Last night we hosted a viewing of "When the Bough Breaks" a heartbreaking documentary about the realities of postpartum depression & psychosis. We were joined by local OC birth professionals, members of the community, and a number of mental health professionals to not only watch this film, but to discuss what we can do to make postpartum support more acceptable and more accessible.
It's no secret that there is still tons of stigma surrounding mental health and treatment options in this country, but what struck me most after viewing this film was the overall lack of understanding, education, and resources surrounding perinatal mood disorders. Simply put, our healthcare and societal systems often set women up for failure, leaving them feeling confused and isolated with nowhere to turn. There are no specific standards for screening and care providers see so many patients each day that it's common for those needing help to slip through the cracks.
That's if these women reach out for help in the first place as the fear of being judged often keeps women silently suffering.
Stigma silences us. It puts a hand over our mouth and stops us from speaking when we need it the most. It tells us, “Don't admit you're hurting. Don't admit you need help. That’s weak. That’s embarrassing. No one will understand you. You’ll be judged, rejected, or shamed.” If you've had that conversation somewhere inside of yourself, you are not alone.
The stigma around mental illness needs to end.
But, before we can stop the stigma, we must first understand, talk, and love.
Gone are the days of living in villages and multi-family homes. Heading toward extinction are the cultural norms that provide the newly postpartum family space for bonding, healing and rest. Instead, we have societal expectations of getting your "pre-baby body" back, learning how to breastfeed, recovering from birth in a flash, having your baby sleeping through the night and getting back to work... all within 6-12 weeks after your baby's arrival.
Excuse my French, but that's a bunch of bullshit right there.
After watching "When the Bough Breaks" and discussing these realities with this incredible group last night, I feel now, more than ever that change needs to happen. AND SOON.
Mothers are in desperate need for help and it is our mission to do whatever we can to get them that help.
This is why we feel so passionate about postpartum doula care. Often times our postpartum doulas are the first and only touchpoint you'll have once coming home from the hospital. Yes, you'll have pediatrician and obstetrician visits, but until we have standard screening protocols in place, these care providers may not have the time or resources to help you in the way that you need. Yes, maybe you'll have family in town for a few days or weeks, but family stressors can often exacerbate the already intense adjustments that you'll face. Additionally, families often help out in the way that they think you need rather than in the ways you actually need help. Their intentions, of course, are pure, but the help they provide is sometimes not enough.
With postpartum doula support you have someone coming to your home regularly for weeks or months following the birth. You'll create a deep connection with your doula. She will be someone you trust and someone you are confident won't pass judgment. She knows what signs to look for if you're struggling with depression or anxiety. She has resources available to get you connected to other new parents, therapists, and more. Her calming reassurance and guidance will boost your confidence as a mom and give you hope. She'll be there in the dark days and when the fog lifts. She will support you and your family unconditionally for as long as you need her. Postpartum Doula take the place of the villages of old and give you the space to bond, rest, and heal.
Motherhood shouldn't be an island.
It should be done in a community of peers where you can feel safe to share, cry, be angry, and ask for help. This is why our weekly New Mama Cafe exists. Born out of Chelsea's own experiences as a new mom, this is her passion project. Every Tuesday our doors are open from 11am-1pm for a free drop-in for moms & babies. This is a sacred time, set aside for you to gather, meet other local moms, talk about the realities of parenting, and find respite from the isolation. It is completely free and available to all who need it. Each week is hosted by a different doula so that you can receive some professional support and guidance if needed. Topics often include challenges with breastfeeding, struggles with sleep deprivation, accepting your changing body, and reconnecting with your partner. New Mama Cafe is a place where you can come and just be yourself. Come as you are... even if that means you come in your pajamas with spit-up in your hair!
If you're a new mom struggling to find your way, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We are here for you, to support you, to connect you to resources, and to love on you. Whatever you're experiencing, we guarantee there is another new mom out there that can relate! We invite you to reach out to us for connection, support, and education. Our local resources page has additional information on ways to connect or get help in-person and online.
This is our hope and mission in the work that we do:
That we will love greatly today and everyday. That the safety created in community will encourage people to reach out, to ask for help, to talk, to listen. That the support that is created will give people freedom to love, to cry, to be angry, to yell, to hug, to understand, to FEEL. It is in this love, this support and this community that our society will begin to truly expose the struggles of motherhood, postpartum depression and psychosis. And it is in this exposure, this shedding of light, that will bring about change to acceptance and accessibility to treatment and help.
Together, we can stop the stigma that silences us. Together, we can save lives. Join us.