I have been tremendously blessed to have the privilege to get to know Jess Banas. She is one of the most vibrant, compassionate, and warmest people that I have ever encountered. Jess serves as the Online Coordinator for Postpartum Support International and is one of the Adminstrator at the Online Postpartum Support Page (which was started by Tonya Rosenburg who will be appearing in an interview soon!) I hope that you find solace, truth, and comfort in Jess’ answers. I know that I have found all three through getting to know her and I am very excited to be able to share her sparkling personality with you!
1) I know that you have personal experience with Postpartum Thyroid Issues. Would you mind sharing your story with us and why it’s so important every woman get checked for these if PPD is suspected?
My first bout of PPD was in 1997. I had no idea that I was ill because of the lack of information related to postpartum anxiety that was available. I did not recognize my irritability and insomnia as relatable to thyroid imbalance or illness, I just thought I was ungrateful (for the gift of motherhood) and felt I was failing as a mother. Finally, I could not take the mood swings any longer and when I went in to get help, my doctor took my blood for a thyroid screen. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and thyroiditis.
The second time I had PPD, I was on thyroid medication, but still had a thyroid imbalance. My levels were 12 times higher than the highest normal range! I later discovered that thyroiditis is fairly common. In fact, studies indicate that 10% of postpartum women have thyroid fluctuations after pregnancy. Unfortunately, thyroid screens are not a common part of the six week postpartum checkup, even though the risk for thyroid imbalances are considerably higher than that of gestational diabetes which is 1-3%.
2) What do you find to be most challenging about Motherhood? The least?
The most challenging part of motherhood for me is finding harmony between my personal needs and those of my children. I find that if I don’t give time to myself and my relationship with my husband and friends, I become worn down, start to feel resentful, and feel less patient and tolerant. Giving to myself and taking care of my needs is not only important, it is vital to being a good parent and a good person. I have realized that saying “no” is a huge part of creating the time I need to give back to myself. Saying “no” is actually saying “yes” to me and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!!
The least challenging part of motherhood is the feeling of love and joy that comes with having two little lives join my husband and I. It seems that the love just grows each day that they exist!
3) How has becoming a Mother changed you?
I have found out who I am in being a mother. I have discovered what makes me tick, what is important to me, and discovered my priorities. Once I did that, everything else became easier and calmer. Nothing is as important to me as my family. I have more inner peace now and take better care of myself as a result. Because of this, I am in better shape than I was before I had children.
4) In your opinion, what aspect of Motherhood should be most celebrated?
I am not exactly sure how to put this, but I strongly feel that mothers should be “mothered” more in this country than they are now. There is so much attention given to the expectant mother, but once the baby arrives, the focus is centered on the infant and the mother is lost in the shuffle. I feel that mothering the new mother is extremely important and not done routinely enough! New mothers should be celebrated and focused on more so than they are. By all means come over and visit the baby, but don’t come without having a casserole in hand and be willing to chip in to do a load of laundry (or two) at the very least. Don’t expect to have the new mother wait on you, wait on her! It takes a full year for a new mother to recover from pregnancy, so there is a valid reason for giving a new mother TLC!
5) What led you to become involved with PSI?
The Yates family tragedy occurred when my daughter was only 3 months old. When the media (incorrectly) called it postpartum depression, I was totally freaked out and feared that I would possibly do the same thing, so I felt compelled to go online and search for answers. I went to the ABC News Message board. There I learned what PPD was. I realized that this kind of thing would continue to happen unless somebody did something to change it. I realized that I was going to be that somebody. I had to do something to prevent things like this from ever happening again… I had to at least try. For those children and those mothers…I had to try.
Women I have met ONLINE taught me about links, URLs, spam, Google, how to research, and much more. Women who survived PPP (Postpartum Psychosis) were able to clearly show me the differences between sanity and insanity in regards to psychotic behavior. We, in turn, tried to educate others who came to the ABC News Message board searching for answers.
While researching, I found the PSI website. With the encouragement and help of Tonya Rosenberg, who strongly endorsed PSI as a force for change, I joined PSI.
6) What do you do to spoil yourself when you have time away from the kids?
Lots of things! I take long bubble baths, go out to dinner with my husband, exercise, talk on the phone, read, nap, eat great food, write, play my guitar, cuddle with my doggie, watch my favorite shows on TV (I have TV recorded), giggle with my hubby in bed, and when things are rough, allow myself to have a good cry. The best thing I’ve learned to do is to hug myself when I’m stressed instead of beating myself up.
7) What activity refreshes you the most when you’ve had a rough day?
A combination of exercise, a shower, and either listening to music or playing my guitar.
8 ) How did you come to work with the Online Postpartum Support Page?
After a few weeks, ABC news shut down the Yates discussion; so in July of 2001, I created the Yahoo! Postpartum Mental Illnesses Group. Tonya Rosenberg (The founder of the Online Postpartum Support Page) came to my Yahoo group, introduced herself to me, and invited me to check out her group in 2001.
9) Any advice for other women who want to pay their experience forward and help women with PPD?
That is so easy!! Go online and join PSI, other online PPD support websites, and start supporting other women. Model the best that women can be by taking care of yourself and your family!! Think globally and act locally!!
10) If there was one piece of advice you could give to an expectant mother (new or experienced), what would it be and why would this be important for her to hear?
Educate yourself on the subject of YOUR BODY & HOW IT BEST FUNCTIONS thru the various ages and stages of life! We know more about how to program our VCRs than we do our own bodies and that is simply to our own personal detriment. Ignorance is NOT bliss, my friends. In my own humble local library there are now tons of books on the subject of postpartum depression and women’s moods/hormones and bodies, so there is plenty of free information out there now! Also, please PLEASE do not hesitate to ask for and expect HELP!