When I ask moms to share their experiences with any number of subjects — pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, parenting, and so on — I'm always tremendously grateful and honored to hear their stories. The best part, though? Not infrequently something truly lovely happens. In responding to my questions, women — who don't necessarily know each other — begin to talk to each other. And not just talk to one another, but open up and share some really profoundly personal stories and support each other. This happened when I asked moms to share the one emotional postpartum issue they couldn't talk about and, I must confess, it felt both uplifting and melancholy at the same time.
Of course watching women come together in solidarity and support is beautiful. (It's basically, like, the goal of feminism, and that's kind of my thing.) At the same time there was a sort of unspoken sadness at the periphery of these wonderful conversations. Because these women were all discussing something that (at least at one point) they hadn't felt empowered to divulge at all. In choosing to share, however, many found not only support but intimate understanding from other mothers. It made me somewhat sad, to essentially ask myself,"Why are we afraid?" It's not that the fear is silly (all emotions are valid) but so often the silence is so much scarier than what's out there once we talk.
Thankfully, postpartum issues, such as postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA) are being discussed a little more than they had been in the past (if not frequently enough). In those discussion, one often hears the plea, "Don't be ashamed to ask for help because you have nothing to be embarrassed about." That plea can feel like a hollow, though, as all well-meaning platitude sometimes do. Like, "I know I need help, but I'm still ashamed and embarrassed because I'm going to be judged." Tragically, there is still stigma attached to postpartum issues society as a whole would rather not delve into. However, it's worth remembering that there is another society: a society of moms who have been there. I know from my own experience, time and again, that they get you, they have no interest in judging you, and they want to help you.