Why I Faked Being “Fine” After My First Baby
How Physical Therapy Makes a Difference in Postpartum Mental Health
Last month, Breathe. was fortunate enough to be a promotional partner with The Blue Dot Project for Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. According to their website, maternal mental health disorders impact up to one in five women, but only 15% will receive help. This is sad, but not at all surprising. I did not have depression, but had severe anxiety after a traumatic birth (after 4 years of fertility treatment). I was not okay, but whenever anyone asked, I said “all good here!”
Now, my oldest daughter is 3.5 years old and I have had time to process how and why I handled things the way I did. I also have the privilege of working with postpartum women every single day and hearing their stories about their mental health after having a baby. As holistic healthcare providers, we know that a lot of things contribute to maternal mental health.
Here are some reasons I never told anyone close to me I was not okay after becoming a mother for the first time:
- I was so happy (and terrified) to have my own little baby to hold in my hands.
I finally had what we had been hoping and praying and fighting for (for years) in my arms, HOW DARE I be anything BUT happy/fine/giddy. We had a horrible delivery, including a NICU stay with 6 hours of life/death scare. She was going to be healthy, how dare I not be thrilled. I also blamed myself for the hard delivery, and I certainly didn’t want anyone else to point the huge finger I was already pointing at myself. Nothin’ to see here, just a healthy mom & baby…..
- I didn’t want anyone else to have to worry about me, I’m the strong one.
Maybe you can relate, I’m always the strong one. Rarely people ask how I’m doing because I’m always “strong”. I am the caretaker. I am the one making sure everyone else is okay. I (thought) I never needed help.
- I was completely sleep deprived and in pain, for months.
I really don’t think my first daughter slept until she was 9 months old (but on a positive we joke that is why she is super verbal!) But seriously, I was beyond exhausted. I had a 4th degree tear. Dealing with my healing body and a newborn was A LOT. Constantly worrying & fearing about the next time I had to poo or pee, (or put coconut oil on my super sore nipples) there was not time to care about my mental health. Survival mode.
- It was easier to talk to strangers than admit to those close to me I wasn’t fine.
I should have gone to therapy, but I didn’t even consider it. Now, that is one of the first things I recommend to women after childbirth. It is okay to not be okay. You’re not a bad mom if you have feelings other then joy & fulfillment after you have a baby.
- I had a super supportive husband & tons of family around.
I always think about how others have it so hard and how #blessed my life has been. There are teenagers who do this alone. There are women in 3rd world countries that can birth and take care of a baby “just fine”. Who am I to whine?!
The bottom line is, when mental health isn’t well, physical health suffers too.
Women who visit Breathe. Physical Therapy and Wellness are typically experiencing low back pain, difficulty sleeping, headaches, incontinence, abdominal muscle weakness and a host of other physical symptoms. These ailments keep women from being active, energetic and involved with their children like they’d like to be. The inability to do what we want due to physical discomfort creates further stress and it becomes a cycle!
Being able to treat women physically gives us the opportunity to break the cycle and empower them to feel their best. We’re grateful to impact the lives of so many women each and every day.
We are so grateful to all the people, especially The Blue Dot Project, who have made it a point to do things like Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week to keep us talking (and writing) about it.