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An Open Letter To The Partner of a New Mom Who May Be Struggling With Postpartum Depression

Dear Partner of a New Mother:

It’s no secret that becoming a parent can be hard. It can encompass an entire ball of emotions ranging on a wide spectrum of feelings. Understanding that more than one thing can be true at the same time, becoming a parent may entail feeling excited but also feeling discouraged, or feeling happy but also feeling overwhelmed. Considering what may exist outside of the socially accepted “norm”, becoming a parent is a life complexity that requires understanding, openness, and most importantly, support. As we know, there are some amazing fathers who show up and show out for their child[ren], and that is certainly appreciated. In addition to that though, speaking from experience, becoming a mother can dredge up some mess we had no idea was even there, let alone some mess that needs to be addressed. On top of that sentiment, let’s add what it takes to be a black mother. Whew!

The push against stigma and stereotype continues to thicken the plot.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Postpartum depression is a type of depression that happens after having a baby…people with postpartum depression experience emotional highs and lows, frequent crying, fatigue, guilt, anxiety and may have trouble caring for their baby”.

When I had my first child, I experienced postpartum depression but many people closest to me had no idea. The biggest mistake I made was trying to deal with it alone. Mothers may be experiencing unexpected changes others (including their partner) know of, and some changes others have no idea about. One of the most important things their partner may be able to do is to be intuitive about her needs and compassionate toward her words and her actions. Black women are such strong beings that we are able to be vessels of life for the greater part of a 12-month span while still trying to push against some of the outlandish and socially constructed pictures of what a “good and successful person” should be. Carrying life, giving birth, and ultimately being a primary caregiver during the formative years of a child’s life can be a hectic time. During that time, our bodies are not solely ours because our bodies are being used to provide nourishment, housing, and transferable emotional and mental well-being to a whole person who is depending on us for pretty much everything.

When I went through depression after having my son, I not only had to force myself to care for him, I had to force myself to take care of me and that included basic things like showering and putting on clothes that were not sweatpants. Pay attention to the things she does and not necessarily everything she says (because she could be trying to put on a “strong” face. That’s what moms do because sometimes we feel we’re superwomen). Pay attention to her nonverbal cues and her silent cries for help. Once noticed, offer help wherever it’s needed and if she declines, help her anyway. The worst thing a mom can feel is unappreciated and alone for the miracle she just made happen and unsupported by the person who helped her create that miracle, new life.

For your partner, encourage her to seek a therapist. I thought I could do it on my own and I tried but after the first year, I became explosive and resentful to my kid’s father. When I finally told him, he mocked me and tried to create a narrative of our situation and my feelings toward it “not being that serious”. But for me, they were. Understand the fact that you may not understand what she is going through fully, but you’re going to ride with her until the wheels fall off. You are going to try to see her for who she is currently and not what you think she should be. Make sure your partner is also taking care of herself. Showering, getting her hair and nails done, time away from you and the child, and returning to pleasurable activities she used to do before becoming a parent. Encourage her to get back to the things that made her feel happy and beautiful before becoming a mother. Also try to encourage her to possibly seek out a mom’s support group that may create a level of understanding, acceptance, and a WILLINGNESS to want to be a great mom because she wants to and not because she feels she has to in order to “save face”.

Here are a few things to look out for when assessing if your partner may be struggling emotionally after becoming a new mother:

1. Frequent crying

2. Not feeling connected or having an interest in the baby

3. Having little to no motivation or energy

4. Socially withdrawing

5. Feeling hopeless and/or overwhelmed

6. Having thoughts or making comments about harming herself and/or the baby

Always, please try to lead with love, light, and compassion!

If you or someone you know may be experiencing postpartum depression, you may contact the Postpartum Support International helpline at 1-800-944-4773.

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