A recent article by Celeste Yvonne dove into the world of “mommy wine culture” and the lack of support she received from her OBGYN while dealing with postpartum depression.
It shone a light on just how many women struggle after having a baby, but also how hard it can be to ask for help. In today’s world, many women are faced with a lack of postpartum support, high child care costs and are often spending 37% more time than men on unpaid household and care work, all of which can make caring for a newborn that much more difficult, let alone caring for yourself.
With an ever-present culture that can often minimize moms’ struggles, it’s important we lean in to what’s really going on here and talk about getting the support we all deserve.
So, we’ve enlisted the help of Licensed Professional Counselor, Casie Wofford, to talk about getting that integral support we all deserve.
Casie, we hear a lot about support after having a baby, but what does healthy support look like?
Healthy support is going to look different for every individual,-and that’s what’s important to know. You’re the expert of the support you need, and the people around you won’t know what that is unless you set them up for success to support you. For some individuals, it’s having all hands on deck from their partner and/or extended family. For other individuals, that might sound like their nightmare depending on what those relationships look like.
We can have ideas about what healthy support will look like once the baby arrives, but when the baby comes it can be a different story. It’s important to give yourself permission to continue to ask yourself the question: Do I feel supported? If you ask yourself what your mood has felt like lately, you’ll get a yes or no answer to whether you feel supported. Your mood and emotions are your body and brain’s way of communicating to you if you have enough support. Be curious about your mood and emotions, and allow them to tell you where you need support.
Example: I’m not getting sleep and feeling constantly overwhelmed. What is my body and brain telling me? I think it’s that I need sleep. How can I get support with this? Maybe ask my partner, friend, family member to take a night shift or be the primary caregiver while I take a nap.
Example: I’m feeling irritated because it feels like I’m the only one feeding the baby. What is my brain and body trying to tell me? I need a break from constant feedings. How can I get support with this? Maybe I could try setting aside pumped breast milk in the fridge for my partner, family or friend to help take on a feeding or, if formula feeding, have them make up a bottle and take on an additional feeding.
I’d recommend continuously being curious about what healthy support looks like for YOU. Our needs in regards to support can ebb and flow. Don’t let anyone else define what healthy support looks like for you.
How do we know if we need support?
Trust your gut. How do we typically know something is wrong? A gut feeling. We might not be able to label what’s wrong, but something feels off. Even if it’s hard to parse out if you’re experiencing postpartum depression or adjusting to having a baby, the bottom line is-it doesn’t matter. Sometimes we can get hung up on needing to label something in order to receive support.
We can get hung up on, “It’s not that bad, I’ll get through it”. No doubt that you will, but when you’re in a dark hole trying to jump to grab a rope to get out-wouldn’t it be nice to have a step ladder to grab that rope (i.e. medication)? Wouldn’t it be even greater to have someone extend more rope to you (i.e. a partner, friend, family member, therapist, etc.)? Receiving healthy support isn’t an admittance of defeat; it’s conserving energy and taking care of yourself, which indirectly takes care of your newborn, too. If you’re experiencing mood swings, irritability, sadness, anxiety or not getting joy from things you used to or think you should, etc., these are all indicators you could use support to grab that rope.
Who can we ask for support from?
I think it can be helpful for individuals to have support outside of friends and family (i.e. outside of everyone’s opinions). Therefore, if financially possible via private pay or insurance, I’d recommend finding a therapist you connect with. Therapy sessions give you the intentional space and time to check-in with yourself and acknowledge how you’re doing without judgement. A therapist can just listen, if that’s what you need, or be a sounding board to assist brainstorming in how to receive support in areas you’re struggling with.
There are also postpartum depression support groups to know that you’re not alone. These can vary and change, but ideally your OBGYN or a therapist can find referrals for you for a group.
Many women may know they need support, but it can be hard to ask for it. What are ways to make it easier to ask for support?
Sometimes it’s hard to ask for support. The antidote to this is having self-compassion and giving yourself permission to be human and have needs. Having self-compassion can be difficult, so as a starter I often ask clients to think of how they would show compassion for a friend. If you knew your friend was struggling and needed additional support right now and was struggling to ask for it, what would you be telling them? The answer is often a resounding, “You deserve support! There’s no shame in asking for it.”
With partners (or anyone who you’re receiving support from), we might start off coming in hot while asking for support. For example, “I’m doing X, Y, Z, and I can’t do it anymore!” This is understandable given what major life transition is happening, but realistically it might put your partner (or whoever) on the defense and not set them up for success supporting you. I’d suggest stating a positive need along with a gentle start-up while asking for support. It might sound like, “This is really hard for me to ask. I know you’re doing X to support me, and I’m still struggling with Y. Can we talk about what it might look like for support with Y? This is what I think might help…”
This is all really helpful, Casie. Do you have any final words of encouragement?
You’re going through a major life transition, of course you need support. You deserve it. When you advocate for support for yourself, you’re also advocating for better support for your child. You both deserve that.
Want to read more about life after baby? Check out more of our articles here.