places I could go and people I could see!
But, I also wanted a little preventative action to see if I could get a handle on things before seeking help again, which is when I dove into the world of placenta encapsulation. My first thought was that it was gross. But, the more I read about it, the more I talked to people who had done it, the more I was intrigued.
Apparently, if prepared correctly and safely, ingesting (yup, eating) your own placenta could help with milk production, ease recovery, and serve to ward off or decrease the symptoms of postpartum depression. Sign me up!
When you encapsulate your placenta, it’s not YOU doing it. Instead, a specially-trained practitioner trained in handling human blood and tissue turns your placenta into a powder. Then the powder goes into little capsules to become pills. If you’re not trained and certified, this isn’t something to DIY.
After my second child was born, I took my placenta pills every day before slowly weaning off of them as the supply dwindled. Yes, it was weird to be eating something that grew inside my body. But, I also felt a lot more peaceful, serene, and happy than I had at similar points in my daughter’s infancy.
I can’t for sure say that it was 100% the placenta pills that helped me through this rough patch. I did a few other things to support my mental health, too.
· First, I sought a mental health professional to provide support and a place to vent. My therapist allowed me space to process motherhood and my own life goals safely.
· Next, I found sitters I trusted so that I could have some time to myself. I was still freelancing during my son’s infancy and I needed time to work.
· I did not return to work full-time. In fact, I still haven’t gone back. Instead, I found a few freelancing clients that I love and poured my passion into my own small business. My work is fulfilling and flexible.
· Finally, I also made fitness and healthy eating a priority. Sticking to a mostly whole-foods diet while exercising almost daily helps to boost my mood.
The second time around, I definitely dipped down into some deeper baby blues, but I never sank all the way to the bottom. Maybe the placenta pills helped. And maybe they didn’t. But I’m sure glad I gave them a chance!
Placenta encapsulation is not FDA approved or scientifically proven to provide any benefits. All benefits are purely anecdotal. There is some inherent risk to ingesting human placenta. Please consult with your doctor and OB-GYN. InDependent does not endorse this practice. All opinions and experiences are from the author alone.
Meg Flanagan, founder of MilKids Ed, is the InDependent Wellness Lounge coordinator, a teacher, mom, and military spouse. She is dedicated to making the K-12 education experience easier for military families. Meg holds an M.Ed in special education and a BS in elementary education. She is a certified teacher in both elementary and special education in Massachusetts and Virginia. Meg regularly writes for MilitaryOneClick, Military Shoppers, and NextGen MilSpouse. You can find Meg, and MilKids, online on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. To get actionable solutions to common K-12 school problems, parents should check out Talk to the Teacher by Meg Flanagan.