POSTPARTUM RESOURCES

Maternal Mental Health Support With Amber Weakley, Postpartum Support Charleston

Let’s Thrive Postpartum | Amber Weakley | Postpartum Support

 

Motherhood is often portrayed as a blissful journey, but what about the mental health struggles many mothers face in silence? Isolation and the weight of responsibility can exacerbate existing mental illness. Today, Amber Weakley joins Kelly Siebold and Ashley Moore to explore the unique challenges mothers with mental illness encounter, especially when alone with their babies, and offers support and resources for breaking the cycle of loneliness.

Watch the episode here


 

Listen to the podcast here

 

Maternal Mental Health Support With Amber Weakley, Postpartum Support Charleston

Welcome back to the show. We are talking with Amber Weakly. She is the Program Coordinator for Support Services for Postpartum Support Charleston. They are a local Charleston, South Carolina-based nonprofit that helps women with postpartum depression and anxiety. They are making a huge difference to the community down here. Amber said her life’s mission is to help other moms and I love that. I cannot wait for us to talk through all the amazing things that she’s going to share about what they are doing but also tips that she is seeing that moms constantly come to them needing help with and what has been helpful.

I think it’s going to be a great conversation. Before we dive in, Kelly, I have a question for you, though. Where’s your happiness coming from this week?

It’s a great question. We do talk about serious things here, and we do not always have happy thoughts. This is embarrassing to say. I think I share way embarrassing things on here and it’s what life is, but my happiness this week comes from this past weekend. This weekend, my childhood best friend came down to see me and brought her children. I love them. I’m Aunt Kelly. They’re my favorite people. That’s my happiness, but let me tell you what my real happiness is. She’s going to know this. She brought me down soda or pop or whatever you call it in your part of the country.

That is specific to my hometown where I grew up. I’m from this little small town outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s called Gastonia, Belmont. I claim both of them. My happiness this week comes in a can because I only get it once a year or so. Last time, I had my husband hide one in the house for me, so when I had a bad day, he could pull it out and he did and I searched the house for it. I couldn’t find it. It’s a problem and it’s the best stuff in the world. Cherry Lemon Sun Drop, if you’d like to sponsor this show, let me know.

That’s so funny. My husband also had a slight embarrassing admissions. Sometimes, he will keep a box somewhere hidden of Kraft macaroni and cheese for when I’m having a bad day. Sometimes, I love Kraft macaroni and cheese. He keeps one hidden. I keep chocolate hidden for him. I have a hidden stash to where when those days when he’s like, “There’s nothing left in the house.” I’m like, “Ta-da.”

It’s the best, isn’t it? One day I was having a bad day at my old job and I was on the verge of tears and he showed up and set a can out of the blue in front of me and I cried from happiness. It’s this little thing.

It’s the little things. I know. Moms out there, if you’re reading, think of what your little thing is. Even if you hide it for yourself, you’re going to forget where it is. Trust me, because we forget things all the time. Go hide something of your favorite thing in a random place. I tell you what, the day that you find it, it’s probably going to be one of the happiest days of your life.

It is because we talk about big happiness, like big things happening, but so small little things every day, those little glimmers that bring us hope. It’s the best.

I know. It is the best.

What’s your happiness? What’s it for you?

I think this week I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’m going to go buy some reclaimed railroad ties to use in a gardening project.

I was like, “What are you doing with railroad ties?”

I’ve been wanting to do this gardening bed project with some reclaimed railroad ties to give that a little more of a cottage-y feel for the house. It’s like beat-up wood. That’s what my happiness is coming from.

Where does one find a reclaimed railroad tie? You cannot buy that at Lowe’s.

Actually, you can. They have a whole stack of them in the garden section. Yes, I would love to find some that are actually free because they are actual reclaimed railroad ties, but you can indeed buy them at Lowe’s and Home Depot.

That’s amazing. Moms, it is what is going to make you happy in the moment. It may be railroad ties.

Lemon Cherry Sun Drop.

Let’s go ahead and dive into our conversation with Amber. I think she’s going to have a lot of great information to share, not with local moms, but different ways for moms anywhere in the country to figure out how to connect with some more local programs that might exist.

She had a great idea that you’re going to read about a mom mentor and how you can look to someone who’s been in your situation for help and support, even if you aren’t local to Charleston. Let’s go ahead and join Amber.

 

Let’s Thrive Postpartum | Amber Weakley | Postpartum Support

 

Amber, thank you so much for meeting with Kelly and I and being our expert panelist.

Thank you so much for having me.

Postpartum Support Charleston

You work for Postpartum Support Charleston. Can you tell us a little bit about the organization and the role that they play in supporting postpartum women?

Postpartum Support Charleston is a local organization here in Charleston. We serve moms in the Tri-County area, so Dorchester, Berkeley, and Charleston counties. We have been around since 2000. The organization started in 2000. A local family here was devastated by the loss of a mother by suicide. Her name was Ruth Rhoden Craven. Originally the organization was called the Ruth Rhoden Craven Foundation. It was small at first, as all organizations start out small and they wanted to promote what postpartum depression and anxiety was.

They wanted to educate the medical community and support moms. Over the years, it’s grown a lot. We have developed into an organization that serves a lot more moms than we used to. We have an annual fundraiser that we do where we have 500 or 600 participants and we have lots of wonderful programs for moms. We have support groups and any resources that a mom needs, we can provide those for her.

Thank you for everything that you guys are doing to help moms in Charleston, South Carolina. If there’s a mom who is reading who is postpartum and is struggling to feel like herself and she wants to reach out, how does she connect with you guys? How does she get help?

There are a couple of different ways that she can get help from us. If you go to our website, which is PostPartumSupportCHS.org, she can find any contact information, so that’s email, she can call us or text us, and then we also have Facebook and Instagram. If she wants to message us through one of those social media platforms, she’s welcome to.

If you jump on our Instagram as well, you can easily move yourself right along to them and find them for additional support.

Amber, can you tell us a little bit about how you discovered the organization and came to work with them and what your connection is to working with the maternal mental health population?

My mom is my hero in this story whenever anyone asked me about how I got started with all this. Before I had kids, my mom suffered with postpartum depression. It was always a topic of conversation. It was always, “If this happens, it’s not something to be terrified about.” Surely enough, I had my first son, and about five months postpartum, I started struggling. She was there to help connect me to Postpartum Support in Charleston. I connected with a mom mentor and got support through that avenue with Postpartum Support Charleston and was great. I got better.

After I had my second son, the same thing started back up. I had the symptoms of postpartum depression, which ended up being bipolar, too. I struggled with my second son. I reached back out again to Postpartum Support Charleston and got a grant to see a psychiatrist and a therapist. It was life-changing for me. I probably wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for that. Once I recovered and got better, I had a special place in my heart for moms who are struggling because my mom had been through it and I had been through it.

I knew how lonely it was and how isolated you can feel when you’re struggling, especially in a world where social media is in your face and this perfection is everywhere. I wanted to stay involved with Postpartum Support Charleston. I started volunteering to run support groups. I started here on the island, on James Island, doing some walks with the organization, and then never left. They hired me shortly after that and started out doing small little things and now I’m in this. I think it has an important role in helping moms every day.

It can be lonely and isolating in a world where social media is in your face and this perfection is everywhere. Share on X

I think you’re right. Having a mom who’s a hero and having someone who constantly says, “This is normal.” One in five moms gets postpartum depression and anxiety, knowing that upfront and it being normalized is such a great thing. Ashley and I are hoping we can help normalize it for other moms who don’t have that, to let people know that this can be treated. It is okay.

 

Let’s Thrive Postpartum | Amber Weakley | Postpartum Support

 

Amber, with your mom, this was like a topic of conversation when you’re in your house and it’s something that you knew existed. When you’re working with moms in the organization, do you find a lot of them already had a lot of prior knowledge about postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, like any of these concerns or for most of them, are they navigating through it as it’s happening?

I would definitely say the majority of moms don’t know what’s going on. They know that something’s not right. They know that they feel off, whether they’re worried about every little thing or they are so sad they cannot seem to get their chores done around the house. I would definitely say the majority of moms are not aware. Some moms don’t even know that postpartum depression is a thing, which makes my heart hurt because it’s such a thing. We all know about that because we’re in the world of it. Some moms will say, “I didn’t even know postpartum anxiety was a thing.”

The moms do know what’s going on. I think they have struggled in the past and are very much aware of their own mental health. Moms who might have started struggling during their pregnancy or even before and are more aware of what avenues there are for support and stuff like that. I would say more don’t know than do.

If you are a mom reading and you had mentioned that so many moms don’t know what’s happening, if there’s a mom reading and she doesn’t feel right or she feels worried all the time, how do you help them figure out what’s going on? What education advice can you provide?

Our website is a great place to start. We have a tab on our website that goes through all the maternal mental diagnoses. Not too much detail, but enough to know that if you notice something that’s not right, then you can reach out. Another great place for moms to go is our private Facebook group. It is a wonderful place for moms to be able to post questions that they have or even troll the site and see what other moms are going through.

That’s what I did. I’m throwing that out there. I’m a huge troll on their site. It’s great.

That is totally allowed. You don’t have to say anything in that group. You can just be. That’s another great option. On our Facebook group, we do Sunday chats. I get together with local maternal mental health therapists and other professionals in the area and talk about what it looks like to have a maternal mental illness. We go through all kinds of different topics. Those are on our Facebook Live page so moms can watch and interact if they want to.

I know your website, too. You guys have resources about the different mom meetup groups, you have like therapist listings and that kind of thing, which is wonderful. For you guys, it’s probably possible that there are tons of moms that go to the website and find resources and they’re using it in that way that you’re not even necessarily talking to on a regular basis. Being that resource is so helpful. What do you guys do? How do people find you? Where are your websites located or information and that sort of thing in terms of out in the community, how do people discover Postpartum Support Charleston?

We are partnered with a couple of the hospitals in the area. Moms will get our information sometimes through their OBGYN. Sometimes, when they’re discharged from their hospital stay, when they were delivering a baby, they will get a little flyer about us. One of our big ways to reach out to moms and let them know that we’re here and we’re available for support is our Beyond Delivery program.

That’s a program where a mom can sign up for homemade lasagna and an infant care package, which includes diapers and wipes and stuff like that. We bring that to her house for free. That’s been a great program that our organization has started. We’ve been able to reach a lot of moms that way because it’s not tied to therapy and it’s not tied to a support group. It’s not tied to anything. It’s to literally us saying, “We’re here. We care about you and we know that sometimes it’s tough, so here’s a free meal.”

That is such a great way to reach moms. When you’re in the middle of having a baby recovery, all the baby blues and hormones, to have someone to show up to say, “I’m here and I care about you,” right to their doorstep is huge.

They have your information too, so that if something comes up. I think this is great for anywhere, not only in Charleston but anywhere in the country. When someone is pregnant or they’ve had a baby, a question to ask before your baby comes is like, “Are there any postpartum support groups in my city or in my town or what kind of Facebook pages could I join ahead of time or think about so that support is already in place?”

Kelly and I talk a lot about trying to create a plan. There are things you can do ahead of time. There are so many things that happen when you’re in the thick of it and you realize that stuff’s going on. One of the hardest things when you realize that something isn’t going the way that you’d planned is starting from ground zero. “Where do I find help? What do I even Google? What do I call this? What is it?” If any pregnant mom is out there reading, go ahead and ask your OBGYN or your friends if there are postpartum support groups. Even ways to connect with other new moms so that you’re not having to start with nothing.

That is what I did. If you are not local to Charleston if you are somewhere in the middle of the country that doesn’t have an amazing nonprofit like Postpartum Support Charleston, check out Thrive. We’ve got a virtual community. Feel free to find other moms. If you don’t have something local, please check us out.

Things Moms Are Struggling With

Amber, you talk to moms all the time. You are the frontline in talking to moms who are in what we’ve all been through, that struggle. What do you see as some of the biggest challenges? If you’re a mom and you’re not real sure what’s happening, what are the common things that you see and come across that moms are struggling with when they’re at that point they need to reach out?

I think a couple of the big themes that I see that moms are struggling with, the first thing that pops into my mind is intrusive thoughts because those can be scary for a new mom. It’s one thing to be sad and weepy and not be able to get your chores done and be in that depression, but when those intrusive thoughts start coming in, where you’re having these thoughts about baby and yourself and your partner and you don’t want them, but you cannot get rid of them, it’s life-changing, I think, for moms. It’s very scary and they’re not sure what to do with it.

I see a lot of moms with intrusive thoughts that reach out. A lot of anxiety. I don’t know. Personally, I think anxiety is more common than depression because it’s like a cliff. You’re on your anxiety, you have anxiety and then when it gets too bad, you fall off this cliff. It’s so hard for moms to know where that line is. A lot of moms struggle for a long time with anxiety and they don’t know that that’s what’s going on. They think it’s motherhood. They think it’s worrying about the baby. I see a lot of that, a lot of anxiety that sneaks up in moms and they fall off that cliff and they’re like, “I didn’t even know this was a thing.”

Moms struggle for a long time with anxiety, and they don't know that's what's going on. They think it's just worrying about the baby. Share on X

Barriers To Reaching Out

It sounds like you’ve got a lot of moms that things get hard and that’s when they reach out. Do you guys have, as an organization, thoughts on those barriers to moms reaching out sooner or in general, what do you think providers could do more of or society or hospitals or that kind of thing? What are those barriers where it seems like it’s got to be so bad before there are moms that are reaching out saying, “Now, I’m ready.” What are your thoughts?

I think talking about it. Putting it out there and letting moms know that if something doesn’t feel right, then there’s help. There’s nothing that you’ve done. There’s nothing that you could have done to prevent it. No one is at fault here. It’s the fact that you need a little extra support and you are not alone. Most moms need some extra support.

A mom reaching out before she’s in the depths of a struggle deals with a lot of shame and a lot of guilt around those feelings of not being able to, whatever it is, be the mother they thought they were going to be, or be able to provide for their partner they thought they were going to. I think it’s a lot of those feelings, like not wanting to be a disappointment or feeling shameful about needing extra support, because everything is so focused on the baby that it gets swept under the rug. It’s hard for her to raise her hand. “I’m still here. I actually do need help.” I think that’s hard.

When everything is so focused on the baby, the mom can get swept under the rug. And it's hard for her to raise her hand and say, “I'm still here. I actually do need help.” Share on X

It is and you’re spot on. I think what all of us want for moms is for that shame not to be there, for that shame to be gone, and for this to be a normal conversation where, for most of us, when you have a brand new baby, you regularly go to the pediatrician because they’re checking on that baby. What is the regular checkup? How does the mom get support as well? I’m not saying it’s the pediatrician’s role. How, as a society, can we help that mom so that she’s okay, too?

A lot of this can happen later in that first year. I’m a perfect example of what you talked about. The intrusive thoughts were my bottom when I realized I had postpartum depression, I had anxiety, but it wasn’t till the intrusive thoughts came that I was like, “This is not normal.” I didn’t know it was normal. I didn’t know that this is something you can go talk to someone and they can help you with. Removing that layer of shame is such an amazing thing to do for moms. Thank you for what you are continuously doing because it helps all of us feel a little bit more normal in that situation and realize we’re not alone.

Mom Mentor Program

Amber, can you talk a little bit about that mom mentor program that you guys have? I find that interesting, helping to reduce the shame a little bit where you’re talking. It sounds like moms can talk to another mom. They’re not talking to a therapist or not talking to a doctor. They’re talking with another person who’s been through it.

That’s exactly what it is and what it’s meant to be. A mom can reach out to our organization, and they fill out this quick little form, which literally helps me pair them with the best mom mentor. That can be location, that can be what they’re going through, that can be if they’re on their second baby, not their first. A mom is able to connect with this mom mentor in any way she wants. If she wants to text the mom’s mentor, that’s all that they’re going to do.

If she wants to meet up for coffee, then that’s what they’re going to do. It’s tailored exactly to what the mom needs. Sometimes, you need a quick phone call with another mom to say, “You’re not alone. I get you.” That’s all you need. That’s fine to have a mom mentor that’s a one-off. I still have best friends to this day that I was a mentor for so you can build friendships through it. It’s a great program because, like you said, you’re not talking to a professional, you’re not talking to anyone who’s going to make a note in your chart about anything, and it’s not a group.

Sometimes you just need a quick phone call with another mom to say, “You're not alone. I get you,” and that's all you need. Share on X

Some moms are a little weary of going to a group setting and having to spill the beans in front of all these other moms. That can be overwhelming for some moms. We want to provide a way for them to have this one-on-one connection. I think it’s an amazing program. We’ve been doing it for over ten years. We have about fifteen or more mom mentors right now, so there are plenty. If anyone reading needs a mom mentor, and you’re not burdening anybody. Please reach out. We would love to pair you.

That’s wonderful, and it could even be applied to someone who’s not in the Charleston area. If you’re a mom and you’re struggling to reach out, Amber, what do you recommend? Reaching out to a colleague, or a friend, or someone and asking for that same type of relationship?

Absolutely. This goes back to making friends after you’re a mom. It can be so awkward, but going out to somebody that has a baby that’s maybe the same age as yours, or maybe not. Maybe meeting somebody at the playground who’s got older kids and talking about what’s going on, you’re not going to scare anybody. Most moms are open about talking about their mental health.

I think it surprises moms sometimes, even in groups, when they start talking about what’s going on and they’re like, “You know about this? This happened to you, too?” They connect. Reaching out to somebody could be a friend’s mom, a grandmother or something because they get it too. If you’re in another place, I know that Postpartum Support International has a mom mentor program that you can do from it.

It’s so funny. It goes back to why it feels so hard to say sometimes like, “Being a mother is hard.” We seem to be able to say that everything else in life is hard. Going on a diet is hard. Going to work is hard. Doing all these things is hard, but when it comes to motherhood, that seems to be the thing people are so reluctant to say is hard. Even though it’s fair to say motherhood, parenthood in general is probably the hardest thing anybody has to do.

 

Let’s Thrive Postpartum | Amber Weakley | Postpartum Support

 

Advice For Struggling Moms

Amber, if you’ve got any advice based on your experience with Postpartum Support Charleston and the schooling that you’re doing, what would your advice be to a mom who is struggling right now or what do you wish you would have known?

I think my advice for a mom who is struggling would be to reach out. Don’t do it alone. If you’re struggling, if you’re having a bad day, there’s somebody you can call. You can call us. Call a friend. I even reached out to my stepdad one time and I didn’t even like him at the time, but it was somebody that I could talk to and I could get the feelings off my chest and know that I wasn’t alone because I think having a mental illness can feel very lonely.

Having a mental illness when you’re a mom is tenfold because you’re at home with this baby alone sometimes. Reach out for help and put all of that guilt and shame in your back pocket for a second. I’m putting that aside and thinking like, “What do I need here in this moment?” I promise, reaching out is going to make you feel a little bit better.

Having a mental illness can feel very lonely, but it can feel even more lonely when you're a mom at home with your baby alone. Share on X

I love that question. “What do I need?”

We think about what the baby needs all the time, and we think about what our other kids need and what our partner needs. Sometimes, it’s hard to slow down and maybe having a conversation, even with the person that you’re reaching out to about, “I’m not sure what I need,” and bouncing ideas off of them. Do you need a break from baby? Maybe not. Do you need a meal brought to you? Do you need to go to Starbucks and then the plant store to buy a plant? That was my thing. What do you need in that moment as a new mom? Your needs are as important as your babies.

 

Let’s Thrive Postpartum | Amber Weakley | Postpartum Support

 

I think you said something important earlier about that mom mentor and having that connection. All three of us live in a city that is rapidly growing, so the majority of moms are not from here and do not have a well-established village or community that we all hear growing up we should have. When you live somewhere where you don’t know people, having someone to reach out, making those connections, and talking to moms at the playground or anywhere is so key because you tend not to have that community in your hometown that you may have grown up in. Finding a community like Postpartum Support Charleston can help so much.

It can be lonely when you don’t have family or friends or know nobody and think you’re doing it all alone in this big city, but you don’t have to be doing it alone. We’re here to help support you.

We love that you guys are here and doing this and helping so many moms. It makes such a difference. Thank you for the work that Postpartum Support Charleston is doing, but also the work that you’re doing, Amber. In it every day, letting people like me lurk on social media pages and see stuff and not have to engage, but to get that feeling that even as a lurker, I’m not alone. It makes all the difference.

I know, especially anyone reading that’s in Charleston, if you yourself, a friend, co-worker, or anyone who you think, please. I think I look at it now as a mom who’s gone through postpartum anxiety as part of my role now is to say like, “Here are some resources.” Yes, I’m a therapist myself. I’d like to take that hat off as often as I can and say there’s so many ways to get connected with people out there.

As you said, Amber, talking with someone and being able to say things like, “This is what happened today,” can make a huge difference, and you guys are there to be able to provide those connections. People don’t have to find those connections completely on their own. It’s okay to lean on the support and resources that are there. You guys are doing a wonderful job.

You are. Thank you. Amber, is there anything we haven’t asked you? Anything that you want to plug that’s upcoming for Postpartum Support Charleston? Anything that you’d want to share that we haven’t brought up yet?

I think we talked about the full spectrum of what we do with Postpartum Support Charleston. I want to reiterate that anyone who’s reading, if you’ve got any concerns or yont to meet some new friends or li We’re here. When you text or you call Postpartum Support Charleston, you will come to me. It’s not going to be some person that you don’t know. I’m here. I got you.

I know that you guys have some awesome groups and everything, like different support groups and fun things. There’s something, I think, for everybody.

There is. We’ve got everything from a garden group to a group that meets on the beach, to a walking group, to virtual groups. We’ve got it all. If we don’t have it and you need it, let me know. It’s probably something you can put on the calendar.

Reach out to Postpartum Support Charleston. If you’re not local, there’s still a great resource to watch some of their virtual events and hopefully reach out to some other groups in your area or us at Thrive. Amber, thank you so very much for jumping on, sharing what you do, and sharing how you help moms. We appreciate this and everything you guys are doing.

I appreciate that. Thanks for having me.

Big thank you to Amber from Postpartum Support Charleston for joining us. I think she shared some wonderful information about how her organization is serving and helping women here in Charleston, South Carolina, and some great ideas about how women across the country could get connected in the same way. What do you think, Kelly?

Agree. They’re such a great organization, and we are lucky to have something like that in Charleston. They do have lots of similar ones throughout the country. If you are not local to Charleston, if you are somewhere in Ohio or across the country or even internationally, look for a group that is similar. If not, come check us out at Thrive Postpartum. We have the same drop-in support groups, the community, the education. We can be your community. We would love to. Please check us out. We’d love to help you. If you are local, we recommend checking out Postpartum Support and some of their services as well. Also, I loved your tip for a mom mentor.

That would have been great to have back in the day.

It’s such a wonderful idea that I don’t think a lot of moms think of, but it’s a much easier way to talk to somebody than reach out. You’re not talking to your doctor. You’re not talking to your therapist if that’s not something you’re ready for. Being able to connect with another mom, like she said, matches people based on what’s going on and your experience, so that you can talk to somebody that’s been through what you’re feeling. When I tell you the feeling of relief that comes when you find somebody that’s like, “I’ve been through that too,” it is like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.

I think when she was talking to us, it hit home because both of us have been there. We both felt it. We both needed that support. We want to be your support as well. I think all of our goal is the same after going through this. There shouldn’t be shame around this. It’s a very normal part of motherhood. We don’t want you to feel sad, embarrassed, shameful or anything to be feeling this way because we’ve done it.

We’ve all been there. It was life-changing for each of us, as we all got involved in different aspects of helping other moms. This is normal. We want you to know that you have a community. Whatever way you find that community, we’re here for you. Amber, thank you for talking with us. Thank you to Postpartum Support Charleston for all that we’re doing. Ashley, thank you for being here and for all the moms reading, we will see you next episode.

See you next time, Kelly.

Thanks.

 

Important Links

 

About Amber Weakly

Let’s Thrive Postpartum | Amber Weakley | Postpartum SupportAmber Weakley grew up in Charleston and is happily raising her two boys in this beautiful city. She is the Program Coordinator for Support Services for Postpartum Support Charleston where helping other mothers is her life’s mission. She is also a volunteer with Postpartum Support International and on the board of Mugs for Moms. After the birth of both of her boys, she struggled with Postpartum Depression and Bipolar 2. Amber is currently in school to become a Licensed Counselor to specialize in Maternal Mental Health. She has been married for over 10 years to her high school sweetheart, and fills her cup by doing yoga, walking, and going on adventures with her family.

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