One of the memories that stands out during my postpartum depression days is that I thought I was the only one who is going through this. Every time I opened a magazine or social media, the faces of happy mothers with their happy children would stare back at me. I would have banal conversations about the children's clothes or their eating habits with the other mothers, but never about the struggles. Not a single friend nor acquaintance ever brought up the topic that they are struggling, so I thought it was me - I am the only one who cannot cope with motherhood and is struggling so hard.
We do a disservice to pregnant women and new mothers (and fathers) by not providing the entire picture. While becoming a parent changes you in ways you can't imagine, it is not all positive. A quarter of women experience mood disturbances that last for a long time, if untreated. And don't get prepared for the eventuality. Neither their doctor nor their close friends prepare them for the possibility that they might be at risk for clinical depression and what signs to look out for, to ask for and receive early help. And anyone who is unlucky enough to experience it, is so relieved that it is over, that they don't want to revisit that dark place again. And I understand it completely.
This is why we need a movement. A movement that changes this entire narrative of the reality of mental health conditions during pregnancy and postpartum and the fact that it is the most common complication of childbirth. But this movement will not come from the media, the overworked doctors, or even our close ones. It needs to come from the women themselves. Everyone has a moral obligation to warn the next generation of would-be mothers what it is really like. How things can go wrong and how to communicate about it. And that everyone has your back if that happens.
We need the village to speak up. To not only throw baby showers with physical gifts to prepare for childbirth but also to prepare the women and the family for the mental struggles that lie ahead. We need a safe and secure community, where everyone can speak up without judgment, and get the help they need without feeling like they are the only ones going through it. We need to normalize speaking about mental health during this time and talk about it without feeling ashamed, guilty or less of a mother.
We are creating such a community at Haplocare. But nothing will work if we dont speak up. Only by speaking up will we realize that we are not alone.
Regardless, just hear it from me today: you are not alone.
Image by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash