A week ago at the Maternal Mental Health conference at WakeAHEC I saw this slide and immediately my heart sank.
My first pregnancy and postpartum experience everything on this list of culturally relevant risk factors applied to me: we moved, both me and my husband started new jobs, my Father in Law passed away, we bought a house and moved again, I had PTSD and negative feelings about my birth because my birth resulted in an unexpected cesarean and during the process I felt unheard and unsupported, every effort to breastfeed did not work, I went back to work full time, and we ended the year by my husband losing his job when our daughter was 3 months old while I was still back paying on health insurance premiums from when I was out of work for my unpaid maternity leave.
WHY do I share this? Because these factors directly influenced my maternal mental health, my relationships, my confidence, my ability to bond with my daughter, and the list goes on.
This right here is why postpartum support is CRITICAL. We all have our own "stuff" we are dealing with. If I had had someone who was outside of my family and friends that I could have shared what was going on with me, I know I would have been relieved. We had so much going on I didn't want to burden anyone with my "stuff" that seemed trivial. Birth didn't go the way I wanted? A healthy baby is all that matters. Breastfeeding didn't work out? That's what formula is for (not to knock on any type of birth or feeding choice but everything I prepared and hoped for did not happen and I was very disappointed). When we layer stuff on stuff and we have no outlets to turn to, the stuff starts to overflow or even worse- gets hidden underneath a "I have it all together" exterior while internally we are suffering from intrusive thoughts (explained in video linked), depression, crippling anxiety, and more.
And the part that gets me the most? I had NO idea all these factors were a trigger for me until I had my second child. After she arrived and was a couple of months old it "clicked". With respect to the hardships I faced the first time I can recognize the culturally relevant factors were unmatched this 2nd perinatal period. This time around, I researched, advocated, studied, and set up a perinatal support system. All the little things I did differently this time around did make a difference, as well as my current season of life situations.
My take away from this post would be this: integrative maternal health matters. For women, babies, families, and society. We absolutely must make maternal health a #1 priority.
Check out my quick testimony I filmed a year or so ago on a piece of my postpartum period here: