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Maternal mental health matters

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“Why do you need to go to therapy? You seem so happy! What do you even talk about there?”

When my seeing a therapist comes up in conversation, I am often met with comments like this.

I used to feel a shade of shame and embarrassment knowing the implication here was that “unhappy” people are the ones that need therapy… and yet, there I was, returning to sessions week after week.

But now, years—many years—later, I have shed the shame and replaced it with love.

Self-love. Love that runs through me and floods out to my children. And I am proud of that.

You see, I am happy. I am genuinely happy.

But still, I choose to continue this process because it helps me take care of my health.

And in this season of motherhood, it helps me take care of my maternal mental health—something that is so often left to the wayside as new mothers begin to navigate their journey.

What do I talk about in therapy? I talk about things that affect me and things that change me. I talk about things that happened to me and things that matter to me.

I talk about things that likely matter to a lot of other new moms, too.

I talk about how I wish I was better prepared for my first cesarean birth and that I was absolutely terrified the second time because of it.

I talk about how it makes me mad that I didn’t know what skin to skin was or why it was important when my daughter was born.

I talk about how completely overwhelmed I was by trying to balance having visitors and wanting time alone with my baby.

I talk about how I was so anxious for so long, how I never wanted to answer the phone, and how incredibly nervous I was to leave my house.

I talk about how my pediatrician was the first doctor to ask me how I was feeling—eight weeks after my daughter was born.

I talk about how I was pregnant with twins and didn’t know until I was told in a terribly insensitive manner at 13 weeks that I had lost one.

I talk about how I felt so little room to grieve because I was still so grateful to be carrying another baby—and how confusing that was for me.

I talk about how I didn’t get to hold my son until at least 12 hours after he was born, about our stay in the NICU, and about how my heart simultaneously ached for my toddler at home.

I talk about my continual hormone imbalances and stressful menstrual cycles.

I talk about my experience balancing a career and a growing family.

I talk about what it is like navigating parenting two toddlers.

I talk about how so few people talk about their inner changes in this season of life and how lonely and isolating that can feel.

And I talk about how it upsets me that when women try to be “real” with one another about things like these, we are too often met with judgment, shame, guilt, or overall uncomfortableness.

Sometimes it seems like is more acceptable to joke about drinking wine every night or binge eating brownies as a way of coping than it is to talk openly about meeting with a therapist and holding a safe space once a week just for you and your thoughts.

Sometimes it seems like women want more respect and support from men, yet we still can often be so quick to silence other women who they share their truths.

Sometimes it seems like we hear a lot about how women need to support one another, but when we open up about our feelings we are called ungrateful, dramatic, or too sensitive. We’re often told to get over it, to deal with it, that it’s not that bad, and that it could be worse.

Here’s the thing: most women who are brave enough to share their stories are not looking for someone to tell them that they have it worse than anyone else. They are just seeking to be heard by another human being.

There is a difference between being ungrateful and identifying areas in your life that need healing and validation.

There is a difference between complaining and being honest and looking for connection.

I shared parts of my story above simply to show that these are just some of the retable and very common “things” moms are allowed to express out loud, as opposed to keeping them bottled up inside.

These things, your things—no matter how big or small you or anyone else believes them to be—matter and deserve the chance to be processed and acknowledged in some capacity.

I believe that deep down we all really do want to be there for each other, but we don’t always know how; it is difficult to show up for others if we struggle to show up for ourselves.

We are afraid to know our own selves on a deeper, more conscious level for fear of uncovering hard truths, inner work that’s been left undone, boundaries that need to be set, and changes that need to be made.

We are afraid to share our stories for fear of judgment or abandonment.

We are afraid to be vulnerable even though motherhood is exactly the time we really want to be.

It’s time to end the stigma around therapy and other means of self-help—to stop equating it with weakness and to start viewing it as an effort towards achieving strength, peace, and responsibility.

It’s time to bring more awareness around maternal mental health—to be open to new ideas, to spread helpful information, to share stories that will unite us all as different as we may be.

It’s time to free ourselves of comparison and make room for compassion.

It’s time to rid ourselves of judgment and make room for tolerance.

It’s time to separate ourselves from criticism and make room for gentleness.

It is time for us to open up and make space for this journey of self-love and consequential, inevitable sisterhood.

There is a lot of information out there that is yet to be shared with or heard by many women who can benefit from it.

There are resources, people, services, medications, support groups, websites, organizations, books, articles, and friends out there waiting to offer a helping hand and healing hearts.

And so in whatever way makes sense or feels right for you—allow yourself to go there.

Allow yourself to do the work. Allow yourself to heal.

Allow yourself to love you—beautiful, powerful, magnificent you—the best way you can.

And watch the miracles continue to unravel—inside and out.

Your inner child will thank you and fulfill you.

Your children will thank you and inspire you.

Our world will be healthier and happier—because of you.

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