Taryn Zweygardt, LMSW | Executive Director, The Village ICT
My entire life I wanted to be a mother.
I remember telling many people growing up that I honestly felt as though I was put on this earth to be a mom.
I dreamed of the day when I could tote around my precious little bundle of joy, showing her or him off to the world, hearing a little voice call ME “mama”. So in 2015 when my husband and I found out that we were expecting our first child you can only imagine the sheer joy and excitement that consumed me knowing that all of my childhood dreams were about to come true.
The months leading up to delivery were spent decorating a nursery, stockpiling diapers and celebrating with family and friends. As a social worker, I felt prepared for all the parenthood could throw my way. Most of my career had been spent working with children and families so it seemed as though there wasn’t an obstacle that I didn’t know how to maneuver and find appropriate resources for.
That is until postpartum depression and anxiety reared its ugly head about 3 months after the birth of our daughter.
1 in 7 women will suffer from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Only 40% of cases are diagnosed, and of those diagnosed, only 60% receive treatment.
I don’t remember the exact moment I realized something was wrong, but I just knew I was experiencing something different than I ever had before. And I remember feeling so ashamed. How could I, the social worker, the woman who had dreamed of being a mother her entire life be feeling the way she was?
The intrusive thoughts were overwhelming. The rage almost seemed uncontrollable. The tears could be turned on and off like the bathroom sink. I felt like a terrible mother, a terrible human. I felt broken.
The current American culture sets new mothers up for failure. Unrealistic, social media filtered expectations of motherhood, rare cases of paid maternity leave, and the social stigma surrounding mental health issues in general leaves mothers feeling forced to push forward as quickly as possible, with little regard to how the experience of motherhood is taking a toll on our mind, body, and spirit.
When it came to finding support during these hard months, I found the most comfort in knowing that other moms out there were feeling or had felt the same way I was. I turned to social media, my mom friends, mom blogs, and educational resources to learn more about perinatal mental
health issues and what had been successful to help other moms recover. In retrospect, I wish that someone would have simply educated or prepared me more on what could happen postpartum. I wish that a support group in my community would have existed. I wish that someone, anyone would have screened me for the symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety.
Peer led support groups are a vital part of addressing maternal mental health. Karen Kleiman, the “mother” of maternal mental health, speaks of the impacts that support groups have had on mothers dealing with postpartum depression or anxiety. “Postpartum women in distress report that they relate to each other’s stories and crave the endorsement and comfort derived from shared experiences.” When you are in the trenches and dealing with the darkness that can be postpartum depression or anxiety, it’s easy to feel alone or that no one else could possibly be feeling or thinking what you are.
Support groups are a great place for new mothers to come together and support one another throughout all the trials that parenthood brings. They allow new mothers to feel heard, for their feelings to be validated, and for the creation of their own personal motherhood village.
Are you a new mother who is struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety and not sure what resources might be most beneficial for you? Check out a support group in your area and find other moms who have similar experiences. You’re not alone.