Becoming a mother is a joyous milestone and while this is true for some, it is not true for everyone.
By: Nicki Reid, Bilingual BA
While I was pregnant, I heard countless times that my “life will never be the same again”. Little did I understand what that phrase fully entailed. Looking back, it did not even begin to capture the shifts that would transpire postpartum and these changes are not discussed enough. Coming to terms with my identity as a new mom was one of the most challenging aspects of my motherhood journey as I shared in this blog. Grappling with the identity shift in addition to the plethora of changes that comes with bringing life into this world mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially, etc. takes a toll on you. Furthermore, for a variety of reasons, our lifestyles these days are void of the village leaving mothers to do it all; with the expectations that we look good, are happy, and don’t complain.
I often wonder how the motherhood experience might differ if we actively engaged in community care and moms received the support that we truly need. What if moms were fully supported, not only during pregnancy, but postpartum and beyond? What if we sat down with her and reassured her that she was fully supported, no matter what changes ensued?
Collectively, we need to do better. Below are a few ways that we can better support moms.
Create safe spaces and judgment free zones for moms to be their whole selves; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Being a mom is hard work. There are some raw and real emotions that accompany this milestone. Yet, mothers are expected to welcome this new chapter with happiness, grace, and sometimes with little to no help. When a mother is distressed and shares her discontent or her need for a break, she is judged; which results in her experiencing shame and guilt. As a result, some mothers choose to keep to themselves and thus suffer in silence. You can love your child(ren) and not love being a mom 24/7. Who likes every aspect of what they do 24/7? Instead of patronizing mothers for sharing our truths, listen to us and ask how you can best support us. Allow moms to vent our frustrations and normalize these conversations without judging us or labeling us as lazy, unfit, or “bad mothers”.
Re-imagine how we care for a new family.
In the months leading up to the baby's arrival, we are focused on getting the nursery ready, throwing baby showers, purchasing things that will help the new parents take care of the baby etc. Yes, having a crib and a stroller is helpful – but how are we setting up (new) moms for success after the baby is born?
If only a fraction of the energy that goes into prenatal classes, baby showers, etc. went into preparing moms for the reality of life that occurs postpartum; how might that impact the way she shows up everyday for herself and her family? There is a lot of talk about a birth plan, but what about a fourth trimester plan (and beyond)? What services will the family need during this time such as: a mother’s helper, a postpartum doula, a lactation consultant, a pelvic floor therapist, a meal delivery service, a therapist, etc.? Which services are available and accessible?
Don’t be dismissive of a mom sharing her experience.
As someone who has struggled with challenges in their mental health, I can recall several times when I have shared my experience with someone only for them to be taken aback because I didn’t “look” like someone who would have this experience. Some of us may not look like we are struggling, present as “high-functioning”, or may seem like we have it all together when in reality, this is the furthest thing from the truth. Anxiety, depression, or any other adverse mental health experience doesn’t necessarily look a certain way. Please be mindful of how you respond to someone who has shared their experience with you, don’t doubt us, ask us what we need, listen to and validate us.
In closing, there are a combination of factors at play that impacts one’s motherhood journey. While we can’t control them all, we can start with what we can change in order to ameliorate the conditions that we parent under as mothers. It takes a village to raise a child and a mother.
Take deep care and be well, mamas.
For maternal health information, resources, and support, please visit Mommy Monitor.
Nicki Reid, Bilingual BA
Certified Transformational Coach | Wholesome Mind Health Coaching