My 31st and 32nd birthdays were complete opposites. On May 7, 2018, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, consumed by negative self-talk and severe postpartum depression after the birth of my second child. The next day, my husband and mom took me to the emergency room because I wanted to end my life.
My 32nd birthday was different. On May 7, 2019, I stood on the steps of Capital Hill in Washington D.C. with courage and a purpose: to save moms. In that year, I grew immensely through an intensive outpatient program, hundreds of hours of therapy and frequent appointments with a psychiatrist.
It was through my own experience with postpartum depression that I learned I could help others. During my PPD experience, I felt alone, even though I had supportive family members. No one truly knows the guilt, shame, sadness, resentment and helplessness you do unless they’ve experienced it. As I began to feel more like myself again, I began to seek out other moms who lived the nightmare I did.
I came across organizations like Motherhood Understood and 2020 Mom. I learned about an event called Mom Congress and was intrigued. Mom Congress is a chance for moms and non-profits across the country to join together and speak up about what matters most in not only child health, but maternal health. I called my mom and asked her if she’d attend with me and we booked our flights that night.
When I arrived at Mom Congress, I was greeted by like-minded, motivated moms. The best part was for those couple of days, political affiliation, economic status and race didn’t matter because we were all there for one reason. During the first day I heard staggering statistics centered around maternal mental health, pregnancy and birth complications and paid family leave:
- More than 700 women in the U.S. die every year from pregnancy-related complications
- 50,000 U.S. women nearly die from pregnancy-related complications
- 60% of pregnancy-related complications are preventable
- Black women are 3-4 times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication
- The U.S. is the ONLY industrialized nation with rising maternal mortality rates
- 1 in 5 (more than 600,000) U.S. women suffer from a maternal mental health disorder such as postpartum depression
- Less than 15% of women receive treatment for a maternal mental health disorder
- Up to 50% of women living in poverty will suffer from a maternal mental health disorder
- There are 22 states that have laws regarding the minimum number of weeks you can separate a puppy from its mother (7 weeks), yet there are no requirements for humans and babies
I got the chance to meet with staffers from two Missouri House of Representatives offices, on both sides of the aisle. Sharing my story with them and other Missouri moms helped me feel empowered and we asked for their support on the bi-partisan Momnibus bill package that addresses comprehensive needs of expecting, birthing and new mothers.
The Saving and Supporting Moms Briefing was moderated by Christy Turlington Burns of Every Mother Counts. The panel featured a father who lost his wife to PPD after she tried to get help several times before she took her own life. He talked about the shortage of healthcare providers, which resonated with me. The day after I left the ER, I was told there was a two month wait to see a psychiatrist. My husband pushed to get me to see someone sooner and a very sweet woman made calls on my behalf to find one for me as they both knew; I wouldn’t have made it two months without treatment.
While speaking up in D.C., was great, I know change also has to happen at home. I’d like to advocate in Missouri and welcome anyone who is interested. I’ve reached out to Missouri’s Regional Women’s Health Coordinator and have also done a fundraiser for 2020 Mom since I’ve been home. I’m working my way to becoming a 2020 Mom Ambassador. Please join me! If interested in getting involved, email me at [email protected].
Courtney Haller has many jobs. The one she enjoys the most is being a mom of two toddlers, Ruby (2016) and Miles (2018), and wife (to Kyle). Her family lives in Cottleville, MO. Courtney’s professional job is the Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Maryville University in St. Louis. After a intense struggle that almost took her life, Courtney decided to devote her time and resources to bringing awareness and breaking the stigma of Postpartum Depression. She is an official ambassador for 2020 Mom, a nonprofit organization that works on convening, collaborating and inspiring change in the maternal mental health field. Most recently, she signed on as a brand representative for Break + Bloom, a company that sells inspiring apparel and jewelry and offers a community for women to talk about Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. Courtney has a BS from the University of Kansas in Journalism and a MA from Maryville University in Strategic Communication and Leadership. She completed graduate school while pregnant and a new mom and is proud to support other moms juggling many “jobs” in their lives.