Readers Say

We asked readers to share their postpartum experiences. Here’s what they said.

Plus, a running list of local support groups.

In the wake of the Duxbury tragedy, we asked Boston.com readers to share their own postpartum stories, and how they found support.

The case of Lindsay Clancy, the 32-year-old mother facing first-degree murder charges for killing her three young children, has sparked women to share their own postpartum mental health struggles. During her arraignment Tuesday, Clancy’s defense attorney said in court that she lacked the mental capacity to plan the killings — she was suffering from postpartum depression and was overmedicated on prescription drugs.

More on Postpartum:

In the wake of the Duxbury tragedy, we asked Boston.com readers to share their own postpartum stories, and women wrote in with the challenges they faced and how they found support in the days and months following giving birth. “My postpartum experience was horrific — terrifying actually,” Amy wrote. The Medford mother shared how she received plenty of support during pregnancy, but she needed help after giving birth. “[T]he rest was up to me to find my own help,” she wrote. 

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We also asked readers to share the resources that helped them most in the days and months following giving birth, and readers wrote in sharing the benefits of joining local Facebook groups, finding a therapist, and leaning on loved ones for support. For Anna O. in Cambridge her family and husband proved to be “the best help.” Lindsay G. in Norwell said she had postpartum depression after the births of each of her four children. “I didn’t know it after the first and only recognized it in hindsight. What helped me most was choosing not to breastfeed or pump, taking Zoloft, and Progesterone,” she said. 

Ahead, we share 10 experiences from readers, and the support they found most helpful. Plus, scroll to the bottom for a list of local resources and support groups. Want to add to our list? Send us a resource you found personally helpful by e-mailing us at [email protected]

Readers share their postpartum experiences

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity. 

‘I needed to feel loved and supported’

“I was very happy for the first year of my son’s life. I was pleasantly surprised. However, when we started trying for a second child I began having fertility issues and my son also started daycare and was sick for several weeks around that same time. I ended up having major anxiety issues for about 6 months, and still deal with it occasionally today (he is 2 1/2 and I am still undergoing fertility treatments). Having children can be so difficult, but also so rewarding. But support from your community is HUGE. We need more [of] it! Especially in this COVID era where people have been more isolated than ever. I really need my friends and family during this time. I don’t know how I would get through it otherwise.”

What was most helpful: “I found a therapist through psychologytoday.com in my town. I spoke to my PCP [primary care physician] which was very helpful. And I just made a huge effort to see friends and family, ask for help, ask for time to myself. I needed to feel loved and supported.”

— April, Medfield

‘Those things saved me’

“I was 35 and completely unprepared because I had to stay in bed for the last month (preeclampsia). I was 4 hours away from my father and siblings. My mother had been dead for 15 years. My mother-in-law moved to our town the day our first baby was born. She had never given birth (adopted her children) and had no concept of what I was going through. The baby had colic and screamed 24/7 for 6 months. My husband was working 100 hours a week (yes!). My mother-in-law insisted that she take the baby to her house every other day. I hardly knew her and could not stand up to her when she insisted that I pump out milk so she could have him at her house longer. She interfered with my bonding [with] him for years. I still feel like I have PTSD from the whole experience.”

What was most helpful: “I had no support at all until my baby was a year old. Then I discovered the weekly ‘Toy Library’ in our town. Two older women volunteers ran it. One talked with the mothers and the other watched the kids play. It was a godsend for me. I started to make friends and got connected to play groups all around the area. Those things saved me. Mother-in-law continued to interfere with our little family and I don’t even like thinking about her.”

— MMB, Maine

‘It still took years before I trusted my instincts’

“I suffered greatly with postpartum rage and anxiety. It didn’t help that my newborn son (now age 13) would eventually be diagnosed as autistic — he didn’t want to be held when upset and he had very specific sensory needs that I wouldn’t fully understand until many years later. He was my first and I thought I was ‘doing it’ wrong. Probably the most difficult thing about the experience was the [absolute] fear that if I told anyone, ‘they’ would come [and] take my baby away.”

What was most helpful: “Validation from other moms that it really WAS that hard … but it still took years before I trusted my instincts as a mom.”

— M. Bradford, Boston

‘No one could take a new patient’

“I was admitted to the ante-partum unit at a major Boston hospital at 28 weeks when my water broke unexpectedly. I stayed [in] that unit for 5 weeks until I had a traumatic emergency C-section, followed by my son’s 6-week NICU stay. I had severe anxiety during both my 5-week hospital admission and the 6-week NICU stay and postpartum PTSD from the trauma. There was no one, NO ONE, who could actually see me as a patient for psychiatric or psychological care. The psychiatric service at the hospital had waitlists for their waitlists. Again, I was LIVING IN THE HOSPITAL and could not receive mental healthcare for my pregnancy-related and then post-partum anxiety. I called a number of non-hospital affiliated psychiatric and psychology services to try to receive care. No one could take a new patient. The floor social worker told the nurses on the ante-partum floor to have me hold ice cubes during a panic attack so that my mind would focus on something else. I was also told to download the Calm app. Again, while I was LIVING IN THE HOSPITAL for 5 weeks and then spending every day, for 6 weeks, in the NICU at one of the best hospitals in the world. If I couldn’t receive mental health services as a pregnant patient LIVING IN THE HOSPITAL, how on earth are women supposed to receive services elsewhere?”

What was most helpful: “Facebook support groups for moms who had their water break early (PPROM) and had babies in the NICU. Without those online groups of strangers, I don’t know what I would have done. I was also able to connect with a social worker in Waltham who talked to me on the phone, but she couldn’t provide psychiatric or psychological care.”

– Anonymous reader in Framingham

‘Postpartum was different with each child’

“Postpartum was different with each child. Second child I hemorrhaged on the table and was exhausted for days. Fourth [child] they couldn’t close my stomach for a while because my uterus would not contract. That being said, my first and third were great – lots of friends and family around to help. Second and fourth were harder because people thought me being tired [meant that I] didn’t need or want them around, so I felt overwhelmed, exhausted and alone (even though I know I wasn’t).”

— KAB

‘When my first baby was three months old, I got help’

“I had some pretty bad postpartum depression. When my first baby was three months old, I got help. It made all the difference. I felt trapped by dread.”

What was most helpful: “My therapist who knew me suggested I consider medication. It made ALL the difference for me.”

— Leslie M., Quincy

‘Every day at about 4 p.m. I would start crying’

“With my first child I experienced the baby blues. Basically, every day at about 4 p.m. I would start crying. My family jokingly called it ‘sun downing.’ This lasted for about 10 days after returning home from the hospital. In hindsight, my first child was a bit early and my hypothesis is that my pregnancy hormones just crashed. Also, it felt like my heart grew about 10 times in one day. I still can’t believe they let me leave the hospital with such a tiny human and no training.”

What was most helpful: “I researched the baby blues online and identified fairly early on that was what was going on. It also helped that I felt intense love and bonding so I wasn’t worried it was PPD.”

— R., Boston

‘I had the baby blues after my first daughter was born’

“I had the baby blues after my first daughter was born, but felt better after she was about 3 months old.”

— Kristen T., Hopkinton

‘It was an immediate signal that my experience, as the mother, didn’t matter.’

“My first postpartum experience was so jarring. I had just spent nine-ish months being constantly monitored by my OB, every twinge and pain analyzed. Then I went through a traumatic delivery and … nothing. The team I had come to rely on prior to birth was all of the sudden MIA. I longed to process the experience of labor and delivery with professionals, but I received essentially zero follow-up care until the two-week [postpartum] follow-up appointment where I was asked to fill out a PPD screener survey that I’m almost certain nobody read. It was an immediate signal that my experience, as the mother, didn’t matter. The underlying message to us is, ‘suck it up.’”

What was most helpful: “Online moms groups. They’re easy to make fun of, but going through the experience of pregnancy and birth with other women who know exactly how you’re feeling is so incredibly helpful. They were truly a lifesaver for me during all three of my pregnancies/ deliveries.”

— Kristen, Maynard

‘No sadness at all’

“Biggest challenge was getting a bit of mastitis a few weeks after giving birth the first time from not nursing as often as I should have and trying to schedule my breast feedings too much. I was euphoric after finally giving birth the first time after repeated miscarriages prior to actually carrying a baby to term. I fell totally in love with my child and felt reassured about being good enough of a parent. I had a few days of weepiness after I totally weaned my first child at 9 months, which passed quickly. My second time giving birth I hemorrhaged during and was anemic and weak, but still very happy. Weaned at 6 months, and no sadness at all. My third childbirth was a dream and the only problem was that I could never wean my child off the middle of the night feeding, which required me to get up at 2 a.m. every night with two other children to care for as well, which caused friction between my husband and me, since her crying woke him up. We were having marital problems anyway. But I experienced no sadness at all postpartum, even after finally weaning the baby at 12 months from that last 2 a.m. feeding. I did get more sleep though!”

What was most helpful: “I read a few books to help with the mastitis, and got it resolved without a doctor visit. Penelope Leach‘s book was a big help. When I was anemic I was on iron, and my midwife, when she came over to my house to check on me after the birth at home, even brought over a pot of beef stew to help with the iron since she knew that I was mostly vegetarian and didn’t eat much meat.” 

Anonymous reader in Allston

Local support groups in Massachusetts:

Want to add to our list? Send us a local resource or support group you found helpful by e-mailing us at [email protected]