Author, life coach, and plus-size model Rosie Mercado experienced postpartum depression with three of her four children, in addition to other personal and physical challenges. She tells Adriana Lozada how she learned to listen to her body, to ask for help, and to admire her own strength.
How did you summon your strength postpartum? Did you break from any patterns that weren’t serving you any longer? Reflect on your strength with us @Birthful.
Related Birthful episodes:
- Postpartum Depression, with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett
- Setting Up Your Postpartum Support, with Michelle Peterson
- Postpartum Support International, which has a Spanish-English bilingual helpline
- The My Baby App, from the Dignity Health Foundation (two versions available: in English and in Spanish)
- The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, in English and in Spanish, shared by Stanford University
Download the free, My Baby App from the Dignity Health Foundation, which has an extensive section to support your mental health, including making it easy for you to take the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. This scale is a widely-used screening tool that you can self-administer to check-in with how you are feeling and decide if you need more help. The app is also available in Spanish.
[Postpartum Stories] Lessons from a Life Coach Who Faced Postpartum Depression Three Times
Adriana Lozada: Welcome to Birthful. I’m Adriana Lozada.
Rosie Mercado: There was moments that I felt disconnected from my kids. And I remember my mom’s face, kind of like not knowing what to tell me and I think it was really a shocker when I said I felt disconnected, and it was a shocker for me to voice that out.
Lozada: That’s Rosie Mercado talking about the moment she realized the depths of her postpartum depression. Rosie is the author of the book The Girl with the Self-Esteem Issues, and a mom of four. In this episode, she shares her struggles through three postpartum experiences as a single mom, and the changes she needed to make in herself to break the cycles of abandonment. You may also hear her four-month-old playing in the background.
Make sure you stay on until the end of the episode for my two things to do, one for you, one for the rest of us. You’re listening to Birthful, here to inform your intuition.
Welcome, Rosie. It is so good to have you here. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you identify?
Mercado: You know what? I’m 40-years-old. I’m a life coach. I’m a plus-sized Latina. I work in television. I’m an author now. I’m so excited about that. I have my book out, The Girl with Self-Esteem Issues, and it talks about all these moments. All these moments, from weight loss, to weight gain, to motherhood, to being a shitty parent, to learning to be a good parent and connect. For most of my life, like with each of my pregnancies, this has been the first time, at the age of 40, that I am in a healthy relationship, that I’ve had a healthy pregnancy, that I’m in a loving relationship.
In the past, it was me by myself with my dad, like my dad was really my support system, and my mom was my support system, so I really had to deal with the issues of okay, I’m in a relationship, and in the middle of my pregnancy they would walk off.
Lozada: And we can hear your son in the background. He’s four months, and congratulations on this late life pregnancy, but how old is your oldest one?
Mercado: My oldest one is 20, gonna be 21. I was a young mom when I had her, so I don’t know. It’s crazy to see that I have a 21-year-old and then I have a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old, and the baby’s in the background. Like as much as we’re trying to keep him quiet, the rattles and stuff.
Lozada: Yeah, and I wanted to talk, so this… You have four kids, and this is the first time that you’re not having to do postpartum as a single mom. So, let’s take you back to that Rosie of 21 years ago and the first time around doing postpartum, what was that experience like?
Mercado: It was… I really had to push myself to do, do, do, do, not feel. I’d have moments of breaking down and then I had moments… I mean, I was 420 pounds. I was between 395, 420 pounds, so first of all, I was really big, so just imagine going to the doctor as someone who’s heavy, and constantly being told like, “You’re too fat to have a baby.” And the doctors were like that, and I didn’t have the courage or the self-esteem to stand up and say, “You know what? You’re not the right doctor if you’re gonna keep treating me that way.” And I think it really hit me when I was in the hospital. Sitting on the bed holding my baby and I remember the first thing that I see, the door was open to my room, and seeing the husbands pushing the wife with the baby in the wheelchair, and I remember just breaking out in tears. I’m thankful that I had my dad, but although I had my dad, there was still this… It wasn’t my partner. And it’s like this bittersweet moment, because I look at my daughter and I’m like… She gave me the strength to keep going.
But then I would come back and look at the reality, it’s like, “Oh my God, this person abandoned me. He abandoned me.” And I felt so much guilt and not knowing what to do. I mean, there was moments that my daughter would have a fever and I didn’t understand what that meant, and you know, the one time that I understood was when she had convulsions. She had convulsions, like 911 had to show up and they’re like, “She just has a fever. It got out of control. You need to do this and this and this.”
Lozada: And we talk a lot, you know, and I do postpartum education, and here in the podcast, talking to other people, and as a doula, we know the value of planning for postpartum and setting some things in place, and having your village in place. Because you’re gonna go through so much transformation just becoming a parent, and your identity transformation, and it sounds like you were going through all of those transformations and more because of dealing with the change in your relationship and having to come to terms with so much. I’m hearing that that first postpartum experience was very much like a whirlwind of day to day and I don’t know what is gonna be, and just get through it.
Mercado: Yeah. It was one day at a time and my mentality wasn’t so much to get through it. What was helping me get through it is that I had a baby that would distract me, that she would start crying if she was hungry. Gotta feed the baby. That was one thing, that maternal instinct starts coming in, and for me it didn’t come in like I knew everything. No. There was no manual of like, “Hey, you need to burp the baby. Hey, the baby’s gonna get colicy. Hey, you should get on…” Oh my God. If I would have known now about routine, like for my baby, changing the diaper, like every time you feed… I wasn’t told that in the hospital.
And I think I felt frustrated, because I felt also like I was like, “Damn, I’m a shitty mom. I need to get this together.” And I really give myself a guilt trip. And then every time something would happen, then I was all paranoid. I was paranoid. I was just on edge. I was stressed out. I closed up. I didn’t talk to my parents. I didn’t talk to anybody.
It’s so important to have someone that could listen to you, that you could vent to and say, “Hey, I’m feeling stressed. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” It’s okay not to know what you’re doing. What’s more important is not to stay there and to ask for questions. Ask questions. Ask for help.
Lozada: Well, and I agree that there’s a lot out there, but you have to first change your approach of saying, “I am gonna reach out for help and that’s not gonna make me weaker or a failure, but actually it’s gonna enrich me. This is my toolbox.” So then, for the second time, there’s your second postpartum experience. It wasn’t your first rodeo. What did you prepare ahead of time to make the experience easier, or did you prepare anything?
Mercado: I didn’t prepare anything. I didn’t prepare anything because I was told with my husband that I was with, we were together for so long, and I literally went from being 385 pounds then, I didn’t know I was pregnant. I had back pain. I ended up in the hospital and then they tell me that I am pregnant and that I had… Now, granted, through the process, I had been bleeding. So, in my mind it’s like, “What do you mean I’m pregnant? I’ve been bleeding this whole time.” Oh, you know, you had a miscarriage. Let’s just… Let’s check you.
And then they check me, and they find out there’s my son. I was gonna have twins. I was gonna have twins and I didn’t know that that was even a thing. And they had told my current husband at that time that he couldn’t have any kids, and then boom, it’s like it happens, like you’re pregnant. And then again you go through the unexpected. Your partner abandons you for the second time. You’re going into premature labor that’s unexpected. You have so much stress. Now it’s not so much it’s just a pregnancy, now it’s a premature pregnancy, emergency C-section.
Now you have the actual pain of being cut open, of not knowing what’s gonna happen next, and then when my son was born, he was so tiny he had to be in the hospital because he couldn’t keep his weight. He couldn’t keep his body temperature. So, there was just now this was a whole new level of stress of the unknown.
Lozada: How long was he in the hospital for?
Mercado: For about a month.
Lozada: And while all that’s happening, you are… You have one at home and you’re recovering from a cesarean as a single mom. So, tell me what that looked like.
Mercado: Oh, my goodness. I wasn’t prepared for a C-section. It burned so much. It was so much pain. And then again on top of it, on top of it I was a plus size woman, heavy set, and then my… The weight from my stomach would put pressure on the C-section that it got infected. So, at that moment in my life, my dad just stepped in. You can cry, you gotta keep walking. You gotta keep walking. Feel what you’re feeling.
And I’m always grateful that my dad told me that. Feel what you’re feeling. You’re allowed to feel what you’re feeling. It’s okay to feel, but don’t stay there. You gotta keep walking. You got a son. And that’s the first time in my life that I started asking pediatric questions. What’s next? What should I expect? What do I have to do? What’s his body temperature?
I didn’t know a lot, so I had to ask. So, about five to six months into it, I got into the groove of making sure that he fed, because he was also hypoglycemic, that he was eating, that his temperature was being regulated, that he wasn’t losing weight, and going to pediatric appointments and all that, and it finally came to this point where okay, I could breathe, I got it down. And then comes the next part. Then I’m told that he wouldn’t survive. He got his shots and he stopped crawling. He stopped crawling, he stopped moving, he was like a ragdoll, so now I’m dealt with what’s next? What was next?
And I just remember I go back to this moment, how doctors can sometimes be so cruel. That’s why it’s so important to not take other people’s final result as your truth, and to keep, as a parent, to keep searching. Because until this day, it bugs me so much that there’s actually doctors that could do that. And basically, I was told, “You know, make your son comfortable. He won’t make it past a certain age, and we don’t know what this is.” They started testing him. It kind of shook me out of if I was feeling depressed, if I was feeling anything, it just shook the hell out of me, and it’s like, “All right, there’s no time to feel that right now. Right now, my whole focus is what can I do to find answers to help my son?”
Lozada: What answers did you find?
Mercado: So, they diagnosed him with mild cerebral palsy and basically my son has… had to start therapy. because we didn’t get the answers right away, he didn’t start therapy right away. So, today he’s in a walker. He’s still going to therapy. He’s able to talk now. He’s able to feed himself. He’s able to dress himself. And those are just hurdles that he… We know he’s gonna do things, just he’s gonna do things differently, and that’s okay.
Lozada: I am a big believer in treating parents as experts in their kids, because you are with them 24/7. You might not have the book knowledge, and that’s why you go to the care provider, but you have the holistic empathy, intuition, intuitive knowledge about what’s up with your baby.
Mercado: And I think it’s so important that you hit on intuition. As moms, we’re not crazy. I know that sometimes we might come off crazy and I know that we could come off crazy because of the lack of sleep and the go, go, go, and between cooking, and cleaning, and working, and having a new baby, and then feeling what we’re feeling, and then the looking at our body how it’s changed, because I think… I don’t care how small you are, how big you are, when you go through pregnancy, your body changes. These hormones are flowing. Sometimes, like with this pregnancy, I would sit in the car and I got a c-section, I sat in the car and I would just start crying, and I’m like, “Why am I crying?” And I’d literally be crying, and I also had the thoughts of like, “My body’s changing. I’ve dropped all this weight, now my body’s changing.” And I’d guilt myself for it.
And it’s like, “Hold on, let’s change the perspective on that.” The beauty of being able to give birth, and coming in with the gratitude, but allowing yourself to have those moments. If you feel like crying, cry. Don’t hold it back. Because I feel like when you do, it just intensifies until you kind of like explode. And when you explode…
Lozada: Well, and yeah, you need those releases. There’s like you’re saying, too much. Too much, that you need to unpack it, and if you’re not having the time for introspection, and the time to self-care, and the time to have your village take care of you too, somebody’s gotta take care of you. And that crying can be part of taking care of you.
Mercado: I know, and I think having a village, I love that you keep saying having a village. Sometimes you get stretched thin, where you’re just like, “Someone grab the baby for 30 minutes. I just need to sit in the car and listen to some music and I just need to breathe.” And it’s as simple as that.
Lozada: So, after all those roller coasters, that’s a lot of roller coasters up to your second baby. Third time around, where were you at? What did you learn? What did you prepare? How did you build up on these previous experiences?
Mercado: Third time comes, I’m married, I get abandoned for the third time. Oh, the story repeats itself until we learn our lesson. I end up having my baby by myself, with my dad. My dad must… Oh, my poor father. I think about this. And you know what? It’s nobody else’s responsibility but mine. You know, the people that you let in, you really have to pay attention. And I gotta take personal responsibility for choosing that, for allowing that, for tolerating that.
And I think I was so deep down, and I think other single moms can relate to this, and I’m just gonna be completely honest, I just wanted to have a family. I wanted to have a husband. I wanted to know what that felt like. And I just wanted to have a family. That’s… At the core, that’s all it was. My son was born premature and I failed yet at another relationship, and I’m by myself with a new baby, but this time I had it all down.
So, this time it was just kind of like, “All right, here we go again. All right, just get up and get going. Get doing.”
Lozada: Do you feel that you were diagnosed at a level of postpartum depression? Or was it more just a really difficult situation and dealing with it? Was there a mental health component to it? Or all the circumstances?
Mercado: I think it was circumstances on top of postpartum.
Lozada: Like just the postpartum period of having not postpartum depression, but the postpartum period of having a baby? Or postpartum depression?
Mercado: No, postpartum depression. It was postpartum depression. That was… I think that was the strongest one.
Lozada: Yeah, and I like to clarify that. I like to clarify that because postpartum is just the period after having a baby, but if we’re referring to postpartum depression, I want to make sure we know what we’re talking about.
Mercado: Thank you for clarifying that. And can you imagine? Like I’m 40 and I’m learning all of this. Can you imagine, like I knew what was going on, but I didn’t know how to reference it. I didn’t know how to label it. I didn’t know how to talk about it. Because I was ashamed of saying, “I feel like this.” And a year later, I still feel like shit. What is wrong with… I started really kicking myself in the butt, because now I was like, “What’s wrong with me?” And that is like the worst question in the world that you could ask, because it’s like you’re really dissecting yourself into what is wrong with you, like that there’s something really wrong. There was moments I didn’t feel like I could bring, and then just like these moments of just breaking out that I just constantly felt sad, like I honestly did not want to get out of bed.
I just felt sad and not being… It wasn’t that I wasn’t able to tell. I never gave myself permission to tell someone.
Lozada: Did you get to a point where you reached out for help? Or was it just time and…
Mercado: It really… You know, it took time, and I think the first person that I told was my mom. I told my mom that I just really felt… I felt lonely. I felt depressed. I felt like I wasn’t all there. You know, I told her that I just felt like just crying all the time. And I also told her that I felt like I was just… There was moments that I felt disconnected from my kids. I felt disconnected and I was like, “What’s wrong with me? Why? Those are my kids. Why do I feel like I’m not 100% there? I feel disconnected.” And I remember my mom’s face kind of like not knowing what to tell me and I think it was really a shocker when I said I felt disconnected.
And it was a shocker for me to voice that out. The first time that I said that I literally sat there in silence and I was like, “I can’t believe I just said that.” It’s not that I didn’t love them. I just felt like there was like this… I just wasn’t there. I can’t even explain it. I know now that it had to do with the postpartum depression. But I just… I really felt disconnected and I think that is one of the statements that I would beat myself up, like how can you say that as a mom?
Lozada: So, how did you overcome that? How did you get out from that place?
Mercado: I started reading books. I really… I didn’t have anybody to talk to. I could vent out with my parents and they would listen, and God bless them. They would listen. I’m so thankful for that. I didn’t have a lot of friends. So, I really started reading a lot of books to really understand my mental state. I started really taking care of myself. Exercising. For me, my body needed physical release. I started meditating. I started exercising. I started not being so worried about everything being done by a certain time. And I just started really learning to be present. Stop thinking about what’s gonna happen tomorrow, because tomorrow hasn’t happened, and I was so caught up constantly. What’s gonna happen tomorrow? What’s gonna happen a couple months from now? What if this happens?
All these stories, it seems like when I was going through through depression and this is one of the things I really understand, I had all these movies that were playing of things that never happened. It seems like these movies are even more developed and more vivid and more horrible when you go through these moments of depression, and they don’t even happen.
I have to say that I’m grateful for everything that I’ve learned. Every bad decision has taught me such a powerful lesson, and I take ownership of every decision that I’ve made, and I take responsibility for the consequences of that, and the things that I didn’t look for that happened to me. They taught me all valuable lessons. And I think the biggest lessons of all, it’s important to connect to our body, to our mind, to our soul. Life reflects at us, like life is a mirror to what we’re feeling, and if you’re not okay, it’s okay. And if you have questions, be fearless and just ask.
Lozada: So, what would you say to pregnant people that are listening out there, but specifically to single parents, right? To people who are doing this alone. And looking at having a baby and then having that postpartum experience, those first few weeks, what are say your three things, top three, that you would recommend they put in place before having the baby?
Mercado: I think before having the baby, number one is if you are a single parent, so important to have at least, at least one person that you can trust that can be there with you to kind of… that you know that you could call any minute. Two, when you do have the baby, that you are not so caught up in getting everything done, because I think as women, we’re powerful, and we just want to get everything done, and the house washed, clean, but people that love you and support you say, “Hey, you know, while I have the baby, like the first month, would you mind coming and helping me out? Maybe wash the dishes.” Or creating that support system. Why? Because the first month, you’re getting used to and adapting and connected with your baby, and the sleeping patterns, and the feeding patterns, and it’s really important that you really get there. You just gave birth. You just gave life. Like you just gave life. It is so important that you rest when your baby rests. That you are taking care of yourself, that you’re allowing your body to repair, to heal after giving life.
And then, next thing is if you are feeling depressed, sad, angry, and you don’t know why, allow your body to release. Allow your body to feel that. But if you feel like you really don’t know what to do with it, don’t be afraid to voice out and start looking for people that… for groups, for support groups. Someone that could give you all that information who’s got experience already. I mean, there’s so much information out there to look for when you might feel embarrassed that you don’t want to talk to anybody. It’s so important that you acknowledge when you’re feeling that, and I think last but not least, just understand that as your body changes and you go through everything, gratitude is so important. If you can really take breaths and come back to gratitude and just understand, just to have the real gratitude there of saying, “Oh my goodness, I’m so blessed. I was able to give birth.”
Lozada: And what amazing, that your body did that, right? Because we have that disconnect with our bodies, and we have… I mean, just in the culture that we live in, our bodies are always too something. Too small, too big.
Mercado: At my biggest and at my smallest, I was able to give birth to four kids, and that is amazing, how my body automatically knows what to do, how everything starts coming, like how your body starts transforming, how you feel the kicks, how you feel… and I think it’s so important to be able to be present for all that and really feel that, because I didn’t when I was younger, and this fourth time around I was able to feel everything, and be present, and really just understand like, “Wow. There’s a baby inside of me.”
And I think sometimes we also get caught up with social media. You see women snap back really quick and it’s like, “Hold on, she just had a baby and how does she look like that?” Everyone has a different journey. I think it’s so important to not compare. Not compare our bodies to others. You have your own unique body.
Lozada: Well, Rosie, thank you so much for sharing all that you’ve gone through, or a big piece of what you went through emotionally through your first three pregnancies and how this one was a lot different. I’m so happy to hear all your transformation.
Mercado: Thank you for using this platform to just keep it real and I don’t know, it’s just… It’s a blessing to be able to meet people that do that. That’s all I have to say.
Lozada: That was author, life coach, and plus size model, Rosie Mercado. To find out more about all the things that Rosie went through during her pregnancies and postpartums, you can pick up her memoir, The Girl with the Self-Esteem Issues, or you can listen to her podcast under the same name. You can also find Rosie on Instagram, @RosieMercado. I hope that your main takeaway from our conversation today is the importance of taking care of yourself and standing up for what you need, especially when you’re in the thick of the postpartum period. Take care of yourself proudly, without guilt or shame.
One thing you can do for you is to download the free My Baby app from the Dignity Health Foundation, which has an extensive section on how to support your mental health, including making it really easy for your to take the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, and this scale is a widely used screening tool that you can self-administer to check in with how you’re feeling and decide if you need more help. The app is also available in Spanish.
The one thing you can do for the rest of us is support the work of Postpartum Support International, either by volunteering, becoming a member, donating, or simply supporting and sharing all their wonderful resources. Learn more at postpartum.net.
Did you experience postpartum depression? Is this something that you’re worried about? Share your thoughts with us on Instagram @BirthfulPodcast or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And to learn more about Birthful and my birth and postpartum preparation classes, go to Birthful.com.
Lozada: Birthful was created by me, Adriana Lozada, and is a production of Lantigua Williams & Co. The show’s senior producer is Paulina Velasco. Virginia Lora is the managing producer. Cedric Wilson is our lead producer. Kojin Tashiro mixed this episode. Alie Kilts and Kat Hernandez contributed to this episode. Thank you for listening to and sharing Birthful. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, and everywhere you listen, and come back next week for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Birth Stories] What This Life Coach Learned Facing Postpartum Depression Three Times.” Birthful, Lantigua Williams & Co., December 8, 2020. Birthful.com.
About Rosie Mercado
Television star Rosie Mercado is capturing hearts and imaginations across the globe with her compelling story, electric persona and breathtaking beauty. A proud, bilingual Latina, Rosie is a true crossover star who also guest-hosts and is a correspondent on leading Spanish-language networks, Telemundo and Univision, as well as on the Emmy award-winning Dr. Phil Show and The Doctors. In addition, she was an expert Life Coach on a talk show called Face the Truth, dealing with conflict and providing people with a usable takeaway dished out with her no-nonsense style.
In Fall 2020, Rosie had two projects launch simultaneously. Her shocking story of survival and triumph is told to a worldwide audience through the publication of her memoir, The Girl with the Self-Esteem Issues, in both English and Spanish, by Harper One and Harper Español. Recently, she celebrated the international launch of her podcast of the same name, in partnership with the Himalaya Media Platform. The Girl with the Self-Esteem Issues podcast was released in both English and Spanish. Each episode features candid discussions between Rosie and influential figures from all walks of life covering topics such as parenting, health and relationships. The journey of her 240-pound weight loss and life transformation into a prominent voice for women’s empowerment went viral. Rosie was named in 2019 by People en Español as one of the “Top 25 Most Powerful Latinas,” Rosie is an exciting star with a universal, international appeal.
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