#27 | Postpartum Mini: The Link Between Postpartum Depression and Wonderful Mothers

June 1, 2020

Hey, everyone! It's another Mini-Episode Monday and today I describe the burden we impose on pregnant and postpartum women when we lovingly predict she'll be a "wonderful mother". It may come as a surprise to learn that this term actually has a causal relationship to postpartum depression and anxiety. Where does this come from, what does it mean, and how can we reshape this thought pattern into something that will serve parents better? Listen to this mini-episode and be sure to get in touch with us afterwards by leaving us a voice message at the number below. We'd love to hear your own thoughts around calling someone - or being told that we are - a "wonderful" mother.

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If you enjoyed this episode of the Down To Birth Show, please share with your pregnant and postpartum friends.

Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). We are always happy to hear from our listeners and appreciate questions for our monthly Q&A episodes. To join our monthly newsletter, text "downtobirth" to 22828.

You can sign up for Cynthia's HypnoBirthing classes as well as online breastfeeding classes and weekly postpartum support groups run by Cynthia & Trisha at HypnoBirthing of Connecticut

Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

View Episode Transcript

Hi, everyone, welcome back to another mini episode of Cynthia shares. Trisha and I just finished speaking with someone who shared her postpartum experience with us. It's someone who suffered postpartum anxiety and depression. And one thing that stood out was that she said she had so many visions of being a wonderful mother. She did everything else in life really well and fully expected to do motherhood well. Now, one thing she didn't know at the time was that expectation expectations of being a wonderful mother is a risk factor for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Isn't that incredible? So for the women who have an intention of being a wonderful mother or for the women who have loving well meaning friends and family who tell her that she'll be a wonderful mother. This actually connected Fire. Because what does it even mean to be a wonderful mother? What does that even mean? What vision do you get when we say someone has a wonderful mother? What do you picture?

First? What do you think she looks like?

Get in your mind what she looks like that she looked great. Is her hair all blown out to her nails look nicely done. Is she fit? Is she smiling and happily caring for her baby as if she doesn't have stuff on her to do list? As if she isn't exhausted and overworked? In a messy home that's suddenly filled with baby gear. What do you picture? Did you picture this wonderful mother to be struggling with breastfeeding challenges, as so many women do, or grappling with what may have been an unsatisfying birth or feeling completely lonely and isolated. Even if she has people around her love her. Just feeling Because no one is in it with her. No one is in it with her.

That's my first question. What does she look like?

And what is she doing with her time? And she keeping her house tidy when her baby sleeping. Really good at self care? What's going on with her in your mind? What does a wonderful mother do in her time? Now let me describe a wonderful mother from my perspective. Picture a mother who can't remember if she ate yet today. Picture a mother who looks physically exhausted. Whose hair is it a messy ponytail. Wearing some cross between regular clothes and maternity clothes still, who may have breast milk stains on her clothes? Who has glasses on instead of contacts if she wears contacts, and picture her house message Picture her having thoughts that are causing her anxiety, nervousness, feelings of being stressed out, overwhelmed, maybe resentful toward her partner. Maybe even be in a bad mood, picture all these things. And now imagine her baby wakes up from a nap starts screaming and crying, and she's fighting back tears. She's thinking, I can't believe the baby's waking up already. I've got nothing done. And she goes and picks up her baby sits down, holds her baby feeds or breastfeed her baby. And imagine this mom is even crying from stress right now. And then after a little while, her baby needs a diaper change. So she gets up and goes and changes the diaper. And she's thinking, why am I not better at this? Why does this come so easily to other women? Why am I not enjoying this? I wanted a baby. I know how lucky I am that I have this baby. But I feel like this is the last thing I want to be doing right now. Why can't I be a good mother? And now how many of you are thinking that sounds exactly like a wonderful mother. I am. Because a wonderful mother meets her baby's needs, period. There are wonderful mothers who aren't meeting their baby's needs. By the way. There are wonderful mothers who are hurting so badly that they need support. They need to not be left alone with the baby. Because they might not notice when the baby is crying. They might be hurting so much. They might not be aware of when the baby needs them. Being a wonderful mother has nothing to do with all the things you're thinking and feeling. Nothing to do with it because From your baby's perspective, the only question is, are my needs being met. Either the baby's needs are being met, or the baby has a mother who needs as much help and support as the baby him or herself. And any other thoughts around this are only put in our heads from society. It's nothing about, quote being wonderful. It is simply about whether the needs are being met. Who are we to go around judging that other mothers are wonderful? And I'm not even talking about judging the mothers who we don't think are wonderful. I am saying, Who are we to even judge who is a wonderful mother? Who are we to say, you're a wonderful mother? How can we be the arbiter of that? I mean, really, when we say that to a woman, she may just feel guilty. She may just be thinking, ah, If only you knew I I'm not really enjoying this as much as you think I am. Let's just let go of ideas of being a wonderful mother. So much of that. There's so much of women declaring how wonderful their partners are all the time. We always hear this. Oh my God, he's an amazing dad. He's such an amazing partner. We hear so much of that. Why are we doing this? Why do we have to judge ourselves in our partners? Can't we just focus on what really matters? The first thing that matters is are these babies needs met? That has to be a yes if that isn't a Yes, everything has to stop. Every family member has to know about it. Everyone has to come around and make sure these baby's needs are fully met that the baby is never left alone with someone who can potentially not be aware of when the baby needs attention, warmth, love food, diaper change.

That's number one.

Immediately after we know a baby's needs are met. We look to the mom and say are her needs met? She's remembering to eat and drink water every day. Is she getting enough sleep? Is she lonely? Is she sad? Is she low on energy? Is she checked out? Is that light in her eye gone? Is something missing?

Is she not herself?

Because the baby just has these basic needs, and that is enough for the baby. For the mom. We looked at her basic needs, and we go further. Does she have support? Does she have friendship? Does she have understanding from a professional or from other moms, so other parents who are in this with her? Let's let go of this idea of whether we're wonderful mothers and let's start to focus on whether our baby's needs are met, and whether our needs are met, because our needs are as important as our baby's needs. We don't have to be wonderful parents, because that doesn't mean anything. It's just more judging. It's more valuable. waiting. It's more assessing, let's get away from that. And look at this new family as being temporarily overwhelmed and doing their best. And because of the society in which they live, have no idea how to make sense of any of it or how to ask for help.

So rather than telling a postpartum mom or dad how amazing they are and how wonderful they are, what would it be like instead, if we could just ask them? How are you?

Are you getting the support and connection that you need right now?

And if you are that postcard of mom or dad and no one's asking you really out of love for yourself and for your baby and your family, need to learn how to speak up and ask. It's not only okay for you to do so it's really your responsibility to do so. Those are my thoughts today, everyone. I hope that resonates. I hope it makes sense to those of you who are in the So those are you. For those of you who have been through this.

Let's let motherhood just be motherhood. Please do reach out to us. If you have any thoughts or comments on this. We'd love to hear from you. And we'll see you for a regular episode on Wednesday. Thanks, everyone.

If you enjoyed this podcast episode of the Down To Birth Show, please share with your pregnant and postpartum friends.

Share this episode: 

Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood.

You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). 

To join our monthly newsletter, text “downtobirth” to 22828.

About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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