Mental Health

Reflections on Parenting, Mental Health, and Self-Care

Janelle Jenkins

Recently, we spoke with Janelle Jenkins, a mom of two and passionate advocate for the prioritization of maternal mental health and wellbeing.

Janelle shared with us how she struggled with her mental health throughout both of her pregnancies and as a new parent. In the early months of her son’s life, Janelle knew something wasn’t right. She didn’t experience the intimacy with her new baby that she thought she should, and felt like there was no one she could reach out to to talk about the stress and anxiety she was feeling. Janelle explained that there was a lack of support everywhere she looked. After giving birth to her son, she wasn’t introduced to any programs that would help her navigate the challenges of being a new, young mother. Then, among her friends and family, she felt alone in trying to figure out the novelty of being a mom; there was no one she felt she could call and ask “Hey, am I doing this right?”

“I love my kids so much. But when I was in postpartum, I didn’t want to touch them that much. I didn’t want to breastfeed. I felt stuck. I didn’t seek support, because I didn’t know what I needed in that moment.”

Janelle began to feel the effects of compounding stressors in her life. A domestic violence altercation, the pressure to maintain a job as a single mother, and becoming pregnant with her second child weighed on her mental health. During her second pregnancy, however, she began to seek out and receive the support she needed. Janelle was connected with a group prenatal care program, where she could talk with other expecting moms who were facing the same challenges. The group also provided access to the same doctors and nurses throughout her pregnancy, allowing Janelle to ask questions, address concerns as they arose, and consistently receive quality care. The structure and information provided by group prenatal care throughout each stage of pregnancy was critical. It helped Janelle to prepare for birth and parenthood, and connect with relevant resources in a timely manner. The sense of community, access to information, and quality care prevented Janelle from experiencing the isolation she dealt with during her first pregnancy. 

“We were able to see what we all have in common…and we were able to build relationships. So that support I didn’t have before, I had that…the void I felt was being filled with this group.”

After giving birth to her daughter, Janelle found that continuing to participate in community programs and groups helped her to feel more connected to her new baby. The two joined research studies that focused on child development, giving Janelle a way to stay active and give back to her community, as well as learn about her daughter’s growth and progress.

“Finding resources in the community was huge…It created great moments, and I was able to meet other mothers.”

Now, as her kids have gotten older and she is more familiar with the communities and resources that are available to new and expecting parents, Janelle advocates for those around her to seek out the support she didn’t know she needed during her first pregnancy. Janelle explained that this advocacy is especially important for new and expecting parents of color, who often face increased stigma when seeking out mental health support. Even among friends, Janelle told us, it can be hard to admit when you are struggling with mental health, or are concerned about the wellbeing of someone close to you. That’s why Janelle works to break down the stigma Black women face when seeking out support, and educate others on the signs of anxiety and depression.

Janelle is also a long-time supporter of self-care, and explained to us that self-care isn’t just the costly, surface-level actions that first come to mind when people they think of self-care, but the small, everyday practices that bring joy.  Oftentimes, self-care looks like setting boundaries in your relationships and taking small steps towards long-term goals. Janelle sees self-care as consistently making decisions that will bring quality to her life, and encourages others to do the same.

“It’s really just finding joy and bringing quality to your life. Just being proactive about that. And so that’s why I’m big on self care.”

The resources that Janelle was able to connect with when her children were young made an immense impact in her mental health journey. Here are a few resources that Parents Thrive Colorado has curated by collaborating with parents and community members. 

MotherWise Colorado

The MotherWise Colorado program includes 6 weeks of workshops plus one-on-one coaching for mothers on knowing themselves, what healthy relationships are to them, communication and relationship skills for all kinds of relationships, and connecting with a newborn baby.

Postpartum Support International – Directory of Providers

Postpartum Support International’s Directory of Providers connects you with knowledgeable mental health support providers near you.

Colorado Crisis Services

Colorado Crisis Services connects you with support and counseling for you or a loved one. Read stories from real Coloradans about their mental health journey to know you’re not alone.

Healthy Expectations

With options ranging from a free support group to evidence-based mother-infant group psychotherapy, the Healthy Expectations program at Colorado Children’s Hospital draws upon experts from various medical and mental health disciplines to support pregnant women and women struggling with mood and anxiety issues after delivery.

MyCare Emotional Wellness Self-Help Tool

This resource has been designed by Maternal Mental Health NOW to help you feel prepared to adjust to the emotional demands, joys, and stressors of trying to conceive, pregnancy, and parenting.