Special thanks to Soul Tree Photography Studio for capturing these images for us and helping us shed light on the struggles of motherhood.
Note: If you are struggling with you mental health, please reach out to Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773 or dial 2-1-1 to connect with someone locally.
As mothers, we learn pretty much from the moment our children enter this world that we have to put the needs of others first. These tiny humans come into our lives, and we immediately focus all our energy and attention on them:
Are they eating enough?
Are they sleeping enough?
Am I doing things right?
How do I keep them safe?
It’s easy to forget we need to be cared for, as well.
Becoming a mother is one of the most joyous occasions we experience, but it can also be filled with worry, anxiety, and even grief. The huge transition to motherhood and how it can effect our mental health is often a taboo subject, and not something that easily slips into conversation.
Let’s start that conversation about moms and mental health.
According to Postpartum Support International, 15-20% of women experience significant symptoms of anxiety or depression after the birth of a child. Furthermore, 1 in 10 women report experiencing an episode of major depression in the last year. Often less talked about, chronic anxiety and rage are also common symptoms among mothers struggling with their mental health.
Another emotion that is often dismissed and misunderstood is postpartum grief. With all the gains of motherhood, there are also feelings of loss; loss over our birth experience if things didn’t go as planned or if we experienced birth trauma, loss over our identity as we transition to motherhood, or loss over the picture perfect postpartum period we envisioned.
“I’m supposed to feel so happy and thankful. Why am I so sad?”
Transitioning to motherhood, while joyous, can be wrought with fear and feelings of loss. We don’t all feel that immediate connection to our baby. Difficulty with breastfeeding, our particular birth experience, or just the overnight shift to motherhood can leave us feeling lost and unsure.
Be easy on yourself; we don’t talk enough about how hard and sudden the shift from pregnancy to motherhood can be.
“Why am I angry all the time? I wasn’t like this before I had kids.”
Anger, irritability, postpartum rage. These are less-talked about but equally distressing symptoms of postpartum mental illness. Often, extreme worry and anxiety can lead to trouble sleeping, irritability when things don’t “go right,” or anger over seemingly small things.
You are not a bad mother if you feel symptoms like these – it is a signal you need to care for yourself and get the support you need.
“I miss who I used to be. I feel like I don’t know who I am anymore.”
“I feel like I’m just mom.”
“All I do is feed babies and change diapers.”
“I don’t have time to do the things I enjoy anymore.”
Motherhood can be all-consuming, especially in the early months and years. Many women feel a bit lost as they become mom, because it can mean they sometimes lose other parts of themselves in the process. Take time for you; do the things you used to enjoy, even if it’s as simple as listening to your music, taking an hour each day just for you, exercising, or anything else that helps you remember who you are outside of motherhood.
“Is my worry normal? I have these scary thoughts and I don’t know what to do about them.”
As a new mom, it’s normal to worry. But when worry gives way to panic, extreme anxiety, insomnia, and intrusive, scary thoughts, it can interfere with our ability to care for ourselves and our family. Postpartum anxiety is becoming more common not only in diagnosis but in discussions of maternal mental health.
It’s important to acknowledge that mental health symptoms aren’t always about sadness, but can include anger, irritability, and feelings of panic and extreme worry.
“I don’t know how to talk about what happened. It’s so hard to find the right words.”
Birth trauma, pregnancy loss, stillbirth; there are so many experiences during motherhood that lead us to feelings of grief. Grief over what we lost, sadness over what we missed, and worry about how our experiences have changed us.
Talking about the difficult experiences on the road through motherhood is challenging, often leading us to feel isolated and alone. Each person’s journey is unique, and there is no right or wrong way to feel – what is most important is that we find people we can trust to listen and support us as we navigate our feelings.
To reach out for help or for more information, Postpartum Support International offers a list of professionals who have received training in perinatal mental health. You can contact them at 1.800.944.4773 or www.postpartum.net.