There’s something a lot of women are feeling but don’t feel safe saying right now.
So I’m going to say it.
The early years of motherhood are not always pretty.
They aren’t always joyful.
They aren’t always easy.
They aren’t always safe.
But we don’t talk about it enough.
Because society tells us we should know better.
We should be grateful.
We should choose happy.
We should pay attention to the warning signs.
We should get help.
But the truth is this…it’s almost never that simple.
14 years ago I stood in the doorway between my bedroom and our dining room and in between deep sobs I told my husband that I felt crazy and unsafe and suddenly understood why some mothers take their own lives and the lives of their children.
I just blurted it all out and I asked him to take me somewhere so I wouldn’t do something I would one day regret.
Being honest with him was terrifying and came with so much shame.
It’s not that I wanted to hurt my children or myself or that I had an urge to do so but I suddenly understood how so many women could get to that place.
And the truth is, a lot of women DO get to that place.
And despite how awful it was, I was one of the lucky ones.
I was privileged.
I had two healthy, relatively easy children.
I had a supportive husband who was an equal partner with managing the household, helping with overnight feeding even though I was nursing, and who didn’t judge me at all.
I had a pediatrician who supported my choice to continue breastfeeding or switching to bottle.
I was already on antidepressants and in therapy.
I had the world’s best sister.
I had friends I could be open with about it.
I had a master’s degree and worked in mental health, early childhood development, and postpartum care.
I knew the warning signs.
And in the end, none of that shielded me from the deep darkness of postpartum depression.
And now, all these years later when I hear of another mom who wasn’t able to find her way out of struggling all I can think is “that could have easily been me.”
Because the truth is not everyone has access to good mental health care.
Not everyone can afford the copays or deductibles.
Not everyone has a supportive partner.
Not everyone has people to help with child care.
There are many reasons for postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis and we can’t solve it all in a single post on the internet.
But each of us reading this right now can make a positive impact in the life of a struggling mother.
I promise you that someone you care about has had this same experience or is having it right now or will have it soon - and they might not feel safe talking about it.
So maybe now is a good time to reach out to the mothers of young children in your life and remind them that they matter to you - not just their babies but them.
Remind them that you see them and you care about them.
Resist the temptation to give parenting advice.
Remind her that this dark space is temporary and there is hope on the other side of it.
If you have been there and got through it, please consider being brave and saying it to her.
Don’t wait for her to ask for help.
Offer. Offer. And offer some more.
And hold the judgment.
It’s the last thing she needs.