Motherhood and PPD: Changing Attitudes Takes Open Conversations and Being Supportive

I mentioned in a previous post how Gwyneth Paltrow had “come out of the closet” nearly two years ago regarding her postpartum depression (PPD) experience after the birth of her son Moses.  I am happy to see that she is continuing to talk about her experience, this time in the premiere episode of Lifetime’s The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet. Check out the Celebrity Baby Scoop article and US Weekly article that I stumbled across, thanks to a Facebook post yesterday from my friend Liz Friedman over at MotherWoman.

What caught my attention was the following quote from Gwyneth:

“We think that it makes us bad mothers or we didn’t do it right, but it’s like, we’re all in this together. I never understand why mothers judge other mothers, like, ‘What do you mean you didn’t breastfeed? What do you mean you didn’t do this?’ It’s like, ‘Can’t we all just be on each other’s side?’ It’s so hard anyway. Can’t we all help each other get through it? There’s a shame attached to it because if you say, ‘I had a baby and I couldn’t connect to the baby,’ it’s like, ‘What is wrong with you?'”

Yes, yes, yes….100% with you on that Gwyneth, as I’m sure many moms would agree as well.  Basically, this is the age-old let’s-judge-other-moms-rather-than-help-each-other thing.  Or let’s-keep-quiet-because-I’m-too-ashamed-to-let-others-know-I’m-not-the-perfect-mom-that-bonds-immediately-and-breastfeeds-instinctively thing.

If we’re so gung ho on breastfeeding, then the goal of breastfeeding advocates should be for every mother who needs help to get it whenever and wherever it’s needed.  Just like my past post on breastfeeding and a section in my book in the chapter on motherhood myths, don’t assume that every mom breastfeeds without any issues.  Don’t make a mom feel bad if she decides not to breastfeed for whatever her reason may be.  One should refrain from judgmental tactics. And don’t assume that every woman has smooth pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum experiences.  Why do these myths, or attitudes, need to exist, anyway?  What purpose does it serve, other than to crush the self esteem of a new mother?  How about helping out a fellow mother instead of judging, criticizing, isolating, gossiping?    Let’s say we do away with these myths and attitudes?  Let’s come up with solutions in the form of peer-led new mom/postpartum groups, like MotherWoman and Santa Barbara Postpartum Education for Parents (SBPEP), all across the country.  In cities, suburbs, and rural areas.

And Gwyneth also speaks for moms like me who suffered from PPD and understand that it’s awareness that will empower and make a difference for mothers.

“That’s why I talk about it, because even the awareness of it started to diminish it…..Because I didn’t feel like I’m dying or I’m crazy — period. It’s like, ‘Oh, this is a thing. This is a real thing and these are the symptoms and I have them all.'”

As I stated in the introduction to my book reading last Thursday, I wrote my book based on what I was so desperate to find when I was suffering from PPD myself—comfort, hope of recovery, and helpful tips and facts to help validate that PPD is a real illness with physical symptoms and needs treatment, just as any other illness like diabetes has physical symptoms and needs treatment.

Knowledge is power.

Knowledge–which in the case of PPD, is gained by talking to others and reading about it on blogs, in books, and in articles on the Internet and in magazines–has a tremendous normalizing effect.

Knowledge is key in keeping fear at bay, since fear typically rules in the presence of the unknown.

Knowledge about PPD–what it is, what the symptoms are, and whether you’re at risk–will make you less likely to panic over what is happening to you, less likely to feel helpless and hopeless, and more likely to know where and whom to seek help from immediately.

Knowledge of what is causing you to feel the way you feel can help minimize these very negative feelings. Never hearing any other mothers say they’ve experienced any of these negative feelings, you may end up thinking, incorrectly, that you are completely alone in what you’re experiencing. Not knowing that PPD is causing these feelings, you won’t know what’s wrong with you and fear, needlessly, that you will never return to your old self again.  I didn’t know what was happening to me, so I feared needlessly that I would never return to my old self again.

Let’s keep the conversation about PPD going.  By keeping an open dialogue about PPD going–be it via written format on blogs, books or magazines or in day-to-day conversations we have with others or on TV and/or radio if you have access/connections to media outlets–we have a much greater chance at combating the stigma behind perinatal mood disorders and any other challenges a new mom faces.  Let’s come up with ways to support mothers and increase public awareness!

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5 thoughts on “Motherhood and PPD: Changing Attitudes Takes Open Conversations and Being Supportive

  1. Ivy, your blog & your book influenced me to start blogging about my own experience with PPD. I loved that interview. We are all just trying to do the best we can as mothers.

  2. Ivy, your blog and your book are part of the reason I started blogging. I wanted to share my story to help other moms feel like someone else understood what they were going through. I am starting to be more vocal about my PPD to raise awareness. Thank you for leading the way.

    • Hi Jen! I’m so glad to know my book and blog had a positive impact for you. I’m particularly happy you’ve added your voice to the moms who are sharing their stories and raising awareness about PPD! You should be proud. You are always there on Twitter supporting your fellow #PPDChat friends. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that was your calling…supporting mothers!

  3. Thank you for your blog Ivy. I am currently in my battle with Postpartum depression. Your blog gives me hope that i may recover. I have been put on medication 3 weeks ago and i still feel deeply depressed. I have one good day mixed with about 5 bad days. I wonder how long it takes to have more good days? Does this sound normal to you?

    • Hi Kim,
      Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! Have faith that you will recover. In the early days of my recovery, I didn’t think I would ever return to my old self again…but I did! There are definitely some bad days mixed in with the good days. With time, and as treatment progresses, there will be fewer and fewer bad days. I can’t tell you how long it will take for you to recover. Every woman’s experience is different from the next. Please keep me posted in your progress…and do let me know if you have any other questions!
      All the best,
      Ivy

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