House Call: How Jo Johnson Overby Has Been Thriving Postpartum

Jo Johnson Overby with her husband and baby

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Christian Alzate / Jo Johnson Overby

Bringing home a baby is always full of surprises. There is something new to uncover every day from sleep schedules to sweet smiles. Here, an inside look at Jo Johnson Overby's first postpartum period of parenthood.

You might know influencer Jo Johnson Overby from TikTok, where she has over 1.2 million followers, or from Instagram, where she has over 200,000 followers. Johnson Overby never set out to become a social media star. She is a master at pivoting, having gone from retail worker to self-employed wedding photographer to a mom, wife, and influencer. She now posts about everything from yoga to life in her small town in northwest Arkansas to what it’s like to accidentally wear breast pumps out in public. She also co-hosts the Middle Ground Podcast with Caroline Stelte, where the two discuss careers, relationships, and Millennials versus Gen Z.

She and her husband Matt had their first baby Gardner Ann six months ago, and for Johnson Overby, it’s been a dream. “I tried to prepare my husband who hasn’t been around a lot of babies. I kept saying this is going to be really tough,” she says. “But we got the easiest baby I’ve ever experienced.” Here, she talks about giving up wedding photography, incorporating her baby into her lifestyle, postpartum anxiety, and more.

Question 1

Verywell Family: What was your birth experience like?

Jo Johnson Overby: My birth experience was very overwhelming but positive. I was really determined to do it unmedicated. Not so much because I'm a natural kind of mom, but more because I just wanted to know if I could. 

We didn't find out the sex of the baby until she arrived. I don't think I had the experience that so many people will tell you to expect, that you’re just going to be so in love. I didn't have that immediate connection when she got here. And I'm thankful that after a few hours, the connection did kick in. We were good. But that initial experience was primarily overwhelming. I was very thankful to have had a good recovery. Overall, my birth experience was very positive. 

Question 2

VWF: You recently gave up wedding photography. How has that adjustment been?

JJO: I had gotten to this point with doing photography full time that I was missing out on so many events in life. I was missing out on friends’ baby showers, friends’ weddings, friends’ bachelorette trips. Things with my family and my nieces and nephews. I knew that it was really important to me that I'd be present for those things because what is life without getting to celebrate with the people that you love and to be present in the relationships that you have? 

It was time to pivot and start down a path that would allow me to be more present with my family and my friends in the way that I wanted to be. It’s been weird. It’s definitely the end of an era and it's emotional, but it's also the start of another really good chapter. 

Doing wedding photography, I was gone 45 weekends a year. When I made the decision to leave, I would have never known that TikTok and social media would become what it has. I had maybe 15,000 followers on Instagram. I was really not on TikTok. I left [the wedding industry] planning to go into some business education and marketing. I think the right doors open if you keep the right mind and just go with the flow.

Question 3

VWF: You once said self-care is knowing when to say no. What does your self-care look like these days?

JJO: I'm so fortunate because my husband and I are such a good team that the day-to-day things that I've valued for my self-care have not changed that much because it's not just a priority to me, but it's also a priority to him. I like to get outside, and go for a walk. 

My morning routine is really important to me. I get up in the mornings and I don't get on my phone until I've been up for about a half-hour. I'll put music on then do my very, very limited skincare, put on a little bit of makeup, do my hair. I’ll do morning affirmations, and have some time to focus on myself. 

Most mornings I try to go through and think about what I'm grateful for that day. That's something that I've found to be as important pre-baby and post-baby. I think it's easy to get caught up in the things you feel are so hard and negative. 

Before my husband goes to work, he feeds our baby and puts her back to bed for a nap so that when I get up I can go through my whole morning routine while she's still asleep. It’s my daily quiet time to get centered and just have that little time to myself.

Question 4

VWF: How have you managed to keep a podcast up with an infant?

JJO: Well if you listen to the podcast, there's a little baby squeaking in the background often because I’ve brought her along! My co-host has been coming to my house so we can record. It's been a lot to juggle the podcast and social media. It comes down to the fact I have a really good team and really good people surrounding me who are supportive. It really drives home the point that it takes a village. 

I've had to really let go not asking for help. Prior to having a baby, I did not have that innate [feeling] that it's okay to ask for help. I always wanted to do it myself, and [with a baby], it's not possible. I have to remind myself that nobody is expecting me to do it by myself, so why am I expecting myself to do it alone? 

Jo Johnson Overby and her husband and baby

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Christian Alzate / Jo Johnson Overby

Question 5

VWF: You’ve been upfront about sharing things like your stretch marks with your followers. Why is that?

JJO: The dialog around birth and being a new mom that's been passed down from generation to generation—at least the stories that have been told to me—tend to be kind of negative. And I think that we tell moms now that if you have stretch marks, you shouldn't be in a bikini and nobody wants to see you right after birth doing this because you look bad. I don’t get that because I am no less a woman now than before I had my baby. I want to show that you can go and do all the things you did before. It’s up to you. 

Or you don’t have to. I want to make that clear on my social media. When you have kids and you choose to shift your lifestyle, that's great. I'm thrilled for you. But you don't have to if that's not what you find fulfilling.  The way that you're going to be the best parent is by making sure you're prioritizing and taking care of yourself and are in a mentally healthy place for your child. 

Ten days after I had her, we were at the lake for a family vacation that we do every single year. But I felt pretty good. And so I said, "You know what? I can't get in the water, but I'm going down there with everybody." And no, I don’t look like I did before I was pregnant. Obviously, I had a baby 10 days ago. But that's not going to stop me from enjoying this time with my family.

Question 6

VWF: How is breastfeeding going?

JJO: Nursing was a complete nightmare for me. It was not something I expected. I don't think I understood how unbelievably difficult it can be and how much of a learning curve it is. I had the privilege of having a very big oversupply, which is wonderful in a lot of ways because she is fed, but I had mastitis twice in my first six weeks. I was having problems with clogs left and right. 

I transitioned to exclusively pumping even though I had been really hoping to nurse and it has worked really well for us. And she's now almost six months and we've exclusively breastfed, so I'm thankful for that. It is not easy.

We're doing it and it's not what I expected and I wish there was more support out there for moms. I have been trying to be really vocal about [exclusively pumping] just because I feel like a lot of women don't even know that exclusively pumping is an option.

My husband has taken all of the night feeds since I started exclusively pumping at about four weeks. She doesn't necessarily eat at night as often now. But he does that just to make sure that I am getting enough sleep so that I can keep up with my supply and do all the things I need to do.

Question 7

VWF: What have been some of your favorite first-year baby items so far?

JJO: The BabyBjörn bouncer. I didn’t buy it, and it’s been passed between all my nieces and nephews. I said I didn’t need it, that we had other things to put her in. And I went back to my parents’ house and put her in it while I was there, and ended up taking it home with me. It’s the best thing ever. 

Also the Snuggle Me Organic lounger. We use that a lot, just to set her down when we couldn’t be holding her when she was really little. We’re not big baby gear people, we don’t have a ton, but these two things we’ve used a lot. 

Question 8

VWF: What's one thing you wish someone would have told you about postpartum life?

JJO: I wasn't expecting such a battle with postpartum anxiety. You're told so much about postpartum depression, and not so much prepared for what postpartum anxiety is. So many moms are dismissed by people. Not intentionally, but I think as a new mom, there's this level of nervousness surrounding the baby and a lot of people dismiss that.

Postpartum anxiety is not okay. I think we need to be doing a better job at educating moms on what it looks like, and that it's okay to talk to your doctor and get help.  I think a lot of times that postpartum anxiety, at least for me, was that gateway into what became postpartum depression. 

The anxiety was hurting my sleep and then when your sleep gets hurt, you are struggling with other things and then you end up in that depressive state and it's really hard. I think having a more open dialogue about that would have been really helpful.

I didn’t know what it was. I was very prepared to be looking out for signs of postpartum depression, but the [postpartum anxiety] I thought was just, "Oh, I'm just a new mom."

I've had a lot of moms talk to me about experiencing postpartum rage. And I’m like, “Why? Why aren't we talking about that?” I think it's great that we've opened such a dialogue in the last few years about postpartum depression. But I think we need to be talking about all of it because I think it all works together. The more we can support new moms, the better—because, at the end of the day in the United States, the culture around supporting new moms just isn't very strong yet. We have to rely on each other to do that.

Jo Johnson Overby with her baby

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Christian Alzate / Jo Johnson Overby

Question 9

VWF: Do you feel pressure to be “on” because of social media? How do you balance social media Jo with real-life Jo?

JJO: That's a really good question. To an extent, no matter who you are or how much you share, there is a “social media you” and a “real you.” There is just no way to share it all where people are getting the full picture through a screen. 

I just don't think that that's realistic. But I try to be as honest as I can. Around New Year’s 2021,  I made the decision that I was giving up filters and that was really pivotal for me. I realized that all of that stuff was making me feel worse about myself. And it was probably also making people who follow me make them feel worse about themselves. Maybe not—maybe they're more confident than me. 

But doing away with that and realizing I need to just show up as authentically as I can online is the best I can do. It's a balance. I try my best to show up on Instagram and Tiktok as vulnerable as I can be. 

Question 10

VWF: You recently traveled with your baby. How was it?

JJO: It went so unbelievably well. I was very surprised. We chose to do a nonstop flight. We live in a small town in Northwest Arkansas, so we drove a couple of hours so that we could catch a nonstop flight which was a great decision. 

She slept the whole flight. Matt's aunt and uncle just had a baby that's only a month older than Gardner, so we didn't have to take a bunch of stuff. We don't want to stop doing those things just because we have her. It's really important to me that we bring her along with our lifestyle instead of changing our lifestyle to accommodate her. Not that I don't want to do everything I can for her. But I want to teach her our way of doing things, rather than letting her change us.

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  1. Ali E. Women's experiences with postpartum anxiety disorders: a narrative literature reviewInt J Womens Health. 2018;10:237-249. Published 2018 May 29. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S158621