It’s something about Beyonce openly speaking about her FUPA, Serena Williams feeling inadequate and Cardi B being so candid that will make you pay attention to the realities of postpartum. As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west; postpartum is real. Somewhere in the whirlwind of misogyny, postpartum has been the dirty little secret that we women talk very little (if any) about. Our reasons for doing so vary from professional to personal, but it doesn’t change the fact that open conversations on this topic are needed. The internal struggles are not directly tied to your popularity or economic status. Postpartum concerns and depression don’t care who you are. Learning to navigate through the highest of highs that then become the lowest of lows can be tricky if you don’t have the support to help you through. Trust me, I’ve been there.
I went through my last pregnancy completely alone. After 40 weeks, 3 days, 22 hours of labor and a natural childbirth--I was alone. Then, I entered into arguably the most traumatic season in my life with a young child and a newborn. My mom, who is God sent, had limited time with me due to distance. I stood solely responsible for the physical and emotional well being of two little humans all while being a physical and emotional mess myself. There were times that I would not react to my baby crying because I was already mentally trying to solve a problem three steps ahead of that present moment out of fear of feeling even more incompetent than I already felt. Then came the nonstop tears that ushered in a series of questions from my older kid that I just didn’t have the answers to. Even if I did have the answers, I was in no condition to explain it to a kid that just needed me to play with him. I had no buffer or safety net. That overwhelming feeling of knowing that there just isn’t enough of you to go around can take you over like a quicksand. Again, postpartum is REAL. It’s the threshold of what life was, what you think it should be and the reality of what it has actually become that the lines of the “idea” of success in motherhood get blurry. It’s often a segue into postpartum concerns.
Think about it—the baby shower was wonderful. The gender reveal was creative and went viral. Your maternity pictures had you glowing. All you need now is a baby who sleeps through the night and never cries because that would complete this ridiculously unattainable fairytale. I hate to break the news to you, it doesn’t happen exactly like that. So, let that unicorn ride out into the sunset of rainbows because that is not real life. Your happy to sad meter has the ability to go from 0 to 1000 before you know it. There are no sirens that sound off to announce when a postpartum wave is about to hit. Honestly, there were days that I had to really think back to if I brushed my teeth or not. I’m no expert, but my life’s experiences and continuing to overcome the residuals of my postpartum stresses and depression (18 months later) can be a “normal” mom’s example that it really can happen to anyone.
If you are a mom and are experiencing any form of postpartum stresses and concerns, here are a few things to consider and keep in mind:
- This is normal. You just birthed an entire human for goodness sakes. In the world of shake back social media madness, it is important that you know the feelings that you are having, though important, are not exclusive to you. A lot of times, we feel that way because we figure that "I and I alone" can fix it. Save your cape for another day and allow yourself to be vulnerable to the right person who you feel can help you. Consider mentioning it to your doctor as your initial step of admitting that something is off for you emotionally.
- Create your village. You are going to need people. Period. These people should be those closest to you. Especially for us single moms; it’s important to take the help that we so desperately need. This is not a time for pride to be at the forefront. Your sanity literally depends on your ability to accept the help. Accepting the help is your strength.
- Educate yourself on the symptoms. Sadness, anxiety, mood swings, and crying are a few things to be considered as symptoms. Another important factor to keep in mind is the “baby blues” and postpartum depression are not always one in the same. Baby blues can be a lead into postpartum depression. However, both instances should be monitored with an honest assessment. This is a good point and time to utilize your village and choose an accountability person. You need someone who won’t overreact, but be a strong sounding board for you to sort out your feelings.
- Don’t procrastinate. If you have feelings that could ultimately lead to a deeper depression, seek the help from a professional immediately.
- Reestablish your expectations. Know that the dishes won’t get done like they use to and laundry is on a “need to have right now” basis. As long as everyone is fed and still breathing, count it as a successful day. Cut yourself some slack. You will have plenty of time to establish a new normal. Rome wasn’t built in a day and babies don’t come with instruction manuals. Be gentle with yourself.
Again, I am no expert. I am a mom fighting the good fight just like the rest of you. I believe that the key to dismantling the stigma of and about postpartum depression is to allow moms to experience what they are feeling without shame or blame and speak their truth. Even if you are not a fan of the ladies mentioned above, the fact that they are using their celebrity status to shine a light on something so important could allow this topic to be heard with a clear ear for those who simply don’t get it. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. You being a good mom is not contingent upon you being able to endure something like this alone when you don’t have to. There are those of us who find beauty in your candid bravery and we whole-heartedly appreciate it. So, whenever you are ready, I encourage you to keep this conversation going. There is another mom out there that depends on your version of working through and overcoming postpartum depression. You are not alone.
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