Surviving Postpartum: The Strong Black Woman Suffering In Silence

We have all heard the news stories, those extreme outcomes of postpartum depression. We’ve even seen celebrities like Alyssa Milano, Chrissy Teigen and more recently Cardi B, come out publicly about their postpartum struggles with their mental health. Having a baby comes with an abundance of emotions that at times can be difficult to keep up with, especially when it seems as though we’re losing our minds.

Believe me, I’ve been there.

Many of us suffer in silence because we don’t have the knowledge or tools that allow us to identify and get rid of this dark cloud shadowing over what in theory, should be such a beautiful time. 1-5 women worldwide experience a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). What is more alarming is that African American and Latina women are at greater risk. However, there is hope for change. We must understand exactly what it is, why it’s happening, and how we can get proper help and overcome.

Many of us suffer in silence because we don’t have the knowledge or tools that allow us to identify and get rid of this dark cloud.

This is not limited to postpartum depression nor does it only affect those who physically have a new baby at home. A PMAD can be depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and in rare cases, psychosis. Mothers who are pregnant, who have experienced a miscarriage or a stillbirth can also suffer from any of these. There are many contributing factors but to put it plain and simple, it is the result of a ‘perfect’ combination of factors. Physiological and environmental factors come together in the midst of a vulnerable time and wreak havoc on her mentally. It’s extremely important to know that this is in no way her fault, nor is it happening because she did or didn’t do something. It can happen to anybody, there are no exemptions.

Although it stands true that we can all be affected, Black and Latina women experience this at higher rates. This can be attributed to many factors including socio-economic struggles, access to proper health care and lack of support. But one thing for sure is that in our communities there are ideas and cultural norms that hold us back in this regard. Both the strong Black woman syndrome and the stigma around mental health and seeking professional help are issues we must overcome. Black women are extremely strong, and we’ve dealt with so much for so many years and continue to keep holding on. We make so many sacrifices for the betterment of our families and communities, without complaint.

However, we must acknowledge and get used to the fact that we too need help sometimes. We too get tired and spread too thin, and it doesn’t make us weak or less than capable to seek the support we need. We have to get much more acquainted with asking for and accepting help, and offering help when were able to give it. Even super hero’s need help sometime. There is strength in that.

Mental health in general, has stigma attached to it. Mental health has only recently become something that we are willing to talk a little bit about, but in the black community it seems as though we’re still not ready. We have to break these stigmas by speaking up and acknowledging that they are here. According to mental health America, 18% of adults have a mental condition and 56% of them do not receive treatment. We have to know that it’s okay not to be okay, and that admitting that is the first step to getting help and hopefully the treatment we need to move past suffering in silence.

We have to get much more acquainted with asking for and accepting help, and offering help when were able to give it.

During this past month there has been so much talk about breastfeeding. Although I understand the importance of promoting it, and by no means think those of us who have beautifully thriving breastfeeding experiences should be less proud. I do think that we have to consider holding space in that for those of us who have suffered because of it. Early struggles with breastfeeding, painful nipples and lack of sleep play a huge role in the onset of a PMAD. Many women quit attempts to breastfeed due to lack of support then develop postpartum depression due to feelings of shame and failure. It becomes a downhill spiral. 

Here are some things to look for if you think you or someone close to you may be suffering postpartum depression or any PMAD. It is important to note that baby blues, categorized as weariness, impatience, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia and sadness are common after pregnancy, albeit in standard cases will lessen over time and subside al together by around 14 days postpartum.

Warning signs after 3 months postpartum:

  •  Irritability, angers easily
  • Sad mood that does not shift
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of inadequacy “I am not a good mother”
  • Sleep problems, too much or too little
  • Fear of being alone
  • Discomfort around the baby or lack of connection to the baby
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in things you once enjoyed

The main thing to do if you are experiencing any of these symptoms and feel you may be suffering from a PMAD is to speak to somebody you trust and who will take your concerns seriously. You can reach out to your doctor, midwife or doula. There is also access to peer support groups in many cities in the U.S, Canada and worldwide. Often times, simply speaking to someone who is understanding can be helpful in lifting these feelings. If you have trustworthy help available to you, alone time to sleep, to pamper yourself in ways you did pre-pregnancy or even just be without the responsibility of taking care of everything for a few hours; can help as well. Also check out https://www.seleni.org and seventhmomproject.org  for more information and other resources.

IF YOU ARE GOING THROUGH THIS, IT IS OF UPMOST IMPORTANCE TO KNOW:
You are an amazing mother. This is not your fault. You can and will get through this and be well, with the right help. We are in this together. 

With love,

Ebboni X Savory

About The Author

Ebboni is a writer, mother, wife and founder of the upcoming event series ‘Mama Just Doing it,’ as well as the blog Ebbo Just Doing It, @ebbojustdoingit. Originally from Toronto, now living abroad home-schooling my 3 littles who are all under 6. I aim to use my skills and interests to support and encourage women, generally but specifically mothers get through and thrive through the throws of motherhood and womanhood. I believe we are much stronger together and all have something unique to contribute to the whole. 

 

 

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