Updated: Dec 14, 2018
Being a mom is the worlds most challenging job, and thanks to the internet, it is finally coming to the surface of just how tough it really is.
It makes me proud that so many women have taken to keyboards to broadcast their struggles though motherhood. We need support, and if we are able to find our people through technology, I am all for it.
The first year into motherhood is probably harder than anything most women have been through up unto that phase of life.
The truth is, I believe that ALL new moms experience some form of postpartum depression. I whole-heatedly think that we should measure & diagnose postpartum depression based on a wide spectrum – from mild to severe.
Unfortunately, the stats only show about 20% of new moms report having symptoms. Lets go over what those symptoms are, shall we?
According to Mayo Clinic - people may experience:
Mood: anger, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or panic attacks
Whole body: fatigue, loss of appetite, or restlessness
Psychological: depression, fear, or repeatedly going over thoughts
Behavioral: crying or irritability
Cognitive: lack of concentration or unwanted thoughts
Weight: weight gain or weight loss
Also common: insomnia
I am fairly certain that at any given moment during motherhood, women would be able to check at lease one or more of these symptoms. My kids are 4 and 2, and I will tell you how I relate to these symptoms.
Irritability – check. Fatigue – check. Lack of concentration – check. Weight gain/loss – check. Mood swings – check. Panic attacks – check. Anxiety – check. Guilt – check.
I think it should be covered under all insurance policies that new moms have regular checkups with a therapist. That’s right, a licensed therapist should be checking up on mommas.
That one checkup you get at six weeks postpartum with your gynecologist, where you fill out a vague questionnaire on a piece of paper, is not enough by any stretch of the imagination.
Nine months of creating a human being from scratch and through your baby’s infancy, is so much more than just the physical change that a woman’s body goes through. It is a complete and total mental transformation.
If you asked a hundred mothers how they are doing, 99 of them will tell you “I’m Fine” or “I’m surviving”.
Now think about how their answers might change if they were in a room sitting across from a trusted therapist, and that doctor asked them the very same question. I would be willing to bet that a lot of them would buckle at just the thought that someone cares about their well-being.
So many mothers feel isolated. Isolation can initiate depression symptoms. Mothers need support and encouragement.
It is no wonder that we feel massive anxiety as new moms. Our entire world has been altered - forever I might add. It should be expected that we would experience some form of depression during our journey through motherhood.
I also want to make note that every stage of motherhood is challenging, not just the beginning. Sure the lack of sleep and the endless google searches are exhausting. When that sweet baby becomes a toddler, an entire new set of skills is developed and mental capacity required to navigate discipline and teach them boundaries. In addition to how to not pee in their pants.
I’m not there yet, but I can only imagine how tough starting school must be for moms and children. Then middle school obstacles and puberty. Then dealing with your kids dating and experimenting, with all areas in their life. How freaking terrifying.
What I am trying to get at here, is motherhood is totally a mental job. Why is no one checking on our mental health? Why do we not receive quarterly “mental mom check-ups”?
Look — I am not trying to imply that we are all borderline crazy. I just want to get my point across that motherhood is insanely hard. It pushes, and stretches, and bends every aspect of our life. It shakes us up to our core and rebuilds us from the pits of chaos.
That shift that takes place inside our minds, where we go from — only worried about myself and my partner, to — holy shit this tiny human depends on me for survival — is enormous.
Sure it has it’s natural and smooth transitions, but for the most part this change is so dramatic, that we honestly don’t know how to fully handle it. At the time that this shift it is happening, we don’t even realize what is going on.
New moms settle into “survival mode”, and we only have the mental capacity to focus the next immediate task at hand. Our brain is so sleep deprived, our body is zombie like, and our nutrition becomes so poor because we would choose five minutes of sleep over a banana.
No one is preparing moms-to-be for how to cope with letting go of the life you once knew, and how to embrace the new you. No one is urging pregnant women to seek out other new mom friends. No one is genuinely cautioning them how freaking hard the next few years are about to be, and what they can do to make the transition easier.
If you get married through a church, they either strongly urge or require that you go through “premarital counseling” before the ceremony. Why cant we implement this same prerequisite for mommas?
I had heard of postpartum depression before becoming a mom, but didn’t really know what it was, or more importantly how common it is. It was never discussed during any of my prenatal check-ups, what the symptoms were and what to do if I start feeling depressed as a new mom.
I believe that as a society we need to drop the stigma surrounding the D word, and start having real conversations about depression.
It should be understood and commonly talked about that motherhood is going to shake you up, and cause all sorts of unwanted emotions. This is okay. You are not a bad mom if you don’t feel like jumping over the moon with all your joy inside. You are human, and this too shall pass.
So feel all the things, and don’t be ashamed if you check off the entire depression symptom list. It doesn’t mean that you need to immediately rush off to the doctor and get prescriptions, it just means that you need to seek out people who get you. Find people who fully understand what you are going through and talk about your emotions — often.
What you don’t work through, will follow you.
Momma — make the time to take care of your mental health.
You have to make yourself just as much of a priority as you do everyone else.