Dear New Mom,
You might be sitting there right now, on Mother’s Day of all days, feeling like a total mom failure. I remember that feeling. I had only just gotten started, was at the very beginning of motherhood and I’d already blown it. I was a sobbing, anxiety-filled, hysterical mess. It was clear there was no way I’d make it through the next five minutes much less the next 18 years.
Since starting Postpartum Progress, I think I’ve probably spoken personally with at least 10,000 women who’ve had maternal mental illnesses and 99.9% of them have said the same things. Used the same words and phrases: Failure. Bad mom. Can’t do it. Never should have had a baby. Useless. Will never get better. Horrible person.
And then they learned what I learned: We have an illness. Nothing more and nothing less. It’s a really horrendous, devastating jerk of an illness that comes at the worst time possible and happens to the nicest and loveliest people possible … and is fully treatable.
Hundreds of thousands of moms in the US alone experience maternal mental illness every single year. If every mom alive on this planet who has ever had postpartum depression, anxiety, bipolar, psychosis or depression/anxiety during pregnancy put on a special hat and went about their business today, and you got out of your house and went around town to look, you’d see those hats everywhere. There’d be hats in the grocery store checkout line, at the bank, in front of classrooms, in office cubicles, in bleachers, out jogging, on the playground, sitting in traffic. EVERYWHERE. I promise you this is true.
There are 85.4 million moms in the US right now. With 1 in 7 of them having had a maternal mental illness that’s about 12 million women who’d be walking around with hats. That’s a lot of damn hats. You’re not alone. You’re among 12 million mothers alive at this moment who thought they were failures too.
(Oh, and if you don’t live in the US, there are 2 billion moms worldwide. If we estimate that at least 10% of them have had PPD, that’s 200 million women on the earth at this moment that have been right where you are. We’re not even talking about all the mothers who have ever lived. Just the ones living right now.)
One of the hardest parts of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders is feeling like you’re the only one. You need to know that you aren’t some rare defect of a mother. You are someone who is among likely more than a BILLION women in human history who’ve struggled with this. I feel lucky that we live in a time where we can connect with each other through Postpartum Progress, share our experiences, and find help and support from others who have been there. We are your tribe, mama, and we love you.
The Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit that raises awareness & provides peer support for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. To see some of the ways we provide moms support, visit http://postpartumprogress.org/community/.