The day after I arrived home with my new baby boy, I was hit with severe postpartum depression. I never thought it could happen to me and it came out of nowhere. I went from filling out all 1’s on the happy scale the hosptial gives you before sending you home to being at home thinking I had made a terrible mistake becoming a mother, and trying to figure out ways I could get sick or hurt so I could return to the hospital where everyone would have to take care of me and I never had to take care of a baby.
How do you tell your mom friends you feel this way when you have been led to believe the only normal feelings new moms experience after giving birth are magic, bliss, joy, love, and an intense attachment to your baby? How could I tell them the only thing I felt was paralyzing anxiety that made it difficult to do anything but cry ugly tears and lie in bed pleading for it to all go away so I could love my new baby boy and be a good mother too. How could I tell them I resented them for being so much better at motherhood than me? So much better at breastfeeding. So much better at simply wanting to spend time with their babies and leaving the house with them, something I was terrified to do.
I didn’t have any friends who had postpartum depression before me. I didn’t even know postpartum depression was what I had until I found the right therapist who diagnosed me. Now I didn’t only have postpartum depression. I had to go on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicine to cope with motherhood. Again, what would my friends think? From what I knew of other moms (close friends and the ones on social media I didn’t know personally), motherhood was easy and came naturally. I thought of myself as a horrible mom and a failure. I failed at breastfeeding. I failed at Pinterest. I failed at wanting to be a mother. Would my friends judge me as harshly as I judged myself?
Meet Michelle Dempsey, my new woman and mompreneur crush. She is the founder of Very-Well Written, where she helps businesses with content and brand marketing. You can also find her wisdom all over the Internet at top sites such as Mind Body Green, Elite Daily, Huffpost, Forbes and Scary Mommy.
When she’s not hustling at work, she can be found doing mom things with her adorable two-and-a-half year old daughter, coffee in hand. And during those child-free moments, cardio, binge-watching Netflix, and more coffee keep her sane.
We connected over our shared desire to use our big voices to help women find theirs, to empower them to own their struggles and live their passions, our well-developed ability to say no to people and things that don’t serve us, and the mom struggle that is indeed, very real.
After battling and surviving postpartum depression, I have received the following question repeatedly: “Jen, I think my friend might be going through something like what you went through. I want to say something to her about it, but I don’t want to upset her. How do I bring up that she isn’t acting like herself lately?”
I wish I had a simple answer to this question, but it’s never simple when it comes to postpartum depression, which is not a one size fits all illness. Every mom’s experience with PPD is unique to her. Her risk factors, symptoms, feelings, and length of illness won’t look like that of any other mom suffering. Just like PPD, every mom is different and motherhood is also not one size fits all.
Before you confront a mom and suggest she might be suffering from PPD, here are some factors I think you should consider: How will she react? How receptive would she be to the idea of needing and asking for help? I think you should also ask yourself, “Am I the best person for this conversation or is there someone else that should be having this conversation?”
By Jen Schwartz (The Medicated Mommy) & Rachel Sobel (Whine & Cheez – its)
Early fall is Jewish holiday season. That means going to temple, eating apples and honey in hopes of a sweet year ahead, family dinners filled with equal parts kvelling & kvetching, and a day of starvation fasting that culminates in the annual carb loading frenzy with bagels, lox, noodle kugel, and cookies. Lots of cookies. You know…a “light” meal.
And if your child attends a Jewish preschool/day school, you are basically screwed and they may as well close for the month of October with the amount of days you have off.
That’s right folks, we are currently living in the space between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) where we ask forgiveness for our sins and hope to make it into the Book of Life for another year.
Making new mom friends isn’t always easy. Actually, it’s a lot like dating. You fear rejection. You want to have chemistry with that new mom you meet at mommy and me class. You want her to like you. Will her friends like you? What if she’s not looking for something serious? What if she’s not currently on the market for a new friend? What if she judges you for feeling bored at mommy and me class?
You might fumble over your words when introducing yourself to a new mom at the at the park for the first time. You hope she looks through Instagram on her iPhone while her kids play, just like you do. You spend hours getting ready for your first playdate. You want everything to be perfect so there will be a second playdate.
You question and doubt yourself. What will she think of me if the cookies I serve contain gluten? Does she know I sometimes feed my kid too many afternoon snacks when I’m just too exhausted to argue? How soon is too soon to share I had postpartum depression when my son was born? Will she conveniently lose my number if I call my kid an asshole behind his back for not sharing?
August 6, 2017 2:47pm EST Florham Park, NJ
I am sitting on a reclining chair in my backyard, my black toy poodle Zoe at my feet. The temperature is a perfect 78 degrees. The sun peaks out from behind the clouds every so often so that I can feel the warmth amidst a light breeze on my skin. Cars drive by with a wooosh and I hear the siren of an ambulance from the next town over. Not too loud that it bothers me, but just loud enough to make me wonder if the person they were headed to is okay. It rained last night and I can smell moist grass mixed with a bit of mildew from the outdoor furniture. I sit and sip my chai tea feeling the warmth from the spices move down my throat creating a nice sensation in my body. Breathing in sync with the swaying trees as the winds moves through the plush green leaves. Feeling grateful for a few more weeks of summer to enjoy.
2:50pm – Enter my 5 year old daughter Savanna wearing a tutu and tap shoes. “Mom! Watch my show!”
Was I annoyed? Maybe I wasn’t thrilled, but I wasn’t angry. I was just moving into a new moment; a moment with my daughter. This happens 1000’s of times each day. We have good moments, bad moments and everything in between. The beauty of mindfulness is that it can give us peace in our minds and hearts because it teaches us not to only strive for good experiences (sipping my tea alone), but to be open to ALL experience (getting interrupted during my quiet time), without labeling them. It’s this labeling that ultimately causes us to suffer. Without the label, an experience just is. It’s an opportunity to know what being alive is all about.
I was once getting a manicure next to a woman who asked if I had children. At the time, I told her I had a one-year old boy. She then asked my favorite question most people follow that up with. “When are you having your next one?” I told her I wasn’t–that my husband and I decided one was enough and the right decision for our family–we were one and done. I don’t even know why I felt like I had to justify my decision to a complete stranger. I guess I didn’t want my response to be met with the usual, “You will change your mind.” Or “What do your parents think? Don’t they want lots of grandchildren?” “It’s so much nicer for kids to have a sibling to play with.”
But she surprised me. She informed me she only had one son and that sometimes when you create a masterpiece, it doesn’t make any sense to paint over it. Thank you manicure lady for immediately accepting my choice and making me feel good about it! It doesn’t always happen like that.
In fact, most people respond with confusion, sometimes horror when they find out you are “one and done.” I love that phrase. It’s short and sweet and very blunt. It leaves no room for interpretation. Those people do not. Sometimes those people are strangers. Other times they are acquaintances and family members. All I can say, is that at the end of the day, you don’t know what it’s like to walk in my shoes–to live my life–to know what I need and what’s best for me. Only I know that, especially when it comes to motherhood. I also want to say that I am in no way promoting ”one and done” as the best or easiest parenthood choice. If you don’t want any kids or want to have two, three, even five kids, I think that’s incredible. Do it! It’s just not the right choice for me. And I have yet to come across any parenthood choice that is easy.
Today wraps up National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. I hope your social media feeds weren’t over-flooded with articles and photos about the joy and benefits of breastfeeding. Lactivists telling you why breastmilk is the only way to ensure a healthy, happy baby. Studies claiming that breastmilk will make your baby more intelligent and have less ear infections and allergies. Then there’s my all-time favorite claim: Breastfeeding can reduce a mom’s stress level and risk for postpartum depression. Um, yeah, not so much…have they met me? And let us not forget about the infamous mom-shamers criticizing anyone who chooses the alternative or not to breastfeed for as long as they have ruled acceptable. I mean, can’t we all just get along.
I’m here to tell you, breast is not always best. Also, formula is not always best. You know what’s best? What works for you, makes you happy and keeps your baby’s belly full. Moms have all different reasons for how they choose to feed their babies and they are none of your business.
When I had my son, I thought I would be a breastfeeding master. He would latch easily and we would be unbreakably bonded. I would breastfeed at least until the baby weight melted off. (Why shouldn’t I reap the benefits too?) Full disclosure, I had always planned to supplement with formula because I wanted to be able to sleep and let my husband help with feedings, but I never thought I would suck at breastfeeding. And It never occurred to me that I might hate it too.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of the F-word. It’s extremely versatile and can be used in so many different situations. As a writer, I love that it can be a noun, verb, adjective, and more. As a mom, it comes in very handy when I’m frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed or I feel the need to be dramatic about all the above. You step on a Lego and scream, “FUCK!” Your kid wakes up four times in the middle of the night and you quietly pray each time, “Stay the fuck asleep.” You get projectile vomited on and blurt out, “Fuck me!”
And when you can’t take it anymore you dramatically declare that if anyone needs you, you can be found hiding in your closet with that pint of Haagen Dazs chocolate-chocolate-chip ice cream because you are frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed “As Fuck” (AF). I’ve even recently heard it used to describe the phase my son just entered: “The Fucking Fours.”
When I gave birth to my son almost four years ago (before I made regular use of the F-word in everyday motherhood), I discovered my second favorite F word. Formula. Yes, you heard me correctly. Formula. Let me say now that this is not an anti-breastfeeding, pro-formula-feeding post, nor am I exclusively in support of one food source over the other. I am exclusively for feeding your baby, however that works best for you. Now back to our regularly scheduled program…
I have very strong feelings about breastfeeding. It’s not because I’m anti-breastfeeding or anti-formula. In fact, I’m the opposite…I’m pro- women should choose what works best for them and their mental health and sanity during what might be the biggest transition of their lives…motherhood. And no woman should ever be made to feel like she is a failure or a terrible mother because she chooses formula over breastfeeding or even supplements breast milk with formula.
Now I know there are the people who believe that becoming a parent is all about sacrifice. We sacrifice for the well-being of our children and therefore moms should breastfeed no matter what. Well I’m here to call bullshit…because at the end of the day, giving your baby a happy, healthy mommy is just as if not more important than giving your baby breastmilk at the expense of your well-being. What about women who don’t produce enough milk? What about exclusively breastfed babies who don’t gain enough weight? No mom should ever be made to feel bad about how she nourishes her children.
Social media is filled with celebrities promoting breastfeeding. Celebrities not so subtly telling you that breast is best…the only proper way to feed your baby. And it’s not just celebrities…regular women like you and me love to judge and shame moms who choose not to breastfeed. Doctors and lactation consultants lay the guilt on thick for new moms who struggle with the decision between breast milk and formula. None of this is fair to new mothers. Plenty of studies show breastfeeding to be the better option and the same number of studies claim that these studies have no merit…which brings me back to my main point…choose what works for you…because your baby will be fine… and fuck the haters and everyone else.
Here is my breastfeeding story: It’s not a fairly tale.