Right after we wrapped up Kickstarter, I learned my work would be featured on People Magazine.
A few days after the post came out, I received an email from a mom of two young children, who said she still felt like she was struggling-4 years later.
She wanted to know if I had any tips for her. Immediately, my brain went to my friend Meredith - mother, editor of the "mind" portion of LMH, PsyD and maternal mental health specialist with grit and a BIG heart. I asked her if she'd answer this mom's question, since it's her arena much more than mine.
Here's Mere's response...
No matter how easy your pregnancy and birth are, pregnancy and birth are stressors. Sometimes the stressors are psychological, and sometimes they are physical. Most often, both are happening simultaneously.
How does pregnancy stress your body and life? More like how doesn’t it! Name a system. It’s probably in there.
On top of it, you might have risk factors in your history for developing mental health problems. Do you have a first-degree family member with depression? Have you had it before? Chances are, if you have experienced challenges with metal health before, there is an increased risk it will happen again.
I can’t tell you how it will look for you. But I do know the more you try to control it or stuff it down, the more likely it will be to come out after baby comes (because that’s when the real party begins).
You see, I've always believed (and recent research supports) that the signs, symptoms and indicators of depression and anxiety in the postpartum period actually begin before the birth of that baby in fact, “Fifty percent of “postpartum” major depressive episodes actually begin prior to delivery."
In mental health we look at stressors in relationship to protective factors. That is, what protects us from the severity of stressors in our life.
Protective factors contribute to resiliency (that whole bouncing back thing) and include:
- Close relationships with family and friends
- A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
- The ability to manage strong feelings and impulses
- Good problem-solving and communication skills
- Feeling in control
- Seeking help and resources
- Seeing yourself as resilient (rather than as a victim)
- Coping with stress in healthy ways and avoiding harmful coping strategies, such as substance abuse
- Helping others
- Finding positive meaning in your life despite difficult or traumatic events
Chances are, pregnancy will require you to lean harder than ever have before on your protective factors. So women need to be aware that pregnancy is a time when your “weaknesses” or your “stuff” will probably bubble up.
So, while you are celebrating that baby, looking at strollers, deciding whether or not to get married, PLEASE: Spend as much time (or more) taking a look at your “stuff”. It will help you in the long run.
And find someone to help you if you are struggling (who isn’t?) to help you increase your resiliency.
Tell us, have you struggled longer after having your baby than you imagined or were ever told? If you have a tool that really helped you get through your struggle that will help a momma out, please tell us in the comments below.
I want to acknowledge the courage it took for this woman to step up and ask for help. I believe there's a lot more silent struggle than women lead onto in the early years of motherhood. I want you to know we've got your back.
May you walk bravely into this week, exactly as you are!