Mother’s Day can be a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the mothers in your life. And if you are a mother? To appreciate yourself. But for new mothers experiencing Postpartum Depression and/or Anxiety (PPD/A), this can feel like a tall order.
A new mom in the throes of PPD/A often feels like the worst mom on the planet. She may feel like everything she does in her new role is wrong, or not good enough. That her baby doesn’t love her (or that she doesn’t love her baby), and that her family might be better off without her. We hear many struggling new moms say that they want to buy a one-way ticket to another country or start their lives over, alone, on a deserted island.
A new mom with PPD/A may feel hopeless, helpless, worthless, trapped, frozen with anxiety, and — most of all — lonely. She may cut off friends and family because she doesn’t want to be seen feeling the way that she does, and expending energy that she just doesn’t have. And when she is around other new moms? She perceives them as having figured everything out: yet another mental note-to-self that she’s failing by comparison.
A new mom with PPD/A can feel like she is drowning in a deep sea just waiting for someone to throw her a life preserver. She may be mourning the loss of her former identity and freedom, and feel like this new role is not what she signed up for. She may not trust herself or her ability to make crucial decisions for herself, her new child, and her growing family.
For these new moms, it may feel impossible to celebrate or be celebrated on Mother’s Day. Here’s what you can do to show up for a mom you love who’s suffering:
- Tell her what a good job she is doing feeding the baby, holding the baby, and caring for the baby.
- Let her know how the baby gazes at her adoringly, and clearly feels soothed by her voice and touch.
- Hold her while she cries and tell her you love her.
- Listen to her fears when she is anxious. If she is angry, know that it is the PPD/A doing the yelling (and that it mostly has to do with how bad she feels about herself.)
- Tell her how proud you are of her mothering — and how lucky the baby is to have her as a mommy.
- Tell her that there is no such thing as a perfect mom. Remind her that all the moms she sees in commercials are paid actors, and the woman at the grocery store who had her hair done, makeup on, and silent sleeping baby in the stroller might very well be losing it on the inside, too.
- Ask her how you can help her — and figure out how you can make this happen. Can you do the laundry? Make dinner? Watch the baby while she goes for a walk or takes a nap?
- Tell her that you can see she is struggling, and that you want to help her feel better. Encourage her to get the help she needs. Remind her that PPD/A is very common and very treatable.
- Make an appointment for her at The Motherhood Center if you are in New York City, or, if you are out of state — contact Postpartum Support International for specialists near you.
And then? Offer to take her to the appointment.
A new mom struggling with PPD/A needs to hear these things on Mother’s Day — and every day. The good news is that with treatment — everyone feels better, and there will be many, many more Mother’s Days in the future that she will cherish and enjoy.
If you think you have PPD, Call The Motherhood Center - 347-343-4257. We are here to tell you for sure if you have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. And more importantly, if you do, we will provide the treatment you need to feel better. With the right treatment, EVERYONE feels better.