7 Simple but Perfect Ways My Friends Helped Me When I Had Postpartum Depression

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?

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The #MomsWhoMeToo Movement

I’m beyond excited to finally announce the launch of the #MomsWhoMeToo Movement – Empathy Gone Viral, A Movement by Moms for Moms who believe it’s time to start leaving the pretend play in our kids’ playroom. It’s time to bring some much needed unfiltered honesty and authenticity to the culture of motherhood and help moms everywhere feel less alone in their struggles by giving them a safe space to come out and share them.

The two most powerful words we can say to any human is “me too.” Lets use these two simple words to create a community of moms grounded in empathy and sisterhood. Moms who put a hand on each other’s arm and say, “I get it. I’ve been there. Your’e not alone. Me too.” Check out our video to learn more about the movement, how you can be part of it and help us spread it to the mom masses!

We are asking all moms to share their #MomsWhoMeToo stories and photos with us and the world. All you need is a black marker, white piece of paper, and the click of a phone camera. Tag us on Instagram at @momswhometoo. When you share, empower 3-5 moms you know to join the movement and do the same. Together, we can reach millions of mamas!

And don’t forget to also send them us your #momswhometoo moments and photos to brookeandjen@momswhometoo.com

Five Ways To Talk To a Mom Friend You Think Has Postpartum Depression

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?”

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Dating For Mom Friends

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?

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Stop Feeling Guilty About Girls’ Weekends. You NEED Them!

Every year, my college best friends and I get together for a girls’ weekend. We kiss our kids and husbands goodbye, some of us leave written schedules and directions, and spend at least one night together away in a hotel, usually in New York City. New York City is the most convenient location for the four of us moms who all have young kids and are spread out among the East Coast. One night is usually more realistic for all parties involved because you know–husbands–motherhood–kids–life.

I look forward to this weekend every year. As it approaches, I start counting the minutes. The excitement builds. The number of group texts increases. What are we wearing? How many Soul Cycle classes are we taking? Who is booking the spa treatments? Where are we going for dinner? Definitely somewhere we can dress up in the clothes we own but never have any place to wear them to.

I can’t wait for the reminiscing, the laughter, the catching up, the deep conversations, the getting ready all together in the same room like it was during college, and the staying up late and sleeping in (if you count 8:30 am as sleeping in). While we’re on the subject of sleeping, I can’t wait to not have to wake up to anyone asking me for anything. To not have to fight with anyone about what’s for lunch. To not have to enter into any negotiations or diffuse any meltdowns. To not have to share my ice cream! And to enjoy a glass of wine without interruption! Go to the bathroom alone! And most importantly, to not feel guilty about any of it!

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Written For Suburban Misfit Mom: Five Moms That Just Aren’t My Type

All moms are different. We find what works for us. We do what we have to do. We parent in our own unique ways, but the stuff of motherhood makes us all part of the same tribe. We all carry life. We all bring that life into the world by destroying our vaginas or cutting open our stomachs. We sacrifice our tits to be food sources. We give up the privilege of full nights of sleep, daily showers, and the right to pee or poop in privacy. We rock our scars and battle wounds with pride. We sport our children’s leftovers, spit up, vomit, even poop that somehow made it on to our clothing without us noticing. We love and give and teach. We juggle and schlep and sacrifice, fight for, and would die for our children.

We should all be able to admit that some days we represent the picture of perfect parenthood while other days we epically fail. I’m not here to tell you what kind of mom to be, but some of you ruin it for the rest of us when you refuse to admit the clusterfuck of contradicting emotions and daily ups and downs you experience as mothers, just like the rest of us. So if you fall into one of these categories, we probably won’t end up becoming best mom friends. And that’s okay.

  1. The Martyr

Why make yourself extra miserable when there is so much built in misery that comes with this job —shitty sleepers, picky eaters, the tantrums, the nagging, and the obsessive neediness. Stop breastfeeding if it makes you seriously unhappy. Don’t refuse to ask for help if you need it. Quit ignoring the fact that you’re miserable in the first place. If you want to stay stuck like that, that’s your choice, but don’t make me feel like I need to join you. Don’t act like you’re better than me because you’re sticking it out. You don’t get a medal for being a martyr. I stopped breastfeeding after five days because it made me miserable and I chose to take care of my health so I could take care of my baby. I’m not interested in hanging out with any mom who would try to make me feel guilty for any of my parenting choices. And I’m definitely not interested in being the company to your misery.  

  1. The Doer

You know those moms who literally do it all, smile, and look like they love every minute of it? (I’m sure they are dying a little inside). They volunteer on the PTA, attend every meeting, sign up to be classroom mom, go on every field trip, never bring store bought anything, go to the playground every day and make you feel bad about yourself if you don’t? Well I don’t really like to spend most of my free time volunteering or monitoring my son on the playground. I won’t be the first mom signing up to be class parent or field trip chaperone. It’s MY time! I want to be friends with the mom who wants to come over and sit her child in front of the TV next to mine for a Mickey Mouse binge-watching session while sipping on some Sauvignon Blanc.

  1. The Every-mom

The every-mom is friends with every mom. When she hosts a party, she invites every mom she knows–close friends, acquaintances, moms she doesn’t even like that much. Why? Why don’t you just invite the people you actually want be with? And how can you invite someone to a party when you were badmouthing them yesterday? How do I know you weren’t gossiping about me before I got the invite to your party this weekend? No one expects you to be friends with everyone. I get being inclusive when it comes to children and parties, but when it’s just the adults? I favor small groups activities. I despise small talk. I prefer intimate conversations. Keep it small. Keep it real!

  1. The Pretender 

I do not believe in pretending when it comes to motherhood. Moms who pretend everything is perfect all the time make the rest of us who don’t, think there is something wrong with us. If you are a mom who repeatedly uses the word amazing, then I say you’re most likely full of shit. Be honest. You’re having sex at least three times a week? You cook a homemade, organic meal every night for your kids? Your child would never hit someone? You don’t believe in iPads, ever? You don’t imagine running away even just for a few hours? You’ve never hidden in your closet, crying, eating chocolate ice cream in secret? I don’t buy any of it. No one has it all together all the time. Fall apart. Cry. Yell. Confess that you fed your kid cereal for dinner last night or that he hasn’t had a proper bath in almost a week. Admit that it took you much longer than you expected to bond with your child. I want to be around other moms who aren’t afraid to embrace these common feelings. Moms who have no issues calling their children assholes when they are in fact, being assholes.

  1. The Helicopter 

I want to sit back and let my kid be. Let him figure out how to take turns, work out his own disagreements. Tell him to shake it off when he falls down. Not run to him or give him what he wants immediately when he wants it and screams for it. Most importantly, I want to have adult time and conversation, but how can we when all you do is hover over and tend to every single one of your child’s needs. How can we go out for a drink after the kids go to sleep when you won’t let anyone else watch them? How can we take a girls’ trip when you refuse to leave your little ones for even a few hours? How dare you try to make me feel like a bad mom because I do all those things. I will never agree with you that your kids should have been invited to that wedding. It’s an adult party and you probably need to dance your face off more than you realize. Get a friggin’ babysitter. Drop the kids off at Grandma’s. Teach your kids to be independent. Train them to be less dependent on you. I promise you will thank me for it later when you finally agree to meet me for that drink.

This post originally appeared on Suburban Misfit Mom.

Postpartum Depression and Your Friends

Friends don’t always know what to do when one of their own is suffering from postpartum depression. What should they say? Should they visit often? Should they pull back until they hear otherwise? These situations are different for every mom, but what should remain constant is letting your friend know you are just there for support whatever that looks like… a visit, a meal, a phone call, or even just a text to say “thinking about you.” Knowing my friends were just there in the background, thinking about me and wanting me to get better helped tremendously.

Most of my closest friends still live up North. These are friends who have seen me at the best of times and the worst of times…women who I have known for over 15 years…before they became moms. I never placed any expectations upon my friends during this time. I was way too messed up to worry about others, but whenever my friends reached out, they always made me feel slightly better. They just seemed to know when to give space and when to check in. And I knew they all talked about me to each other behind my back. Sometimes they even checked in with my husband. It’s true that real friends say good things behind your back and bad things to your face. At least mine do. I always took comfort in this.

My family lives up North as well. That meant my mom and sister, my biggest supporters and cheerleaders during this time, couldn’t always be by my side. I was lucky enough to have a mom friend where I live who really became my person during these days of postpartum depression. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing, caring, compassionate, and selfless this friend was during my struggle. She was one of my life lines.

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Mom Friends vs. Friends

Is there a difference between having friends who are moms and friends who are not moms? I use the term mom friend a lot when I write. I think it’s me subconsciously needing to specify the difference between a friend who has children and one who doesn’t. I don’t even know why I do this because I don’t care if you have zero, one, or five children. It’s not part of my friendship criteria.

I like my friends with a sense of humor, a little bit of crazy, and edgy with a side of brutal honesty. If you don’t fit those credentials, we might not end up getting along. Or you might not like me that much and we might just say hi and make small talk on the playground. That’s okay. I don’t feel like I need to be liked and accepted by everyone. You can’t win them all!

I’ll admit, sometimes it’s easier to hang out with other moms. Maybe that’s why I’m always making the distinction. We all have our issues, children or not, but moms get each other’s particular type and level of crazy. They usually don’t care if you’re late because your child swore fifty times that he didn’t have to go potty and then the minute you got out the door, he decided he needed to go potty. They don’t get offended if you forget to call. They would much rather text than talk anyway because most days that just takes way too much effort. They always apologize for their house being messy when it looks way more put together than yours. And real mom friends let you come over to hang out and don’t get angry when you decide to take a nap on their couch because…no child for a few hours.

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Q & A With Elizabeth Isadora Gold, Author of The Mommy Group (Cont…)

I’m back with Elizabeth Isadora Gold, author of The Mommy Group: Freaking Out, Finding Friends, and Surviving the Happiest Times of Our Lives Today she talks  more about motherhood, why we as moms need to advocate for ourselves, and the best ways to find your mommy group.

The Mom Of An Only Child

I’m an only child, and I didn’t think I would have just the one. But here we are. It is what it is. I’m a writer, we live in New York City, I’m turning 42, and I had postpartum mental illness. We are not financially, emotionally, or physically prepared to have another child. Sometimes I feel quite sad about that, and sometimes I’m good with it. The main thing is to make Clara feel that she has friends-as-family, both in terms of her kid friends and with other grownups. My mommy group has continued to be such a wonderful source of support and love for our family.

Advocating For Yourself As A Mother

Well, no one’s gonna do it for you, at least not yet. It’s feminism, it’s politics, it’s life. If we don’t organize as women and as mothers, nothing will change. The United States has (say it with me) the worst parental leave and benefits for parents in the developed world. This is a shame in all sense of the word. Advocate. Vote. Fight.

The Best Time To Find A Mommy Group

I was very happy that we started as a pregnancy group. It meant that we got to know each other before our worlds exploded.

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Q & A With Elizabeth Isadora Gold, Author of The Mommy Group

Meet my new mom friend, Elizabeth Isadora Gold, author of the new nonfiction book, The Mommy Group: Freaking Out, Finding Friends, and Surviving the Happiest Times of Our LivesToday, Elizabeth chats very openly and honestly with me about how she juggles motherhood and her booming writing career. She also gives incredible advice for dealing with sanctimommies and how to recognize the signs of postpartum anxiety, something she suffered from soon after her daughter Clara (now five) was born.

A Typical Day As A Working Mom

Because I’m a freelancer, typical isn’t really a thing in my house. My husband Danny and I both have three or four jobs at any given moment, in addition to our “real” work of writing and composing. Our schedule in terms of childcare is pretty split. Danny takes the morning shift with our five year old daughter, Clara. He wakes up with her somewhere between 6:30-8, cooks her breakfast(s), and makes her lunch. I wake around 8 and get her dressed; he takes her to school. This year I was teaching Writing at Juilliard and Marymount Manhattan College, so I was out early most mornings. Now that it’s summer, I stay in my bathrobe and drink coffee, read the Internet, and return emails until I feel so guilty that I actually start getting work done. Clara’s pickup is anywhere from 3:30-5:30, depending on activities. Usually I’m the one on that shift, because Danny’s work (he’s a composer and teacher) often extends through the early evening. We don’t cook as much as we’d like to (Clara would eat takeout guacamole and chicken tacos every night if she could), and we all stay up late and watch too much TV.

Most Challenging Thing About Motherhood

Everything that is not the fun parts. Now that Clara is five, life with her is really different than when she was a baby. She’s a relatively calm and agreeable child – we lucked out. It is still impossible, however, to make her put on her own socks or go into a room by herself when she declares there are “monster shadows in there.” The most challenging thing – and I think this is true for most parents – is how tired I am at the end of the day, and how little of my energy is left over for, say, housework or date nights or reading Russian literature.

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