I first became a mom 8 years ago. Before I became a mom, I had the perfect vision of what type of mom I would be. You know, the kind of mom that doesn’t yell, only serves their kids organic foods, and has zero temper. Well we all have plans on the type of parent we are going to be before we have kids. But kids have a way of humbling us. And as a ‘seasoned’ mom of three kids, I have advice for all of the advice-givers: quit telling moms they’re overreacting.
Maternal Mental Health is fragile
Did you know that one in 8 women experience postpartum depression? I did. Because I became one of those statistics. And it hurt me to my core to come to grips with this fact. I knew I was supposed to feel a tremendous amount of joy after the birth of my first child; but, instead, I felt an unimaginable anxiety and disappointment. And, while this might not be the case for every mom, we are doing all moms a disservice by pretending that any one stage in a child’s life is “easy”. Every single stage in a child’s life comes with its own set of difficulties and setbacks.
But, perhaps, a mom has a very bad infant stage or toddler stage. In those fragile moments, a mother may be at her breaking point. I myself have been there. She may be questioning if she can do this at all. Why perpetuate the myth that others are doing it (or handling it) better than us?
“You’ll miss this someday”
I cannot tell you how many times I was told this. By the grace of God I decided to have a second baby. Our first was so colicky and my postpartum anxiety was out of control; but we still decided on a second baby. My luck? Our second infant was worse than our first. Unbeknownst to us, she had been dealing with chronic UTIs from about 6 weeks to 9 months. She would scream (and, I kid you not) for 22-23 hours a day. That left approximately 1-2 hours of (broken) sleep in a 24-hour period. How does a newborn even survive on that? No idea.
But I will tell you what, I almost did not survive that.
In fact, I can vividly remember three times that I almost self-admitted to the hospital because of psychological issues. And, I don’t take that lightly. I was at least cognitive enough to realize, in that moment, that if I checked myself into the hospital, it would be a disservice to my child physically (she wouldn’t take a bottle).
But the suicidal ideation remained. Even through my existing anxiety and depression medication, motherhood had taken its toll. And I cannot tell you how many times I heard “someday you’ll miss this,” and thought about how I must be a failure — because I could not imagine missing this moment.
Whether its infancy or toddlerhood or adolescence, it’s all difficult
I recently engaged in a Facebook conversation on a mommy page (I know — that in itself is the problem). The original poster had created a poll — which is more difficult? The infant stage or the toddler stage. My initial gut-reaction was to answer the poll. Duh, infancy. And then I pulled back. I read the article in question. And, as I deemed this group an engaging and progressive group of moms, I decided to point out the obvious (to me) — this article is hella problematic.
First, it is entirely dismissive. I realize this was a tounge-and-cheek type of article. But, to quote the author , she slept — “Nevertheless, I felt clear-headed and was able to get good chunks of sleep both at night and during the day.” And a clear head is basically the key to keeping one’s sanity.
But one in 8 women don’t feel that way.
If you tell one of those women struggling to get up and take care of her baby that “she will miss this one day,” it may be the thing that pushes her to a breaking point. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in new mothers.
And articles such as stated above — as well as the dismissiveness of others — can certainly compound on that feeling of hopelessness.
Please stop telling moms they’re overreacting
Here’s a thought — don’t tell anyone — not moms, not dads, not the lady at the grocery store — that they are overreacting. Let us all recognize that we are living a very narrow margin of the full spectrum of possibilities. If you wouldn’t tell someone with a physical ailment that they are overreacting, don’t say it to someone who is (potentially) suffering from a mental ailment. Period.