Moms are expected to be strong and together. We are expected to put the needs of our children first, often forgetting or ignoring our own. Even on the hardest days, we are supposed to put on a happy face for our kids and the world outside.
We should hold everything together at home while taking our kids for all the outside activities and engaging constantly. We make lunch and dinner and do school pick ups and put kids to bed and down for naps and get groceries and at the end of the day, we are expected to stand up tall, singing a good night song, instead of collapsing on the floor.
It’s okay to collapse on the floor, but some of us are not able to get back up.
About 12 million women a year will experience clinical depression and of that number, 50 percent believe it is normal to feel depressive feelings. About 15 percent of mothers will experience postpartum depression and more than 50 percent of mothers believe it is normal to feel depressed for up to two weeks following the birth of a child.
Thirty-three percent of women will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives and about 17 percent of women who give birth will experience postpartum anxiety disorder. The numbers go on for mental health statistics but these are the most common.
Following my daughter’s birth, at my first check up, my doctor said “So, have you experienced any sad feelings?” “Nope,” I responded. That was it. My screening for postpartum depression. My depressive feelings were mixed up in exhaustion and overwhelm, so how was I to know exactly what they were?
Books emphasize the difference between the “baby blues” and postpartum depression. With stigma attached to mental illness, and all the feelings wrapped up in having a newborn, “baby blues” and postpartum depression are hard to decipher and the later is easily ignored.
Post-baby isn’t the only time — moms and mental health may be at risk way after baby. It is something we must always be aware of and in tune with, because our own mental health affects our kids. To know when something isn’t right, we need to know what our “normal” is. We need to know the people we are when everything is going wrong as well as when everything is going right. We should recognize when happy feelings come and notice how long it takes for sadness or overwhelm to leave. Numbness and constant worry are warning signs. The feeling that those around you would be better off without you or feeling the urge to harm yourself, even in quick, passing thoughts, is a sign to seek help immediately.
We get so good at disguising when we become moms. We try to become the parent we think we are supposed to be. We push happiness out of our bodies to make our kids believe we truly are. None of us can be happy all the time, but some of us see happiness only in quick glimmers that fade.
If you’re reading this and you have been thinking about seeking help, listen to your instinct. If you’re reading this and you need weight to be lifted from your shoulders, you are not alone. To give in to getting help is not failure. To seek help before you need it most is not weak. The weight you carry is not just your own, you carry the weight of those you are raising and the partners with whom you share this life. When we allow others to help carry the weight, it all feels lighter. This mental health awareness month, I urge you to take stock of your own mental health, and should you need it, seek help with bravery and courage.