I tend to tread lightly on controversial conversations but this time I feel compelled to add my own thoughts. The experts have shared theirs and I haven’t heard one of them speak from experience. I do not have a PhD, I am not a medical care provider, but what I am is a Mother who recovered from postpartum depression, a supporter of birthing families and a supporter of fed babies. Families need to feed their babies, whatever that looks like for their individual family. Period.
The discussions are great for bringing awareness to the subjects of both breastfeeding and postpartum depression. But what it boils down to, in my mind, is that a conversation between experts doesn’t solve anything. Action, taken by individuals who care deeply for new families, individuals who are able to put their own agendas and ideas aside and listen, really listen, to what the families needs are is what is being called for here. We need to quit making assumptions and take a moment to stop and listen.
The idea that all Leaders and birth workers are staunch breastfeeding advocates is simply not true. I have never liked the term “lactovist”. We support families, yes, but not at the expense of mental health. I am especially aware of this, having been there, tasting failure on every breath, looking at my newborn daughter and feeling so sorry for her that I was so shitty at being her Mom. Feeding babies is not as simple as choosing breast or bottle, especially without support and or knowing if it’s even a choice. My own breastfeeding journey was not without challenges, we learned a lot in that first year. I never expected that the connection with my daughter would feel the strongest when I held her to my breast and fed her. Breastfeeding was a huge part of my recovery, but that’s just me, and I am grateful for it. Your journey will be different, and I am hopeful that you will find your way. And if you get lost, know that we are here to guide you, to lift you up, to celebrate your successes and validate you where you’re at in this moment.
I’ve said this many times before, we are not meant to do this alone. We are not meant to somehow know how to feed our babies when we’re not surrounded by it. If we saw it every day then maybe, but unless you work in the birth world, you probably aren’t exposed to what it’s really like in the first two weeks after giving birth. The experience of parenthood is 24/7. Even with around the clock training, starting a new job on the spot and being expected to flourish, is an unrealistic expectation. Trying to make the right decisions in early parenting while dealing with sleep deprivation and the pressure to do it “right” can make every little thing in life seem quite daunting. I strongly encourage you to reach out and ask for help, and accept it once it arrives.
The amount of shame in early parenting saddens me. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are so many of us out here who want to help you but we won’t know until you ask. It gets better, it really does. Keep reaching out.
Recently, a news story about a young mother going missing has had me thinking about her, someone I’ve never met, constantly. In an instant, the most painful and heart wrenching time of my life came rushing back into my mind. A time in my life that was supposed to be the most wonderful, joy-filled, blissed out time. After my first baby was born I was not ok. I pretended to be alright for almost nine long lonely months. Pretending was exhausting, and for a severely sleep deprived new mother it took all my energy to face every single day. When things were at their worst, I woke up day after day not knowing if I could do it all again. I know what it feels like to want to walk away and leave it all behind, it’s terrifying, and in desperate times it can seem like a really good option. At one point I thought they’d be better off without me, that me going away would truly be the best case for everyone.
I want you all to know that it is possible for things to get better. I know how unconvincing that can sound to someone in the thick of it, I can’t tell you how many times I heard people tell me that. It took a very, very long time to believe it could get better. And let me tell you, it really did, it got so much better. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t a fast fix, but I know now that I grew more in those months after getting help then I had in my whole adult life. With the understanding and love of my family, an incredible support group, medication, and cognitive behavioral therapy, I emerged back into the world.
My heart is heavy knowing that there are women, fellow mothers, out there right now suffering in silence. How can we make it easier to get them the help they need? How can we lessen the ridiculously high standards we have for new mothers? How can we keep them and their families safe?
If you are suffering, I urge you to reach out, talk to a friend, talk to someone. We won’t think you are crazy, or that you’re a bad mom. Asking for help makes you HUMAN. We are not meant to do this alone. There are people that will help you through this, we will support you on your good days AND your bad days. There are kind people in this world, we are here for you. Please, reach out and know that it can definitely get better.
Sending out love and unwavering hope.
Pacific Postpartum Support Society
Originally posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2012
This was a pretty huge question in our house as we anticipated the arrival of our second baby. We had plenty of conversations about it and were open with our birth team about our concerns. One of the things we saw as a positive was that we now know the signs, the way that I deal with anxiety and depression. We’ve also built up our ‘village’ and I’ve gotten over feeling awkward asking for help (for the most part). We also did our best to prepare Bean for what was to come but how could we truly prepare a two year old for her whole world getting rocked once her sibling arrived? Having made it through postpartum depression we were ready for anything, we kept ourselves open to whatever was to come our way and surrendered with intention to a new family dynamic...
Sampson arrived three weeks ago today and yes, our whole world has changed. The first few days were really tough on Bean, and my patience with her was pretty thin. I remember one particular morning very clearly - after a bit of whining and then more whining followed by a full blown tantrum I scooped her up in my arms and took her to her room. She held her little arms around me so tightly and I hugged her back with all my heart. We sat on her bed hugging and crying for quite a while, even thinking about the desperation I felt from her in that hug now makes me cry. That’s when I started to question my abilities to mother these two little miracles. Then the overwhelming weight of guilt set in for the evening. As I tried to relax in the tub my sister came up to check on me and we talked... She has three babies of her own and so I consider her a vet with this stuff. She assured me that this phase would pass and that it had nothing to do with my abilities as a mother. I tried to believe her. Now, weeks later I’m not trying anymore, I do believe her. As much as I was terrified that I would end up spiraling downward I actually feel more confident and calm than I have in a long long time. I’m learning as I go but with a new found sense of openness.
There have been so many magical moments since Sampson arrived, seeing my two children interact and watching Bean’s curiosity with Sampson is so precious. It is different this time, it’s better, much better - I can feel it in my gut. This time things will be alright.