There is no one cause of mental health disfunction in any particular group of people. But when you look at mothers who are pregnant or newly postpartum there are some common themes that seem to keep coming up.
our Care Providers
During pregnancy we look to our care providers (Doctor or Midwife) to provide us with the information we need to make the best decisions for ourselves.
However, many women are required to just submit to their doctors choices because it is a hospital policy or standard procedure.
This ignores the actuall needs of women in the moment and the experience they are having can become tained, stressful, and worrying.
We are not assembly lines producing the next generation at the convenience of someone else.
Yet often that is exactly how it feels. And this breaks our trust which is hugely important for our mental health.
then when we stand up and say something, we get told we are being “hormonal” or “oversensitive”. People will quote at us that because we are pregnant or postpartum our hormones are all over the place and unpridictable.
What they are really saying is that our bodies have taken over our minds and that means we can no be rational so we should shut up and sit down.
Quite frankly we are tiered of it.
The Physical Changes in our Bodies
Which leads me to all the changes that happen on the road to motherhood.
OMG, pregnancy can really mess with your head!
Lets start at the top and work our way down shall we?
First off, one of the big things that happens is all the hormones going into your system.
Yup you are, or will be hormonal.
Note I didn’t say irrational, but we do get some pretty insense (for some of us) horomones and mood swings.
One of the things that these hormones do is re-wire your brain.
YES YOUR BRAIN CHANGES
Physically, you develop more connections between the 2 spheres, and more neruo links in general. This prepares your mind for all the new and exciting experiences coming your way.
If you read any of the recent studies on how the body changes (like this one) absolutely everything in your body gets some kind of modification in order to grow a new human.
In the process it’s pretty easy to have some changes that freak us out. Like stretchmarks or the heightened sense of smell that gives us morning sickness at all hours of the day.
Add to that weight gain, swelling and a new location for our centre of balance and most of us are left wondering what the heck happened to our bodies at some point.
Now throw into the mix a socitey that promotes thin, perfectly styled, high heeled, business power houses as the “ideal” woman…
The Social Expectations
Yup, I can remember being heavily pregnant and watching a woman in a business suit walk past me with her makeup nicely done, hair styled and ozzing confidence. And thinking to myself “I’ll never be like that again”
Movements like the “belly only pregnancy”, and the drive to “bounce back” aka get back to skinny and working your career. Are killing us with the pressure to be something that just isn’t realistic.
Now I’m not saying we don’t want the choice about going to work or not. But these days it seems to me more often than not if a woman doesn’t want a professional career her choices are questioned.
And if she does have a career people are more concerned about how quickly she can get back to it, insead of taking the time she needs to care for herself, and healing from the pregnancy and birth.
We are frequently sent messages about how our careers are more important than our bodies and our families.
And that SUCKS
And for those of us who CHOOSE to stay home and raise our children we are often mocked as being “lazy” when we are anything but.
The decision to stay home or not is a big stressor for many women. And that can contribute to our mental health deteriorating at any point. And this isn’t just because of social pressure but the financial implications too.
Finances Drive Us nuts!
Ok, Maybe not for all of us. But have you noticed that one of the big deciding factors on family choices, and how we live is the finances?
Many of us are in debt up to our gills.
It frequently takes 2 incomes (or more) to sustain a house hold’s debt load and the related payments. And it’s not getting any easier.
That’s why there is such a movement towards homesteading and frugality. And things like Dave Ramsey’s Envelope System can help but usually it takes time and a life style shift.
Because of the social expectations that we “have it all” (insert eye roll here). Honestly, society SHUT UP. Some of us would be happier with less.
Less house to clean, less money to pay off, less fuss and muss, more love and joy.
And we want to start setting up that kind of life, but it takes having a stellar community to really feel like we are living the life.
Which brings me to…
Lack of Support
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Which is why when we place Mothers in the role of being the whole village we cause problems.
Seriously, a woman might come across as having multiple personalities some times but that doesn’t make them a village!
In all seriousness though, being a new mom is isolating.
And I’m not talking about the pandemic, need to quarantine type isolating (thought that compounds the issue). I’m talking, losing our friends who don’t have babies as well.
People assuming we are doing ok at home alone and not checking in on us.
Or living on the other side of the contentnent and unable to get the fmaily help that used to be constantly available.
We’ve broken the family unit up, and the extended family unit. And mothers are taking the hit as we try and cobble together something that provides us with a comunity.
I love my online friends, but when I need a hug yall aint in reach.
When you think about how busy our daily lives are, and how little we are getting to know our neighbors these days. It’s clear that our priority as a socitey has changed away from things like community.
And the community is what brings us together. It’s what builds those bonds villages used to have and nurture.
I’m lucky if when I attend church I have the chance to speak to another adult besides my husband. When I drop my son off for preschool I can chat with the other mom’s but only if the weather is nice and they have the time.
Even going to the grocery store these days requires social distancing and a lot of people are doing more of the social isolating. It just doesn’t help a Mamma out when it’s her one and only time away from the kids and she ends up being isolated any way.
And when we do talk to people a lot of the time they tell us we are worrying for nothing, that this too shall pass so don’t freak out. And a bunch of other platitudes.
I get it, Mamma’s that have been there, done that are looking back going “this really isn’t a big deal” but when you are in the trenches, dealing with it in the moment. YEAH, IT’S A BIG DEAL.
I don’t need platitudes when my kid stuffs onions in the furnace vent, I need someone to laugh with me over the stink and how long it’s going to take me to get it out of the house.
Or if kiddo throws a tempertantrum cause we can’t go see Grandma & Grandpa who we need to help keep safe during the pandemic. Sympathize, Empathize but stop bloody well patronizing me.
We know the kids will get over it, we know kids are resilient. But COME ON, sometimes a Mamma just needs to vent. When you turn around and try to “fix it” or down play it we get the message that you think we can’t do it.
And you effectively isolate us from the support we need as new Mamma’s to handle our growing and changing lives.
Fear, Worry, Stress, and Anxiety
With all that being said, many new Mamma’s have a load of fears, worries, and stress during Motherhood. And it’s not just New Mamma’s either.
At any stage of a child’s life they are learning and growing and changing and … you get the picture.
Any new situation can be stressful, worry-some, and create havoc with our minds.
So let’s look at what the heck the difference is between Worry, Stress, and Anxiety. Because they are not the same thing and it’s easy to see the difference once you know it.