May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and to be honest, I struggled with choosing a topic to focus on because there is such a great need across the board. But why not start right where we are, motherhood.
One in seven women suffer from post partum depression. This figure doesn’t include women who don’t report, as well as women who suffer from post partum anxiety and other complications. Many, many women suffer in silence. Why?
We are bombarded with images of the beauty of motherhood; the diaper commercials where mother’s lovingly kiss their sweet, still babies as they change their diapers. The toy commercials where the well dressed, fully made up moms laugh and coo as they play on the floor with their happy babies. Even the things we hear; “this is such a blessing”, “enjoy every minute”. We seldom see the exhausted mom getting peed on as she changes a child who just pooped all the way up their back. No one shows the tears rolling down the face of a new mom who’s nipples hurt so bad from breastfeeding that each latch feels like razors. Or conversely, the new mom who is so ashamed that her baby can’t breastfeed for whatever reason, that she hides during feeding time.
We live under this myth that motherhood should be perfect, so we don’t talk about it when it isn’t.
How does this relate to Mental Health Awareness Month? Talk about it. Please talk about it. Motherhood (and fatherhood) is new, scary, and triggering. It pulls up our insecurities, exhausts us, pushes us to our limits, and makes us forget who we were before. It strains our relationships and our sense of self. If this is your experience of motherhood, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU. You are going through one of the biggest transitions of your lifetime and it is more than ok that it is messy. And here’s a big secret. It’s also ok if you don’t like it, feel resentful, and even want your old life back. There are normal feelings. Talk about it. Please talk about it. Talk to your friends, your doctor, your pediatrician, your mommy group, a therapist. Reach out and talk.
We can bring awareness to and reduce the stigma around maternal mental health issues just by being open and honest about our experience with ourselves and others.
Abby Withee is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Rolling Hills Estates and Redondo Beach. With a focus on mindful practices, Abby works with children, adolescents, adults, and families to address a variety of diagnoses and presenting issues. For more skill building games resources, check out her blog!