I’m lucky to have amazing friends and family, people who do not accept the stigma of mental illness. And I haven’t had anyone question my choice to get pregnant again after my frightening postpartum period last time. I’ve received mainly two reactions to this pregnancy from friends and family, and while I understand both reactions, I want to push my friends and family to fall into Option 2.
- Some friends and family completely ignore my past experience and assume this postpartum period will go just fine. I think they assume this because I am aware of the issue and knowledgeable, I can stop it from happening. I hear comments like “It will be so different this time!” Yes, I hope it will be, but we can’t know that. I’m an advocate for women, so I should have all the tools, right? If you’ve gone through a postpartum mood disorder, at least in my experience, you felt completely out of control. There was little you could do. I know this feeling, and I know I will do all that I can to prevent it, but I also know women with the best of circumstances (money, support, “good” babies), and they still experience a postpartum mood disorder. Biology is a strong factor. I often make the comparison of if I’d had a debilitating heart issue after giving birth, wouldn’t most of my friends and family be concerned about my health? Wouldn’t they assume that it could happen again even if we take all the necessary precautions? I think it’s a fine line and people aren’t sure how much is too much in terms of their involvement. I understand that we still don’t know how to talk about mental health. But when people try to ignore my past experience or brush it off, it frustrates me and makes me feel alone in my current experience. I want people to ask me how they can help. I want people to ask me how I am feeling. #askher I’m open about my postpartum anxiety, and I give my friends and family permission to be the same way.
- Others have definitely stepped up in terms of asking how they can be part of our postpartum plan and helping us out more. I have a co-worker who I am close with and I know experiences his own anxiety. He asked outright and with concern, “How is your anxiety?” He asked me the same way you would ask “How is your knee?” if you had an injury. I appreciate this concern and honesty. I think the response I’m looking for is someone to acknowledge that I was taken to the edge of insanity last time, and that we can’t ignore that this time, so we might as well talk about it. And we must accept what we can control and what we can’t. I think if anyone knows me well, they know I value authenticity and honesty. I think that’s what I want in people’s responses to this pregnancy and postpartum period.