As women, I'd say we're pretty used to our "inconvenient" thoughts and feelings being attributed to "raging" hormones. My "time of the month" has been blamed for bad moods and moments of assertiveness, as if women aren't allowed to have valid opinions. When I got pregnant, hormones were blamed for every tear and frown. And when postpartum life seemed unbearable, people dismissed my real feelings and symptoms as "just hormones." Not OK. There are some feelings no one is allowed to blame postpartum hormones on. It diminishes the real experiences of postpartum moms, can cause people to ignore red flags and fail to get help for serious conditions, and it's, you know, sexist AF.
Study after study shows that women are more likely to be dismissed by health care providers when they report pain or other symptoms. One study published in the Academic Emergency Medicine showed that women were 13 - 25 percent less likely than men to receive pain medication in the ER, when reporting the same level of abdominal pain, and waited an average of 16 minutes longer for that medication. WTAF? Researchers at Women's College Hospital in Toronto report that health care providers are likely to treat women's pain as a mental health condition. Seriously? I, myself, experienced this to varying degrees after delivering all three of my babies, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But holy hell this is so infuriating. I shouldn't have been constantly questioned as to whether or not the pain was "as bad" as I described, and I didn't need to be constantly reminded that hormones were at play. Later, people blamed everything from depression and anxiety to exhaustion and guilt on postpartum hormones, and I was left to suffer alone.
While I know that many of these symptoms can be caused by hormonal changes, that doesn't mean that they aren't real, deserve to be dismissed, or don't require treatment by licensed professionals. There are so many postpartum feels that we have to stop blaming on hormones, especially if we, as a society, are going to continue to claim we care about new moms.
When You Are Stressed
I tried so hard to be a "perfect mom," not knowing that there's really no such thing. I stressed about not being able to produce enough breast milk, about my baby not sleeping through the night, about getting my body back, and about having to return to work. My feelings of failure were not "just hormones," they were a result of society's messed up expectations about recovering from childbirth and being a mother.
When You Are In Pain
The nurse asked, "Are you sure your pain is really that bad? You don't look like you are at a nine. Childbirth can be overwhelming, you know." While, I get that opioid addiction is a real problem, I am so completely tired of being treated like a drug-seeking addict every time I request pain medication or am asked to rate my pain. Pain is subjective, but that doesn't mean it's "all in my head" because I am "hormonal" or "postpartum."
When You Are Anxious
A certain amount of anxiety is normal for new moms, especially when you are tired, worried about your baby, and you know "hormonal." But severe postpartum anxiety should not be dismissed as "just postpartum hormones," because treatment is available and you don't have deal with it alone.
When You Feel Impossibly Sad
I was afraid of seeking help when I was seriously depressed. That is how often our culture jokes about "hormonal women," and that's what can happen as a result of those unnecessary jokes. When I did talk to my midwife about how I was feeling, I tiptoed around the word "depression" and, instead, used words like exhausted, overwhelmed, disappointed, afraid, anxious, and unable to cope. Fortunately, she didn't chock it up to hormones and recognized what was going on. Fortunately, I got the help I needed.
When You Feel So Much Guilt
I felt guilt about not being able to breastfeed, about my baby getting sick, and about not living up to my own expectations of what postpartum life and new motherhood was supposed to look and feel like. I also ended up feeling so guilty about not being able to manage my emotions and expectations better. It was so ridiculous to blame hormones on how I was feeling, and then feel bad about not being better at being a new mom.
When You Are Exhausted
Sleep deprivation is torture and no laughing matter. I kind of wish we'd stop joking about it. Postpartum exhaustion is real, and so bad, you guys. It shouldn't be dismissed as being "hormonal."
When You Feel Like Something Is Seriously Wrong
After my second child was born I didn't feel OK at all. Despite the fact that I was treated for preeclampsia before I delivered, my nurse ignored my complaints of blurred vision and a racing heart, and tried to give me a sedative to "calm me down" because, "Dear, your hormones are out of control." First of all, never call a patient "dear," because WTF. Second of all, it turned out that I had postpartum preeclampsia. I could have died.
When You Are Angry
So, yeah, when men get angry about something people don't say, "I bet that's just hormones," so why do they say this about women? When I get mad about the dishes not being done, or bedtime becoming a sh*tshow, or feeling unappreciated, or the state of our country and world, it's not because I'm hormonal. It's because I'm a human being allowed to feel very human emotions.
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