Shortly after the birth of my second child, I felt completely lost.
I would chalk it up to having to care for a newborn baby and a toddler at the same time with little to no support. I blamed my struggling marriage, my limited support system, and even the weather: anything to explain the mood swings, the anxiety and the constant flood of tears. It wasn't until a few years later that I realized that had my own bout with postpartum depression (PPD).
About 1 in 7 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression.
These numbers might be underestimated due to the fact that there is still such a stigma surrounding mental illness, especially in the Black community. It is said that the symptoms of postpartum depression closely resemble those of classic depression and can include: crying more often than usual, feelings of anger, withdrawing from loved ones, feeling distant from your baby, worrying or feeling overly anxious, thinking about hurting yourself or your baby, and/or doubting your ability to care for your baby.
This is more than the typical "baby blues." PPD starts after the birth of the baby and can last for weeks, months or even years. Along with serious changes to your physical body, many people often gloss over the mental impact having a baby can have.
Recently, more and more high-profile women have been willing to come forward and express their own battles with the baby blues and PPD. And while no two women are the same, the more we shine a light on these issues, the more we can remove the stigma surrounding mental health and show other women that not only is PPD common, it is also treatable.
Cardi B gave birth to her first child, daughter Kulture Kiari, in July. The typically outspoken and social media happy rapper has flown under the radar since then, but she recently revealed via Instagram that she too is going through it. One of the symptoms of PPD include sadness and crying uncontrollably for long periods of time. She says:
"This postpartum s—t is annoying. Like I been emotional all f—king day for no reason."
Becoming a new mother is no easy task, no matter how it may look on social media. The lack of sleep, the recovery from the birth process, and the learning curve associated with caring for a newborn can breakdown even the baddest of bitches. The Invasion of Privacy rapstress initially thought she would be able to join Bruno Mars on a world tour after a short maternity leave, but the reality of taking care of a newborn superseded her need to get back on the road. Sometimes the best way to cope with any postpartum symptoms is to stop and recognize your own limitations. She revealed:
Cardi B's Instagram
"I underestimated this whole mommy thing. Not only am I just not ready physically, I'm not ready to leave my baby behind since the doctors explained it's not her to be on the road."
Serena Williams has been especially candid about her birthing process and the health issues she experienced after the birth of her daughter Olympia. And while she was able to physically bounce back and compete in this year's Wimbledon final, the new mom is still recovering from postpartum symptoms. Feeling like a bad mother is a common symptom as well, and as Serena reveals, being away from her child has taken its toll. Thankfully, she is using her platform to remind women that these feelings are totally normal and that having a good support system while finding balance is vital. She reveals:
"Last week was not easy for me. Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I just was in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom. I read several articles that said postpartum emotions can last up to 3 years if not dealt with. I like communication best. Talking things through with my mom, my sisters, my friends let me know that my feelings are totally normal...I'm not around as much as I would like to be. Most of you moms deal with the same thing. Whether stay-at-home or working, finding that balance with kids is a true art. You are the true heroes."
Another woman that has been brave enough to reveal her battle with PPD is Chrissy Teigen. The generally outspoken mother of two initially was afraid to speak about the issues she was quietly dealing with, but in an open letter to Glamour, Teigen details her experience, which included severe body pain that wouldn't go away, extreme sadness, anxiety, and a loss of appetite, which are all signals that PPD is rearing its ugly head. She told Glamour:
"I had everything I needed to be happy. And yet, for much of the last year, I felt unhappy. What basically everyone around me—but me—knew up until December was this: I have postpartum depression. How can I feel this way when everything is so great?"
The model and author knows that her voice can help other women move past the shame associated with PPD, and by doing so, she is helping more women than she might even imagine.
"I'm speaking up now because I want people to know it can happen to anybody and I don't want people who have it to feel embarrassed or to feel alone."
We all know that as a woman moves through pregnancy, her body drastically changes. What some may not realize, the physical effects of pregnancy can persist for months, and not everyone can just bounce back into bikini shape. During pregnancy, everything stretches and expands to accommodate the growing baby, including the uterus. It often takes weeks if not months for the uterus shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy size. Combine that with the expected weight gain, some women never snapback, and that's okay.
Beyoncé recently revealed to Vogue her own experience after having an emergency C-section for the birth of her twins. She shines a light on how invasive the procedure is and how much taking time to recover from the process is more important than worrying about her six pack. She says she practiced a lot of self-care and patience and is no rush to trim down her FUPA. The singer says:
"After the C-section, my core felt different. It had been major surgery. Some of your organs are shifted temporarily, and in rare cases, removed temporarily during delivery. I am not sure everyone understands that. I needed time to heal, to recover. During my recovery, I gave myself self-love and self-care, and I embraced being curvier. I accepted what my body wanted to be...To this day my arms, shoulders, breasts, and thighs are fuller. I have a little mommy pouch, and I'm in no rush to get rid of it. I think it's real. Whenever I'm ready to get a six-pack, I will go into beast zone and work my ass off until I have it. But right now, my little FUPA and I feel like we are meant to be."
Body positivity after birth means being able to be patient with yourself and accepting the beautiful gift of our body's ability to produce life regardless of what it may do to our figures. Tia Mowry also knows that bouncing back right away after having a baby is not only unrealistic, it is setting a dangerous standard for women to live up to. The mother of two recently revealed her post-pregnancy body in a post on Instagram, and she reminds women to take their time and go at their own pace when it comes to returning to a pre-pregnancy body. She says:
"I wanted to shine a light on how our society creates false expectations after a woman gives birth. Ladies, it's okay that our bodies are not PERFECT after our babies are born. Give yourself time. Go at your own pace. Don't allow people to put a time limit on YOUR body,"
"I had seen in magazines the many women on the beach a few weeks postpartum in a two piece. To be honest, it had to take time for me to embrace my new body. With this second pregnancy, I now have embraced that fact that I've housed a human being. A miracle. A life. If it takes a while for me to get back to my normal self, than so be it."
Anyone who is blessed enough to have their own birth experience needs to recognize the fact that making babies is really HARD! We need to be more forgiving of ourselves, our emotions, and our bodies and be willing to work towards acceptance and asking for help when we need it. And for anyone who wants to support their friends and family through these times, it's so important to remember to be compassionate. Rather than dismiss their feelings, encourage them to speak with their doctors about their concerns.
Patience is a virtue, and after childbirth, it's the most important one to have.