A Mother’s Journey From the Depths of Postpartum Depression to Recovery

Anneliese Lawton, a Burlington-based mom of three and mental health advocate, is lacing up her sneakers on May 14 to give back to the Hospital that supported her journey to recovery from the depths of postpartum depression.

A patient of our Women’s Health Concerns Clinic, Anneliese is joining hundreds of St. Joe’s supporters as they walk, run, and raise funds for women’s mental health programs at our Hospital during the LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart™ Run for Women.

Anneliese is participating in the event so that women in our community continue to have access to the same compassionate care she received at our Hospital. Access to mental healthcare has never been more important than it is right now, as COVID-19 continues to take a disproportionate emotional toll on women, especially among expecting and new mothers, like Anneliese. Those wishing to support Anneliese can visit her sponsorship page to make a donation.

Anneliese’s Story

Anneliese’s struggles with mental health started long before she became a mom. But it’s when she got pregnant with her first child, Jack, that it spiraled out of control.

Early in the pregnancy, Anneliese and her husband, Dave, received news their baby may have serious medical conditions. A prenatal assessment ruled out the possibility of Down Syndrome, but an abnormality in the baby’s brain would require more invasive testing that put Jack’s life at risk.

“That’s when my journey with depression really started,” Anneliese says. “It was like a switch flicked inside me and I had to come to terms with possibly losing my baby. To cope, I put up a wall to protect myself, and that’s when I became emotionally detached from those around me.”

While tests would eventually confirm Jack was at a low risk for complications, extreme worry for her unborn child’s health had already taken a profound toll on Anneliese’s mental well-being.

“By then, I was already depressed, lonely and struggling,” Anneliese says. “When my son was born and didn’t latch, or sleep, I felt like a failure all around. The lack of sleep and feelings of inadequacy only made my mental health worse.”

From Spiraling out of Control to Seeking Care

As much as Anneliese wanted a bigger family, she felt she couldn’t endure another emotional rollercoaster like her first pregnancy. So, when she found out she was pregnant eight months after giving birth to Jack, she became incredibly anxious.

It didn’t help that, after going into threatened pre-term labour with her second child, Max, she was rushed to a high-risk neonatal unit at a hospital in Toronto. It was at that point her mental health deteriorated to a new low.

“Once again, I found myself in this place in pregnancy where I was being told about all kinds of risks to my baby and the worst-case scenarios,” Anneliese says. “And once again, I was having to make difficult decisions that weighed heavily on my heart, and my emotional health.”

After Max was born, Anneliese found herself at home caring for two young boys a year and half apart. One day, the mounting pressures of motherhood became too much and she stormed out her front door uttering self-harm threats.

“I had wanted to be a mom my entire life, and I didn’t want that anymore,” Anneliese recalls. “It was really jarring for me to feel this way, and that’s when Dave called for help and I eventually got the care I needed.”

‘The Reason I’m Still Here Today’

After the birth of her second child, Anneliese was diagnosed with postpartum depression and referred to the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic at St. Joe’s for treatment.

With support from her care team, therapy, and medication, Anneliese began to find balance in her life again and feel confident as a new mom. In fact, Anneliese became so self-assured in her role as a mother that she and Dave decided to have a third child, and baby Abby was born.

“St. Joe’s is the reason I’m still here today with my boys and baby girl, and I’m eternally grateful for the care I received at the Hospital,” Annelise says. “And while I still have some bad days here and there, I can honestly say I’m having the most phenomenal postpartum experience being a new mom again.”

Today, Anneliese shares her inspiring story through her blog and speaking engagements to encourage other women who may struggling with their mental health to seek out support.

“You don’t need to be afraid, or feel ashamed, to ask for help. Mental illness is not a character flaw. It’s something that’s happening in the moment – it won’t last forever,” Anneliese says. “I am walking proof that it can be empowering to get help, and that St. Joe’s is a safe and supportive place to lean on for compassionate mental health care when you need it most.”

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call the 24-hour Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) at 905-972-8338 or contact the service online at coasthamilton.ca. If it is an emergency, call 911. For additional mental health information and resources, visit St. Joe’s website.