I felt invisible after giving birth, like I was the wrapping of candy that was thrown aside after being torn open. A lot of people wanted to visit the baby, rushing to see the beautiful new life that entered the world. He was beautiful, he was perfect. I was hurting.
My body was recovering from a birth injury, swollen and not my own. I was sleep deprived, not eating and after several stays in the NICU, PICU and pediatric unit, I felt broken. My mind was in survival mode and I had not yet figured out how to handle the raw vulnerability of the ever-enveloping devotion known as motherhood.
I would eventually be diagnosed with post-partum anxiety and put on medication for a short amount of time. Post-Partum depression and anxiety is tricky since it occurs at one of the most beautiful times, when love blossoms and hearts expand beyond ventricle spaces we never knew existed. Many mothers feel all the intense and euphoric emotions while simultaneously feeling fragmented, sacrificial and in utter solitude. Our bodies continue to change rapidly after growing a whole new organ to support new life and provide a safe and cozy internal home for our developing babe. Meanwhile, a new identity is swirling into something exciting and vastly ambiguous.
Newborn babies are often seen at 3 days old, then 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months. Mothers are often seen only once at 6 weeks post-partum, then go back to regularly scheduled well women exams once a year. We are expected to thrive from the adrenaline of new love for our new child by both doctors and society alike.
I saw firsthand the holes in a system regarding postpartum care, maternal mental health as well as societal support. Mothers should be checked on as much and as often as our babies. What the world seems to forget is when a baby is born, a mother is also born at the exact same moment and this new life is just as vulnerable.
The system is broken, not mothers.
I never expected I would be at a point where I didn’t know how to help myself. I didn’t know what I needed and I whatever it was, I didn’t know how to get it. I was literally incapable. I will forever be grateful to the women who acted, who helped me see I was not broken, I was not a horrible mom because I was struggling, I just needed a little bit of help and that is ok.
The diagnosis of post-partum anxiety taught me to always set myself up for success before an emergency, when strong, healthy and capable. To continuously work to put people in my corner who will ask the hard questions and make tough decisions to support my and my family’s highest good and above all else keep a positive and supportive inner circle.
We, as mothers and women need to advocate for each other and support each other while society catches up. It is up to us, so-please keep asking the new and not so new mothers in your life how they’re doing, ask probing questions, bring them meals, coffee or just hug them and don’t ever stop. You may be the only person asking.