Two years ago, a piece in the New York Times called "The Birth Of A Mother" went viral. Suddenly, we had a label for the awkward, challenging, rewarding transformation we go through as new mothers — and a conversation focused on moms, rather than their babies. Written by reproductive psychiatrist Dr. Alexandra Sacks, the piece introduced us not only to the concept of "matresence," that period of transition, but to the work of reproductive psychiatrists who specialize in the unique emotional landscape of parenthood. We will get a deeper look into that work in a new podcast, Motherhood Sessions, hosted by Dr. Sacks on Gimlet.
The podcast will allow you to hear real women discussing their feelings with an expert therapist. Some aren't sure if they need therapy, while others wonder how anyone is handling motherhood; the sum of those experiences is universally valuable for other mothers to hear. "It's hard for people to be emotionally honest about this stuff out in the open," Dr. Sacks explains in a sneak peek at the podcast we are excited to share on Romper.
One episode delves into a mother who is still working on her dissertation years after her academic career was derailed by children, and struggling with imposter syndrome. Another looks at a woman wondering how to co-parent after divorce, having found that a baby *won't* solve relationship problems. The 10 episodes cover ambivalence, trauma, worry — the full spectrum of emotions a mother might experience — and show us how Dr. Sacks engages with mothers in the thick of it.
It’s often hard for people to be emotionally honest about these experiences out in the open.
"I’m a reproductive psychiatrist and every day I talk to women who are wrestling with the kinds of issues that we talk about in Motherhood Sessions," Dr. Sacks tells Romper. "I’ve come to realize that it’s often hard for people to be emotionally honest about these experiences out in the open. There’s so much shame, and often a difficulty sharing our vulnerabilities, no matter how common they may be."
Dr. Sacks is co-author of What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood, out in April, and has worked to expand our ideas about what common experiences of early motherhood look like. "When you're creating a life and bring a person into this world, you're going to have to deal with some gritty emotions, and there's nothing wrong with you, it's not a sign that you're not a good mother," she tells Romper.
Part of the value of her work is the space she has created for mothers to discuss difficult and conflicting feelings about motherhood without pathologizing the experience. Listening to her speak, you feel a sense of comfort that whatever is on your mind is part of the common experience, and even that tension, discomfort, can have value. "I think examining our experience on Earth and our emotional lives is a productive meaningful exercise," she tells me.
Like many parents white-knuckling it through their days, I have often wondered if I am on the "should get help" end of things. There is never enough time or information or measured, nuanced advice, as far as I'm concerned. The podcast, then, will give listeners insight into conversations that usually take place behind closed doors, making some of those breakthroughs available to a wider audience.
"The mission of Motherhood Sessions is to share with the public these types of private conversations using the intimacy of podcasting with the hope it may make a positive social impact," says Dr. Sacks. "Maybe you’ll hear yourself in some of these conversations and realize that you’re not alone in a human struggle you’re going through right now. Maybe you’ll feel inspired to ask someone in your life how they’re doing, and slow down a bit to listen, really listen, with care.”
From Gimlet, Motherhood Sessions premieres April 11 on Spotify, Apple, and wherever you listen to podcasts.
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety during pregnancy, or in the postpartum period, contact the Postpartum Health Alliance warmline at (888) 724-7240, or Postpartum Support International at (800) 944-4773. If you are thinking of harming yourself or your baby, get help right away by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or dialing 911. For more resources, you can visit Postpartum Support International.