Photo by Linda Marler Photography
If you have spent any time at all browsing some of my posts here, you know that I have a passion for postpartum wellness. That the picture that society has painted of new or new-ish motherhood drives me crazy. I can’t stand it, how mothers are made to feel less adequate if they don’t immediately jump right back into the swing of things. How it’s taboo to talk about mental stress after having a baby, and how most new moms just chalk it up to one simple phrase when asked how they are doing, “Oh I’m just a little tired.” Did you know that studies show that moms who have increased fatigue are at higher risk of developing postpartum depression. It’s true. Studies have shown that moms that have a good support system and are on an iron regimen are less likely to suffer PPD, not exempt but less likely.
Did you know that PPD is the MOST common complication of pregnancy? It can START as late as a year AFTER your baby was born but some women start having symptoms BEFORE their labor and delivery. Even though it is so common, with upwards of 9-15% of new moms experiencing it and as high as 41% of those who have already went through it having a recurrence, it is rarely screened for. 5% of women are screened during the postpartum period and only 4% during their pregnancy. It doesn’t take a genius to see that there is a gap in those numbers. And it’s not because there is a lack of screening tools out there, all I did is a quick Google search for PPD screening and up pops the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale or EPDS. It is a legitimate and tested screening tool, and it has 10 questions with scoring and instructions on the bottom, you can print it out at your home, nothing fancy. It’s not hard to access. The thing is that it’s not required for doctors to use it. 100% of mom’s, who go to a traditional health care provider, have all these screenings and tests done for diseases that they are less likely to actually get, and only 5% are screened for depression. But when you look at the scale, based on the actual percentage of diagnosed cases, it’s backwards, with PPD being the highest and everything else falling well under that.
So, last week. Last week was a doozy for me. My ‘baby’ is 19 months old and I am still experiencing waves of PPD here and there and last week was pretty bad. I wasn’t coping well at all, and I needed help, but I really REALLY hate to ask for help. It was Thursday and I felt I was at the end of my rope. I picked up my little to put down for his nap, and thought to myself, “I am no good at being a mom. I’m just bad at it. I need to just stop, admit defeat. I can’t do this anymore. I need to just put the kids in daycare and get a job.” (and no, I am not hating on working moms, I have been there and I have mad respect for you.) I knew that I needed help, but I was in such a negative place that I would rather suffer than ask for it. Because that’s part of the game right? If you don’t ask for help then no one will ever know that you needed/need it, so they will all go on thinking your just another super mom right? That’s the whole charade of motherhood.
This is me and my little when he was three months old. This was also the same week that my hair started falling out and my depression sat in.
After laying little man down I sat down in front of the computer, and saw that I had a message on my blog page. I opened it up and there was a message from someone that I didn’t even know, Maureen, who wanted to share a project of hers. It was a film that she had made with her friend, Jennifer, and it was about maternal mental health complications. “All right,” I thought, “I am going to watch this.” To say that my heart was lifted would be an understatement. It spoke volumes to me and left me with a new found strength to get through the rest of my day and to ask for help. So many of the news clips highlighted in the film were stories that had long ago found a place in my heart and dampened my eyes. Maureen and Jennifer traveled the country interviewing moms that had coped with maternal mental health issues, as well as doctors and other postpartum professionals, in order to help shed a light on the broken maternal support system. Making the points that, it’s not fare and there is not excuse. If you don’t know what to do with a mom going through these things, figure it out. “First do no harm” right? So is doing nothing actually harming, I think it is in this case, and it’s not just hurting one patient sitting in an exam room, it’s hurting motherhood. Because if doctors don’t talk about it, it must not be a big deal right? Because if it’s a big deal surely the doctor will bring it up, I won’t have to ask. Wrong.
A father interviewed in the film said this, “Even when you buy a phone, they ask you, ‘Is your phone working well?’ No one has called. Even in a super market, they ask you, ‘Did you find everything okay?’….No one has called since that time to ask, how she’s doing, how I’m doing… But, they are sending the bills.”
How true is that. There are men at my grocery store that help me pick out meat, employees that bag my items and will push my cart to my car and load my groceries. Yet, when a mother has a baby, people say “mommy and baby are doing great!” and that is that. Too often, too many mothers fall through the cracks. I am so thankful that I had the amazing help I did when both of my children were newborns, but for me the PPD didn’t set in until a few months later, when everyone had already assumed that I had gotten my sea legs. I am grateful to God for sending me bits of information from time to time on ways to better take care of myself, and find strength. He knew that I needed to see this film, right then.
A mother interviewed said, “It’s a real thing. And it doesn’t make me a bad mom and it doesn’t mean that I never should have had children. It’s common, it happens to so many women. Why are we not out there with it and just saying, ‘It happened to me, It can happen to you.’ “
This film left me sobbing tears of hope. Hope, not only for myself, but for all mothers. Because the more people there are shining a light, and asking questions, the more likely the chance that one day, sooner or later, we will hear the right answers. Sooner or later, the light will be bright enough for everyone to see. Because it’s not just mother’s who need educated on the postpartum period, it’s everyone. It takes a village to raise a child, not just one over stretched and exhausted mom. So let’s all do our part to spread the word, so we all know what to look for. So often we ask new moms for status updates on the milestones their little one has reached; rolling over, grasping toys, pushing up, crawling… When we should be asking for updates on her, because a healthy mom is more likely to interact with her child, and children who get sufficient interaction are less likely to be delayed in reaching milestones. A healthy mommy, is going to insure a healthy baby.
Mom’s are not bad, they are not broken. They are products of a broken system. Please check on the mothers in your life, more often than not, they are waiting for help, rather than seeking it. If you or someone you know is suffering, call the
Postpartum Support International Warm Line @ 800-944-4PPD (4773)
Or visit Postpartum Progress for local resources and support http://www.PostpartumProgress.org/community
I have to say that I am so incredibly honored to have been given the opportunity to screen this film. and it is with that same honor that I share it with you. Click the following link and use coupon code DARKSIDE1 to view it at a special discount rate. This code is only good until January 30, so don’t wait.
I present to you,
And to all those out there who feel they are stuck in the dark, please reach out. You can message me by clicking the “Contact Me :0)” icon at the top of the page. I will listen with open and non-judgmental ears.
And finally, to quote another mother from the film,
“I know you’re feeling like you’re vanishing into nothing, but you’re not. And I know everything in the world feels wrong, but eventually it will be right again.”
*Barefoot and Breathing deep was not compensated or influenced in any way for this review. It was written because of a shared passion for postpartum health.