My post earlier struck a chord with those close to me. My sister, who is getting her Doctorate in Psychology, called me in tears saying she tried to tell me. My sister, mom, best friend…they all tried to direct me to the right resources and help.
As I responded to her, I couldn’t hold back my own tears…2 years after the fact, I’m still hurt. Ashamed. Filled with guilt.
I said, “I was just so stubborn and determined to be strong. I couldn’t handle another thing being wrong with me. I had failed and struggled with every single aspect of motherhood thus far…I wasn’t willing to add PPD to the list of failures.”
That conversation was enough emotion to lead to writing this post- one that’s been on my heart and written in my head over and over.
It’s an inner shame that I’m not sure will ever be lifted, which is why I share it openly. It’s why I work with this population in the capacity that I can. My heart and mind have expanded exponentially since becoming a mother. I know better, I try to do better by being a positive light to taboo issues. Like I said in my post, I try to make up for the time I missed when living in the fog, which is therapeutic and heart wrenching all at the same time. I even changed the focus of my career to advocate for women because there is a significant lack of support.
I have spent a lot of time in reflection. I work, network and coach with very powerful women and professionals. I have sought out information about women’s health, in particular, what happens after a woman becomes a mother both physically and mentally. A common, yet not commonly talked about theme when it comes to Postpartum Depression, is the connection between the high expectations the natural childbirth world (professionals and passionate advocates) gives to mothers and PPD. You are shamed for wanting/getting an epidural, having a c-section, formula feeding, etc. If not directly, you do it to yourself via the expectations and information that you’ve been fed by these professionals, social media and your own well intentioned, yet biased research.
When faced with a less than ideal labor, or delivery method (despite obvious efforts), breastfeeding difficulties and a high demands newborn (aka…most newborns), mothers are made to feel guilty and ashamed about their circumstance. Do their circumstances make them less of a mother? Obviously not, yet there’s this loud community that surrounds pregnant and postpartum women that does make them feel like they’ve failed at doing what’s best for their baby by means of their delivery, recovery and nourishment.
I spent my entire pregnancy surrounding myself with empowering messages, images, resources, etc. I believed I was fit, strong, healthy, level headed, supported, etc. I was the “perfect candidate” for pregnancy, labor, delivery, mindset and motherhood. It was natural! Why should I be concerned? I’ll bounce back because of how healthy and educated I am about this process. This woman did it! That woman looks amazing! My head was filled with powerful affirmations and expectations. I was confident to a fault.
Well, fuck me. That mentality failed me big time and I fully believe it contributed to my postpartum depression and high levels of anxiety.
The “birth is beautiful, this is natural, it gets better, breast is best, #fitpregnancy #fitmom #bodyafterbaby,” doesn’t exactly send the most empowering messages to new mothers. In fact, it sets them up for guilt if shit doesn’t go as planned.
I will remain unapologetic about this because I can play both sides. I believe in health, fitness and a woman’s ability to thrive and care for a child. I’m fascinated by the female body and how incredible it is. I believe it is capable of so much and is resilient as hell. However, I will also rage against the sanctimonious community of natural childbirth in order to stand up for my own experiences and those affected by failed expectations and shame from members of that community of supposed “support.”Our bodies don’t always work the way we wish they would. We are not “designed” for invincibility, we are designed for resiliency. And this is why we can praise God for modern medicine and practices.
I coach for BirthFit. I run a women’s strength and conditioning business. I am part of a local network/task force for Pregnancy and Newborns. I know, love and respect many childbirth educators, doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, etc and completely support their efforts to educate women. Most have good intentions and do a lot to empower women to trust their body and their experience. I value the support I did have from some members of that network, but also felt the self inflicted guilt or even direct shame that I was still “less than” when it came to my circumstance and struggles. The ones with the loudest opinions and greatest platform, can be very adamant with the all or nothing type opinions and that can break any strong woman. After becoming a professional member of this birth community, I’ve been determined to take the focus away from the “ideal” aka natural way of delivery and parenting, and focus more on the current reality of the mother and ways to support her…whatever her situation or choices may be.
Our worth is more than”epidurals are bad!” Our worth is more than “C section babies aren’t as healthy!” Our worth extends far beyond screaming “breast is best” when you go to a support group. Our worth is more than “oh, you should really consider a VBAC,” our worth is more than “at least you have a healthy baby.” Our worth is more than, “you look so great for just having a baby.”
Fuck that noise.
Your worth as a mother is not measured by what kind of birth you had or what kind of experience you had or didn’t have. Your worth is measured by how you love that child, how you persevere through the different chapters of parenting and how you care for yourself a long the way.
In the BirthFit postpartum series I lead, I tell them right away…I simply don’t care what your parenting style is, if you breastfeed or formula feed, if you had a natural delivery, epidural, elective c-section, or emergency c-section. We are here to support one another, regardless of circumstance or choice. There’s no one upping, degrading or judgement. It’s simply not tolerated in the culture I have intentionally created. There is only empowerment and truth spoken and women of all different parenting styles and experiences have connected woman to woman, not just mom to mom or parenting style to parenting style.
And that attitude, is what contributes to improving mental health for new moms because it removes the ugly stigmas via honesty, support and empowerment. Can’t we all do a better job of supporting mothers and women in general? So many women are left with physical, mental and emotional scars. Support heals.
**I obviously refer out for professional mental health services. I support medication. I support women making decisions to care for themselves first so they can better care for their family.