The Power of Peer Support: Ashley Hoover- NICU Mom & Advocate
Updated: Nov 20
As a young, new, black mother I knew nothing about postpartum anxiety. I didn't even know it was a thing. I didn't know my thoughts and actions were anxiety. I thought I was just uptight or it might have been the baby blues. I did have a NICU baby, but I wasn’t really feeling sad, and everything I saw was just about postpartum depression.
The six-week appointment didn't really help, either. A simple sheet asking about depressive symptoms, but not anxiety, didn’t match my feelings. I felt dismissed by some providers during my journey. I even found myself afraid to speak up about my feelings because I didn't want to get my baby taken away. It's very scary to have those thoughts and feelings as a new mom. No new mom should be worried about that while healing from birth and taking care of their newborn in the NICU.
The Power of Advocacy
Luckily, I managed to advocate for myself. And the NICU team pushed for me to be seen right away. They knew my daughter was my first child and she was going through so much.
From there, I went to a parent support group and found a locally-based group online- Circle of Hope. Just seeing the amount of moms that were in the group helped a lot right away. I get emotional thinking back to that day, seeing how many other moms were in a moms mental health group; knowing that I wasn't alone and what I was going through was happening to other moms as well.
The Power of Peer Support
Having a group of people who get you and who don't judge you for your thoughts, knowing that there are other people who have come out on the other side of it is priceless. It helps to talk things out or just have a vent sesh. Then after getting those words out of your system, having other people say that you're either validated or that “hey, maybe look at the situation from a different angle”, or saying how they've handled similar situations in the past is truly life-changing. I don't think any mom should have to go through their own mental health diagnosis while raising a new baby on their own. Other moms or more experienced moms can be the village that new moms need.
Therapy does wonders, and, yes, you should see a psychiatrist, and, yes, you absolutely should use medication if that is what's going to help you. But with all those options, there's also nothing like having a community that you can lean into, that's going to be there and knowing what they are already about.
I don't think I would have made it through without a community of moms going through the same thing. I've seen amazing things happen in [Moms Mental Health Initiative’s] Circle of Hope group and I think there should be one in every single city. There should be more information on where to find these groups and take care of your mental health. It should be given to you along with how to take care of your newborn. Since I was the first one of my friends to have a kid, I didn't know there was help like this. I looked it up and found it on the internet.
The Power of Knowing
We need Moms Mental Health Initiative and we need every single mom in the Milwaukee area to know about it. When I was paranoid about anybody else holding my baby, including her father, and watching my baby sleep and breathe, it was nice to know that other moms had been there too. Postpartum anxiety is way more common than most people think and moms who experience it need a supportive community in their corner to see them through.