Postpartum Support International: Climb Out of the Darkness


The ClimbI have suffered from postpartum PTSD and anxiety and consider myself a warrior and now an advocate. At the time, like so many other families in our area, I didn’t know about perinatal mental health and all the wonderful things PSI does in this field.

The Climb provides an opportunity to build community and provide the capability for PSI to continue advocating and providing services for those affected by a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (PMAD).

*Trigger Warning* I am One, and here is my story. 

Five years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I’m very grateful for an easy and healthy pregnancy. I had no food aversions, no morning sickness, went to my aerial arts classes until I was 32 weeks pregnant, and only had to deal with slight PSD (Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction) towards the tail end. 

I knew it was too good to be true that I had an overall easy pregnancy, but a blessing in disguise with a 3D ultrasound, which I received monthly due to also having an autoimmune disease, the doctors found a 5cm black mass in my daughter’s pelvic area, to what was known as a fetal ovarian cyst and she stopped growing suddenly. 

The doctors informed my husband and me that we might have to consider surgery while she was in utero. I told the doctors to induce me and then take the cyst out. As my anxiety was building while nearing my due date, my water broke at my school during midterm exam week. I drove home on I95 North, took a 3-minute shower, and went off to the hospital. 

Two weeks early, 11 hours later, my daughter was here after one push, the cord around her neck, as I heard the doctor say out loud, and informed my husband that she needed to cut the cord as it was a quick delivery. I heard her cry, in shock still, while doing skin-to-skin contact and giving her a bottle. With my autoimmune disorder, I knew I couldn’t nurse due to my biologic medication. Carrying extra estrogen, I couldn’t give her my hormones through nursing, so with consent at the hospital, I gave her Earth’s Best formula. With wonderful nurses and a comfortable stay at the hospital, we were released to go home. It was then my story started. 

Being home for only a day and a half, my hubby did a quick dump run to get rid of the garbage in the house as she came early. Within those 15 minutes, my whole life paused while feeding my daughter, and my maternity leave was an anxiety-filled time. She stopped breathing in my arms, and I remember her turning blue and purple. Knowing CPR, I forgot, froze, freaked, and called 911. Within two minutes, the EMTs were at my home, neighbors coming out to check on us, regulated her breathing, strapped her car seat to the stretcher, and off to the hospital we went. 

With panic and worry, but also trying to be brave in the ambulance, my heart was palpating out of my chest. I was shaking and watching my husband drive behind us. My daughter was brought to the NICU, and we were back at the hospital. Several specialists, including Yale resident doctors and an endocrinologist, were throwing medical jargon at us a few hours later. 

I had just become a mom, and here I was, listening to the doctors discuss FreeT4, TSH, T3, and hypothyroidism. It was her heel prick test that showed abnormally high levels of TSH. The heel prick test is a mandatory newborn screen done in the nursery. Again, there is new information to process that we didn’t know. Asking the doctors for clarification and putting on my brave mommy face, I asked, “What are you talking about? She has a cyst we are watching on her right ovary.”

Long behold, she now also had congenital hypothyroidism and needed further monitoring. After spending the night in the NICU, fast forward to her being nine days old, we were admitted to Yale New Haven’s Pediatric Hospital, watching radioactive isotopes injected into my newborn. My daughter was undergoing a nuclear scan, and we had to keep her still for 20 minutes. It took nearly three hours of shushing, feeding, and holding for her to finally fall asleep and stay still in this large space shuttle-type tube. 

The endocrinologist then informed us that she had an ectopic thyroid, a rare type of congenital hypothyroidism, while looking at her TSH levels (thyroid stimulating hormone) sparkling in her brain on the monitor. We had to start her on 25 mcg of levothyroxine and learn various ways to give her daily medication, which will be given for the rest of her life. 

While educating myself about hypothyroidism and starting to get into a routine at home, the sleepless nights, enjoying the baby coos and snuggles, all the while anticipating the next specialist’s visits and constant bloodwork. My daughter was a human pin cushion, and I almost became numb every time I had to take her to New Haven to get her labs and watch my newborn continue to be pricked weekly. Hearing her cry and scream as her veins were so small, sometimes pricking her multiple times, was unnerving as a new mom.

Her appointment came four weeks later for an ultrasound to look at her cyst again, hoping it was shrinking. The radiologist informed us that she needed surgery as soon as possible. What we didn’t want to happen happened. Her cyst caused a torsion around her right ovary while creating hemorrhaging, and learning that there was another cyst on the other.

My 6-week appointment with my OBGYN had to be postponed due to her surgery day. We were back at YNHH, admitted to a room, and placed our daughter in hospital attire. She asked which parent wanted to bring her to the operating room. I’m her mom, so I put on my surgical attire and cap, walked her down that hallway into an operating room filled with doctors and bright surgical lights, and had to place my baby girl in a heated insert on a steel table, not knowing whether or not my baby would wake from anesthesia. 

I kissed her on the forehead and said I love you. Walking back to the room with my parents and husband, I collapsed on the floor, watching my mom leave as she couldn’t bear to see her daughter so distraught. The nurse was my angel, and she kept texting me updates on her progress on her personal phone. She said the hospital text alerts are very impersonal. We got the call from her that my daughter was waking up, giggling, cooing, kicking, and had a little smile on her face. I knew my baby was a strong little cookie and resilient. After two days, we were released to go home. We thought we were out of the red zone with her diagnosis. 

Then, her pediatrician wanted her to see her again for a follow-up, and she was concerned about a growing red mark on her eye. What else could go wrong? Fast forward to another Yale specialist, now a dermatologist, one of the best in the state, who informed us she has a hemangioma in her left eye growing so rapidly that it could cause blurred vision. With another prescription to add to her regimen, why not? Let’s now add a topical beta blocker and rub it on her eye twice daily. With more appointments and ultrasounds to add to the calendar, hoping the hemangioma didn’t spread to her kidneys or liver, good news, it didn’t. Over time, it shrunk within a year but could return. 

Finally, my 6-week follow-up with OBGYN was a blur. I filled out a survey that showed high numbers on a scale with feelings of chronic sadness, chest pain, hallucinations, rage, disassociating symptoms, flashbacks, and delusions. Without a doubt, I was diagnosed with PMADs. It was recommended I start medication and seek out a therapist that was referred. 

I tried the medication for a month, and it made me so lethargic that I crashed into the car in front of me. I immediately quit the medication and informed my OBGYN office that I would continue to see them in the office for follow-ups and start psychotherapy instead. 

The 12 weeks of my maternity leave was a time I never wanted to relive. I then had to suppress all I was going through and return to work, teach, and get back to the grind. 

But I never healed, I never got better, and I had intrusive thoughts on my commute to work, cried in my classroom, trying to hold it together at home. Walks with her in the stroller, a trip to Florida over the summer, and baby play dates became a time of nightmares, day terrors, night sweats, and delusions of my daughter dying in the most drastic way possible.

I needed help; I needed support; I needed a community of moms who understood my feelings. 

Getting into a healthy mental space took 3.5 years of intensive talk therapy, CBT, and self-care. My daughter is now six years old, going on 16, thriving, developmentally on point, resilient, strong, compassionate, sassy, and silly. 

You’re probably wondering, where is my husband in all of this? Statistically, 1 out of 10 dads also suffer from paternal postpartum. He never could fully support me, as I didn’t even know how to support myself. He is working on himself, and it’s never too late to work through adversities. This is another topic for further discussion. 

The past two years have also been an added struggle with facing the “I” word…infertility. There are feelings of regret that I waited too long for my husband and I to try to grow our family. Our daughter was conceived naturally, so hey, let’s try this again. Miraculously, I got pregnant again until I had my first miscarriage at seven weeks. I tried months later but still had no luck.

We started seeing a fertility specialist, and due to my age nearing perimenopause, we went straight to the IVF route. Unfortunately, science had also failed us with no viable embryos from the first round, didn’t grow enough follicles the second round, then continued to IUI for months….still no luck.

It was extremely costly to go through the process, as well as the physical, mental, and emotional stress. I’m now another statistic, 1 in 6. We have decided to end the chapter, and my daughter is my blessing, my rock, and my best friend for life. We can give her all of our love and support and every experience she wants in life. 

My therapist, parents, girlfriends, and daughter have made it possible to function normally daily as I continue to learn about myself and do what is best for my daughter. I’m grateful to her doctors, nurses, and Yale labs for keeping my daughter safe and healthy. I’ve educated myself about my daughter’s hypothyroidism, initiated a medical 504 plan to prepare her for school, monitored her cysts, as they could come back during puberty, and educated myself on finding a community that helps moms and their families with PMADs. 

I still have times when I am triggered, but I have learned how cognitive dissonance, a CBT technique, has helped me overcome those intrusive thoughts. I am now on the fundraising committee for PSI’s Connecticut Chapter and aspire to work with moms with PMADs to find their creative outlet and heal their trauma through art therapy. 

This year, we are fundraising for the Summer Climb. I am leading the team for Lower Fairfield County in Milford, Women’s Wellness, located at 4 Oxford Rd STE B6, on Friday, June 21, 2024, at 6:00 p.m., for a celebration of survivors and families.

This family event includes complimentary 5-minute mini photo sessions with Oak & Lore Studios with your littles, love, and losses, author talk with Jessica Cuomo, who wrote “A Dance in the DSM,” raffles, snacks, ONEHOPE wine tasting, kids activities, local vendors, and local artists showcasing their art, “The Beauty of Motherhood.” 

To make a secure online donation, register to attend, or find out more about the event, visit

To sign up for a photo session time block, visit

To stay up to date with news and to join the Facebook group for support and build a  community, join at

Are you interested in being a sponsor, donating to the raffle, or a vendor that offers health and wellness products and services? Connect with me through the Facebook group.

It is the vision of Postpartum Support International (PSI) that every birthing person and family worldwide will have access to information, social support, and informed professional care to deal with mental health issues related to childbearing. PSI promotes this vision through advocacy, collaboration, and educating and training the professional community and the public. 

With your help, we are one step closer to our goal! YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Erika Arconti-Galassi is a mom, a wife, a visual arts educator, and a graduate student working on a Masters in Art Therapy and Counseling. She leads this year’s Lower Fairfield County Climb Out of the Darkness®. This event is a program supported by Postpartum Support International (PSI), a non-profit whose mission is to promote awareness, prevention, and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing in every country worldwide.

Climb Out of the Darkness® is the world’s largest event raising awareness and funds for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and psychosis. These illnesses affect 1 in 5 families and are the most common complication of childbirth (more than pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes). Unfortunately, not all of these people will seek or find appropriate treatment.


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