Angry yet? You should be…. but probably not for the reasons you think.
This article here, discusses a new condition being called Postnatal Depletion. Giving a name and a list of symptoms to the reality of motherhood; it’s challenges, it’s ability to drain, exhaust and completely suck dry the life and livelihood of a mother by changing her both on an emotional level as well as a literal, molecular level. These changes are not new. Motherhood has drained mothers since mothers were invented, but what IS fairly new, is how our culture responds to a mother’s needs.
The phenomenon of this growing trend in motherhood is it’s rapid and global increase. The symptoms of this condition called Postnatal Depletion and they ARE getting worse, effecting women far more often and far worse than ever before.
The people featured in the article have sought to understand why the condition seems to be on the rise with today’s mothers and have offered compassionate understanding and treatment to help mothers get back on their feet and back to a sense of holistic wellness.
It sounds fantastic, right? I mean, really… who HASN’T felt that depletion? I know I certainly have, in fact, I can check off every single symptom on that list of theirs. Some mothers feel it more intensely than others and that can be because of anything from birth trauma to postpartum depression/anxiety, to abuse, chemical imbalance, inability to breastfeed naturally, literally hundreds of reasons and each of those reasons deserve care, respect and time to heal. I am grateful for the support I have had, but I’ll be honest, the lack of support I’ve ALSO had has vastly contributed to each of the issues I suffered with and THAT is what I want to talk about. I am grateful for programs like this to help mothers who go through it, but I am also angry that they have to exist in the first place. I’m also angry they have an opportunity to educate people, not just mothers, about how our culture is trying to turn maternal instinct into a psychological disease.
Depletion is a real, biological thing. That fact is not in question. However, let’s get real with this for a second and be honest with ourselves.
It’s only when we reject ourselves that we struggle so much. We have a choice to accept or reject our position and our purpose as mother. I believe those who rail against that, those who try to pretend they can continue to be who they were pre-child… those are the people who struggle the most.
I believe that, because I went through it. I went from being “corporate career chick” working for a fast-paced retail company in LA to staying home, trapped in my house every day all day with an infant I had no clue how to care for. I missed my friends at work who were now 70+ miles away because we purchased a home far away from where I’d been living for over a decade and only two of my friends from work ever came to visit. I missed my job, I missed feeling strong and respected and sure of myself. I missed human interaction and felt small, forgotten and alone. I felt like someone who had been given a promotion before I was qualified; trapped, in over my head, and no one to talk to while trying to fake my way through it with a severe case of postpartum anxiety on top of it all.
I was miserable over the life I’d given up and guilty for feeling that way. I wanted to embrace myself as mother, but everything in my life and everyONE in my life pushed me to return to the life “before”.
Now, some women might feel these terrible feelings and think- Well, then obviously, being a stay at home mom isn’t for me. Obviously, I don’t work that way and I MUST return to work and I MUST be my own person, and I MUST have my separate life away from my child to prove I’m still capable of having a personal identity or I cannot be happy. I can’t JUST be “mom”.
But for me, that’s not what happened. I made the choice to embrace my new life. To take the opportunity I had to reinvent myself and to become something new. I chose to NOT listen to our culture of entitlement that wanted me back, giving it what it wanted and I decided to let go and find a new purpose, within motherhood and do what I knew was honoring my instincts and my new family.
What seemed natural for me, was to give my all to my baby. The way I saw it, was I’d had 33 years of MY TIME before I had kids. It’s not my turn anymore. It’s THEIR TURN and it seemed most reasonable to consider that it was now my job to give them their turn. I abandoned the societal way of thinking that “me time” had to be without my children or that I “NEEDED” girl’s night out with all my friends who didn’t have children or wanted to pretend they didn’t have children for a night. I didn’t need a girl’s night out, my friends did and my friends didn’t respect my new life, they just wanted the “old me” back.
It actually makes me really sad when people say, “hey, why can’t you just leave the kids with someone and come out and have fun?” My response is… Why can’t YOU come over and have fun with my family?? Is it REALLY that hard?! Is my family that difficult to have fun with? Does it really require alcohol and pretending our responsibilities don’t exist to have a good time? Or is that just cultural conditioning? That’s when it hit me – after a year of feeling miserable with guilt because friends and loved ones were all pushing me to “just leave baby” and do whatever THEY wanted.
The problem with this is NOT mothers, it’s with society. It’s not because mothers are being selfish, it’s because our society has told us we MUST be selfish in order to be “whole”. Maybe moms wouldn’t feel so “emotionally depleted” and feel like they had to choose Self over or under children if the people in their lives and their culture in general would accept and respect their roles. Maybe, just maybe… if those mother’s loved ones would respect parenting and all that it requires and stop trying to hold onto the past, pull new moms back into the “pre-child” phase of their lives and impose feelings of guilt upon them for not going back to that lifestyle, we wouldn’t have as many of these issues.
If husbands and grandmothers and best friends and bosses would encourage breastfeeding to assist in chemical release that is designed to help ease a woman into her new position of motherhood gently and with joy, maybe new moms wouldn’t feel so torn. Maybe we wouldn’t have so many moms desperate to get back to work then wrestling with feelings of guilt, being drained, miserable and torn between two worlds. Maybe if our society would allow them the respect they deserved, it wouldn’t leave them without an identity because it’s not popular nor respected to be “just” a mom.
So, while I am thrilled such a place like this exists to help suffering mothers, I also think it’s dangerous to blame the occurrence of Postnatal Depletion on some sort of condition that a mother must deal with, when in reality, our society has created a culture where we cannot just accept that we are mothers and that is okay to just be mothers for a while.
Instead of being told “you need to get back to who you were before”, how about we start honoring motherhood. Honor them by not diminishing the value of the total body and spiritual change taking place. How about we stop pretending that isn’t happening, stop blaming mothers, calling it selfish to take care of baby instead of friend’s needs and start respecting mothers in their roles as parents? How about we support them instead of acting selfishly, supposedly on their behalf because they’re getting too “lost” in motherhood? How about we stop encouraging and supporting the idea that a mother has to be something separate from that, something MORE in order to be a “whole” human being and stop this judgmental notion that any mother who embraces motherhood fully is somehow failing at life and is probably secretly miserable because she’s “just not who she used to be” or that she MUST be some kind of insufferable, indulgent parent?
Mothers- Don’t let anyone, not even you- guilt you into feeling like accepting this role is somehow beneath you or that you’re missing out on life because of it. Motherhood is life. In fact, it’s literally CREATION and magic and divine and powerful and if you feel so beat down by it that you need to break away from it to be “the person you were before children”… you are denying that divine gift and shunning your new place of power. It’s like replacing a thrown in a marble temple with a metal folding chair in a rusty trailer. Who would do that on purpose?!
Now, look. Before you all get all crazy on me… I know we all know being a mom is not a part time gig that ends when you feel like going to bed or when you feel like reading quietly with a glass of wine. I know motherhood is hard. I’m doing it too, remember? I know you want to take a break sometimes. If anyone tells you they NEVER DO they’re lying. There are times when I wish I could take a break. There are times like, well, right now for instance, when I’ve had to stop writing this about 45 times to answer questions, nurse someone, feed someone, play a game and change a DVD and I’d really just like to finish a SINGLE THOUGHT without being interrupted… GRRR! But that’s not going to happen, so as I type this, I’ve got a nursing two year old on my lap and an impatient four year old calling out “mom… mom… mom…” every 20 seconds for absolutely no reason because he’s been fed, washed, played with and entertained for hours today and is now eating a cracker while watching Little Einsteins.
Sometimes I just want to write in the quiet. To pick up my computer, take it to some remote location at the drop of a hat and go get a mocha in a tiny coffee shop completely anonymously and not have a single person notice me because I’m trying to push a giant tandem stroller through a tiny door by myself with two toddlers who want to introduce themselves to everyone within a 10 foot radius.
Sometimes I want to not worry about money issues. I want to be able to not freak out every time I go grocery shopping because I’m not sure if I’ll have enough for a doctor co-pay if someone gets sick before Friday.
Sometimes it would be nice to wake up without the stress and anxiety of needing to care for two, tiny humans who look to my every word and step and breath for theirs.
Does that make me miss my “pre-child life”? Nope. Not even for a second and never so much that it makes me miserable, entitled to my own time, space or activities or makes me want to send my kid to daycare and go get a career to validate my personal power. Would it be nice to get away occasionally? Sure. Heck, I think it’s even necessary sometimes, but I’m not going to demand it like it’s my RIGHT as a human being to push away my children and take a break. THAT is not okay. THAT is not why we have children.
You don’t get a dog unless you want to be a dog owner, right? You agree to the late night yapping, the puppy pads and potty training, walking, grooming, dog park days and socialization… toys, food, vet bills, you agree to all of that when you bring a new pet into the home. You don’t buy a house unless you understand the responsibility and commitment of being a homeowner, right? Bills, lawn care, holes in the roof, cracks in the foundation, broken appliances and HOA fees and angry neighbors demanding you water your lawn… it’s all part of the process and you know that going in. If you don’t want all that crap, you don’t do it. You get a cat and you stay in an apartment and you do whatever you want whenever you feel like it. So then, why do so many people think it’s okay to become a parent and then just go back to life as it was pre-child then when they realize that isn’t the way it works- they flip out and go into some kind of psychosis? The reason why is because society doesn’t care about your children and our culture doesn’t care about your needs as a mother. We have been brought up in a culture of entitlement that demands that we give it what it wants and if someone else, even a helpless child, asks for more attention than “the world”, we condemn the parent, we belittle the mother, we make her feel she has sold out, lost her edge, given up on life and will create wretched spoiled children who think they can have whatever they want.
I AM depleted. I’ve been nursing for 4 1/2 years. Literally- as in, as of yesterday- it’s been 4 years and 6 months since Liam was born and I’ve been nursing on demand ever since, tandem nursing for two years and 8 months.
I WAS in a depressive coma where I couldn’t manage my life and I didn’t know who I was because until I stopped rejecting the process of motherhood the way our culture wants us to.
Yes, I’ve got the brain fog and the fatigue and the lack of libido because, well, tandem nursing 2 toddlers doesn’t encourage a desire to be groped by anyone. (Read my previous article for more on that) Yes, I’ve got baby radar. Yes, I know when my babies are upset, tired, hungry or sad. Yes, it bothers me to be away from them for too long and it makes me angry when people try to convince me it’s “the right thing to do” to be alone or to leave the kids with someone else and do my own thing. I am tired. I am so tired sometimes that I walk into a room and have no clue why I’m there. I put my coffee down and turn around to pick it up and it isn’t there and then I forget to look for it and find it again 6 hours later in a room I didn’t even remember going into. I AM sore and probably vitamin deficient and running on empty 80% of my life and what would help me MOST, is not to have some condition coined to justify my dis-ease and have society tell me that it’s MY FAULT for wanting to be a good mother.
Have you ever been told, “well if you have to do things the hard way, you can do it yourself. It’s no one’s fault but yours that you make this so hard on yourself”? I have. So when I hear people say things or support ideas that it’s the MOTHER who is at fault, it’s the MOTHER who has the problem… It infuriates me.
If people see that I’m depleted and want to help, what would help is to have the full support of the community around me as I struggle to find my place as a mother. What would help me, is to not know that if I want to do the right thing by my child and myself, I have to go against practically everyone else in the world and do it ALL on my own (creating even MORE depletion) because I don’t want to do it THEIR way that rejects my instinct and my baby’s needs. What would help me, is to have the friends and loved ones surrounding me to help me fully immerse myself within this new experience, this new life, this new being- this MOTHER I have become instead of telling me I’m working too hard, I’m doing things the wrong way, I’m giving my baby “too much” or that they deserve my time and I’m being too selfish by taking care of my child all the time instead of catering to THEIR needs.
“In traditional Chinese culture they observe the sitting month “Zuo Yue Zi” where the mother would not leave the house for 30 days, would not receive any visitors, and would have no duties apart from breastfeeding the baby. Special “rebuilding” warm foods would be supplied and the mother would not be allowed to get cold or even shower in that time.
Ancient cultures have made the realization that Western society unfortunately has not: For society to be well and prosper, the mothers must be fully supported and healthy—in every sense of the word.”
—That sounds like heaven and I wish we all had the opportunity to have that experience. As mothers (parents in general, dads too!), we NEED to know they are allowed to take on this new identity and embrace it- that there is NOTHING WRONG with us for doing that, in fact, it’s far healthier for everyone involved to do so instead of railing against it or quickly picking back up and “getting back to normal life” after a baby is born, rejecting the deep, biological and spiritual bond to take back a life that no longer exists.
The thing about this article is, EVERY SINGLE THING they said makes sense and is great advice, but the words they used are dangerous.
Saying things like “Where should women start in terms of starting to feel like themselves again?” As though the Self is something left behind after childbirth that must be found again by “remembering” who you were pre-child. Here was a great opportunity to answer to this by saying – “No- your’e thinking about it the wrong way- a mother doesn’t have to find themselves again- they must embrace themselves for the first time”. By not addressing the core issue that Motherhood IS THE SELF NOW, it leaves out the most important factor in all of this; that mothers must learn to embrace their new reality. This is a huge problem for me and a major flaw in their process, as far as I’m concerned because they want to give validation to mothers who have denied themselves as mothers rather than ask them to stop glorifying the idea that a mother doesn’t have to be a mother, she can stay a maiden forever even when she has children.
Then, at the end, when asked “is this a new phenomenon” where they have a great opportunity to share the reality that the condition is not new, but the reaction to the issue is and is only such because our culture doesn’t respect mothers and because of that, women are more comfortable rejecting parenthood. There are entire social groups who justify one another’s selfishness and perpetuate this idea that anything that causes a child to be inconvenient or interfere with YOUR life is unacceptable. They ignore the reality that our culture forces a woman to choose and if she chooses parenthood, if she chooses her “Mother” over her inner “Maiden”, she will be laughed at by her peers and even pitied by them because she sold out.
I’m glad programs like this exist and I am happy to see they work on taking on parenthood as part of the “realization” part of their 3 step process, but where EVERY OTHER STEP got several paragraphs, the profound importance of acceptance and integration of the Mother with the Self, got a single sentence in this entire article.
Someone could read their article and easily think it says, “I need more sleep, I need ME time and to put the baby down and do what makes me happy so I feel like myself again – Society is right – I am wrong – Instinct is wrong – I must go back to the world and be the ME I was before baby” because they didn’t really explore or focus equally on that “realization” part in this article.
The reality is, society does not respect the role of mothers. We MUST respect ourselves and accept our roles and honor ourselves AND our children, even if that means we go against the tide of what “society” says we aught to do. If we cannot do this, nothing will ever change. If we can’t accept who we are as mothers, we will never be able to live in harmony with our lives once we have children. It’s the entitlement era we live in today that selfishly craves “ME TIME” with the “it makes me feel bad so I don’t wanna do it” attitude that perpetuates the idea that a mother has to literally deny motherhood in order to regain her sense of worth, her strength and her value as a human being.
The person a mother was before she became a mother no longer exists. When our society is willing to accept this and accept who we have become, we will be able to more easily accept who we are and move through this transition from maiden to mother more smoothly. It’s a difficult thing to accept that our life is now and forevermore engaged in the act of service to another human being until such time that human is capable of caring for themselves. It is a far more comfortable thing when you have the support of those around you to make that happen, when those around you and culture as a whole appreciates that transition and does what it can to support it, not make us feel like terrible, selfish people for wanting to do it.
Postnatal depletion exists, but it is a natural part of motherhood – not some terrible disease. It is a part of the process can either get worse or better and which one happens is largely dependent upon the amount of support a mother receives from her tribe. The depletion is real and can be terrible, but that can be healed by time, connection with your child, deep appreciation for who you have become as a mother and the support of a community that values motherhood to lift you, validate you and to HELP you. Change culture by accepting motherhood, embracing instinct and say NO to the entitlement era’s need to pull us away from our babies.
I absolutely love this! I, too, read that article last week and appreciate your analysis of it. So glad to have found your blog!!
Thank you for the comment, Kerry! Glad to find yours, as well!
When I first saw your headline I thought this was going to be a rant to shoot holes in the concept of women being meant for motherhood. I am glad I read on further. Society does need to start recognizing motherhood as the single most important job a woman will ever do. Contributing healthy little people/turned adults into this world cannot be under-valued and the success of our world is literally in a mothers hands. Thank you for your perspective.
Bravo!! Spot on, and filled with awesomeness. I nursed my 3 babies…first til 23mos, next til 35mos, and still nursing my 39mos old. Co-sleeping, babywearing, cloth-diapering and now homeschooling, and anything else they need because I too, had 33 years of me time. This time is theirs. :))) I applaud you. Peace to you, Mama.
Thank you so much! Congratulations on your 39 months nursing! Way to go, mama! 😀
I understand your point, but unfortunately I have to work for financial reasons (I’m the primary breadwinner). When I read that “postnatal depletion” article it really hit home, because I’m so depleted that I’m struggling at work – and at home.
Working moms are a reality, and for me to be able to send that article to my husband has been incredibly helpful. All I want is a few hours a week to myself! I have a stressful job and I really can’t do it without some downtime.
Thank you for your feedback, Astrid! I’m so sorry things are tough for you, it sounds like you are one amazing mama! I’m so happy to hear you have a supportive spouse and that you are able to get some downtime occasionally, many mamas do not have that support and that is part of what I am talking about in my article. Please, take the time you need to feel whole- downtime is vital and I hope you know I’m not trying to say you should never have downtime. The issue is far deeper, in my opinion, and far more damaging when not approached accurately.
When moms scrape by physically and emotionally, working full time and then feel like they have to live up to some kind of “super human” expectation by being the wife, friend and employee they were before kids and seamlessly live the life they had before kids while ALSO managing a household WITH kids, never taking a break, never expecting anything in return or even just a moment to breathe in a quiet space… it’s insane and ridiculous.
What I’m asking for, is not for moms to pretend this depletion doesn’t take place or to just stay home instead, but to learn to accept that amazing new life and demand the support they deserve from those around them.
Your life HAS changed. It’s unrealistic for all those circles (home,friends,work) to expect a mother to pretend she’s the same girl she was before. It’s unfair to make her feel like she has to choose or to put ANY of the things in those circles before her children. Astrid, you should be able to be a mother who has a job, but they expect you to be an employee who *just* has kids. You should be able to be a mother who has friends, but they expect you to be a friend who *just* has kids. See the difference?
Ancient philosophers and mystics believed it is when we deny our “Selves” and the reality of who we truly are, that we are most susceptible to dis-ease and likely to suffer both physically and emotionally. When we live in a society surrounded by those who do not respect our new needs because those needs are not convenient, we suffer. Some even do whatever it takes, because they feel obligated to continue on as though nothing happened, to be that same, pre-child self.
My point here is not to say that a mom should just stay home and then her depletion would go away (trust me, that is just as unrealistic)… I’m saying- wherever you are; work, home or with friends- Accept your new role, don the motherhood robe and demand respect for your new life. Because so many don’t understand or value parenthood, we feel an extra sense of responsibility and even guilt to appease others when this should never be the case.
Being a mother doesn’t diminish your power as a woman- it increases it and I don’t feel like this reality was given enough time in their article or the practice they are engaging in. I wish they would offer more time to helping a mother understand the beauty of her new role in life rather than putting band-aid’s on to “feel like her old self”.
The reality is- you will never be your old self because your old self was not a mother. Your magnificent brain and body has literally rewired itself and you are not the same person you once were.
It is, I believe, when we have to feel like we are fighting our “old self” in order to be good parents that we feel the most depleted and that conflict is, more often than not, perpetuated by those in our circles who do not respect that we leave the maiden behind and don the mantle of Mother and that it is not a temporary thing.
Even now with a 4 1/2 year old and an almost 3 year old, I have friends who say, “well when they’re older, you will *GET* to come out more, right? When they’re not babies, you can send them to grandma’s and come play, we can have girl’s nights and get together more often, right?” As though there is some magical age just past toddlerhood where I will suddenly be released from this prison I apparently live in, being held captive by tiny guards in pull-up’s.
I’m speaking here more to the need that we desperately have as parents for our circles to understand that parenting is not a temporary setback in our life path and I’m SO TIRED of it being treated that way!
I’m not “derailed” because I had children. *WE* are on a new path, as a family.
I support a mother’s choice to move forward in whatever direction she chooses- working away from home, working at home, homeschooling, public school, whatever is best for your family dynamic, finances or whatever else. Whatever you choose to do, do it with a deep understanding of your role as mother, the value of that role and understand that everything ELSE you do, supports this, your most important role of all.
I think we have to be careful. I’m a mum of 5. I embraced motherhood, stayed at home from 34w pregnant with my eldest, fed all my babies for between 10-26mo, got up to one child every 2.5h for the first year of their life… I threw myself in, head first. I have been so tired I felt like a zombie and I embraced it, as you said.
Then 2 years ago I had a miscarriage. I followed that with another pregnancy 4 months later which was accompanied by a complication called a sub membranous haematoma, which basically meant I bled for 12 weeks straight, and I’m not talking spotting. I’m talking heavy bleeding. It took a lot out of me. It was accompanied by the very real threat of preterm labour from 21weeks. We got to full term, but I also had to manage gestational diabetes. Following the birth I was hit by post partum anxiety – not something I’d ever experienced before. My blood work showed that my levels were way out of range – I was severely anaemic, low vitamin d, low haemoglobin, low zinc, low magnesium and very high copper.
I’d had 4 children consecutively with no more than 22mo gap and at one stage had 3 in nappies. Now, with a 4 year gap and a 9 and 7 year old who were more than helpful, I wasn’t managing. It wasn’t just the extra workload, it was getting out of bed. More than that it was getting out of the house. I began having short (and long) term memory problems – not the normal “can’t remember anything” issues I’d had from being pregnant or tired in the past, and they were very real; I was forgetting things I knew… memories, names of people I’d known for 5 or more years, what I was saying as I was saying it leaving me completely lost mid sentence. I’d given myself completely to motherhood many years before. This wasn’t normal and it wasn’t about some lost sense of self or independence. I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like myself – my motherhood self. And I had the numbers of my blood test results staring me in the face – the stark reality of why that was. Depletion is the right word. Yeah, it’s probably over used in many cases. Motherhood will break you and remould you into something incredibly beautiful, and that can be a painful and exhausting, draining and depleting process. But I think, or at least the last year has shown me, that post natal depletion, or whatever you want to call it, can be very real and quite different to that normal “motherhood” experience.
God bless you. I hope you find a way to rebuild your health. The author of this article has a point and it shows her emotional struggles with friends and society not supporting her. That stinks obviously but the depletion is so deep and real for some moms that they struggle to be a Mom and function as a human. Get your sleep and stay after those doctors. Even when they tell you your blood tests are normal. If you don’t feel well honor your body. You owe it to yourself and your family. Your children are a gift from God and great spiritual teachers. It’s an honor to be a parent. But it’s not easy. Some people have a tougher time than others. I wish I had done more restful things and accepted more help when I had my kids. It would have been better for all.
I love that you found a way to re-wire your own thinking and feel such unparalleled joy from spending every moment with your family. Part of me hopes I can reach the same internal-Utopia one day.
But I am not there. Nowhere near it. Currently I am living overseas for my husband’s work where we have been since my now-18 month old son was 4 months old (and we have had 3 moves since arriving). I can not work in this country in my trained field and have no family or support network around me. I am trying to develop new friendships for my own mental health and socialisation. Having a traumatic birth (I required reconstructive surgery and was quite sick for months postpartum) really knocked me around and I felt I had no time or energy to look after me. To eat. To shower. To deal with how my birth broke me. I was anaemic and lacking proper nutrition, no wonder I was exhausted. I certainly think the Post Natal Depletion article fits my mothering experience to a tee.
In the last few weeks (after yet another move) I have been craving adult interaction, mental stimulation and missing that workplace respect and self-confidence you mentioned; and I finally feel like I am emerging from a cloud within which I had been lost.
So, after reading your blog, a part of me feels guilty for wanting these things again. I feel like you wanted these things too then you realised how trivial and selfish they were and now you’re the better person and anyone who doesn’t achieve this state of enlightenment is less of a mother. I know that’s not what you said but, although this mindset change worked for you, maybe it’s not for everyone.
It’s tough for me to be working hard to find a balance for my own mental and social health then read an article about someone who was once in this same place but now thinks the battle I am fighting is for selfish reasons as I have already had “my time” and now is my child’s time – I don’t deserve any pre-baby Emily time out anymore. Ever.
Oh Emily, I am truly sorry to hear you have had such a rough time of it! Having lived through postpartum depression and anxiety after a c-section I can somewhat relate to what you’ve been through, although it sounds like what you dealt with was substantially more frightening and trying on the body and spirit. I pray for your continued recovery, both in body and heart.
I completely understand that cloud and the sudden (sometimes not sudden enough) feeling of release and relief as the cloud lifts its heavy weight over our eyes and shoulders so we may breathe again. I understand the feeling that maybe, we really CAN rejoin the waking world, we really CAN go outside again, maybe do something valuable and contributive again.
I also understand how you could easily draw a conclusion from my writing that I think anyone’s desire to do this could mean I believe them to be selfish and how it could easily be interpreted to mean that any personal goals you may have are now invalid because baby comes first.
It is important to me that you understand my true meaning in all this because the LAST thing I want is for anyone to read this and feel their passions and what is important to them don’t matter. In fact, your reaction and feelings of guilt are exactly WHY I wrote this. It is unfair for any mother to feel torn in two between ambition and parenting.
Maybe I can explain it this way; I am not talking about your desires, ambitions and future goals at all here. I’m talking about how our society wants us to find the PRE MOTHER version of ourselves again. What I am saying is- that girl no longer exists.
Our society has us chasing a unicorn that we will never find in a forest full of disappointment and regret, wondering why we are so “dysfunctional” when really- all we are is something new that society does not respect nor understand. While we are feverishly fighting to “get back”, we should really be opening up to what we have become and who we will be in our future.
My problem is with the perspective that being a mother is somehow unproductive. That being growing and feeding and raising another human being is somehow “easy” or irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
Our society does not respect Mother and tries to strip us of the power we deserve. Our society would rather we “blend in” and “be productive” and fills our heads with ideas that we are NOTHING if we cannot earn money or have some kind of title or degree. That being the caretaker of another life is small, underwhelming and somehow beneath “modern women” is where I have the problem, not with your desire to find something that fulfills you.
We have become a society that says, “I just sit here all day with the kids and do nothing while others live these exciting and respected lives in business, art, music and all I have are two screaming kids who keep me up at night.”
We have been brainwashed in to this idea that we cannot be considered successful, valuable or necessary unless we are perfect, polished and career-minded. That somehow being a parent is not good enough – we must want something else and it’s not the Mother who is being selfish by wanting to move forward and have other goals, it’s those who buy into that perspective and make us feel guilty for being Mother instead of being something ELSE, something “MORE”… for them.
Friends, family, loved ones, bosses, society at large – they all do it. “When can you put the baby down and come hang out again?” – My response – “Why can’t you come put your cocktail and your cigarette down and come see my family?”
“You don’t seem as committed to your job, are you sure you have your priorities in the right place?” – My response – “I’m sorry but I don’t believe demanding me to work overtime so others don’t feel bad is more valuable than fostering and developing a human life.”
Even our husbands do it “I want my wife back”. My response – “Your wife had a baby and is now a mother. Things will look different now and we need to work together to find a NEW normal- not mourn the loss of the OLD normal.”
At the heart of it, what I’m saying is, do not give up on your dreams, but know that your dreams may need a little reworking now and we have to get a little more creative with how we approach our ambitions from here on out and that should be okay. It shouldn’t cause us to be seen as “lazy” or that we’ve “given up” our lives or that we’re nothing but “just a mom”.
What I am saying, is that if people would embrace themselves and their new identities instead of spending YEARS searching for that unicorn that will never appear, we would all be much happier.
I hope one day you can realize that you absolutely deserve Emily time – but “pre-baby” Emily… she has passed the torch and has closed the door. Her time is over. Time for new discoveries, new priorities and a new life.
That does NOT mean you don’t deserve time alone, time having fun without baby, time to recharge and sleep, be pampered as a woman or feel confident in your SELF as a separate being from your child- it just means you don’t have to be “pre-baby” you to have those things and I wish our society would stop telling us we can’t be Mother and Woman at the same time.
I hope that helps. Love and blessings to you! ❤
I, too, ran across your blog site after reading the depletion article and enjoyed your views on motherhood and embracing it. Our lives and viewpoints have many similarities. I have to say that your response here, to Emily was much more thought out and meant so much more than your original blog posting. Like her, I had a very complicated and rough 3rd pregnancy, as well as postpartum period of many health problems and upon reading your posting felt a bit put off by it. Just a suggestion, but possibly editing the post with much more of the tone and wording you used above would draw followers and readers more in tune to your true message. We want to be careful what we are saying to Mothers of all types and at all points in our journeys because we don’t know what emotional good and harm it can cause. Thank you for your time and candid thoughts and I’m looking forward to reading more.
Thank you, Gina, for your comments and compassionate suggestions. I admit when I “rant” I tend to be far more biting than I really mean to be and my passion for the things I believe in can sometimes be a little hard to properly verbalize.
I know I already said this in Emily’s reply, but I believe it bears repeating – It was never my intention for mothers to read this and feel judged. My judgment is NOT about mother’s choices, but on our modern society that seeks to diminish the value of parenting so much that a mother must question herself in these ways and make choices that placate to that societal need instead of listening to their instinct to protect, nurture and keep baby as close as possible throughout those first years.
My judgement is of the society that allows her to believe these things about herself; that she is “half” a person without some sort of “outside ambition” or has lost something valuable about her personal being in the absence of independent maidenhood. This suggested belief that flows through our culture that being a mother is not enough and she must seek some sort of additional level of productivity in order to feel valuable, is where I have the problem.
My frustration with this situation is NOT that a program like this exists, -like I said, I am THRILLED to know there is support for mothers who are struggling with depletion, I simply wish we would call it what it is – it exists because our culture does not respect the role of Mother and forces her to deny who she has become, or become some kind of society outcast.
When it is considered rebellious to feed a child at one’s breast as nature and God intended, we have a serious problem in our culture.
When it is considered lazy to stay at home and nurture our children because we can only feel like empowered women if we earn a living outside the home, we have a serious problem in our culture.
I believe if we could change these societal norms, this desperate culture that diminishes the value of Mother, we would stop feeling a need to deny the transition, we would stop feeling like we had to fight against ourselves just to make others, and even ourselves happy and we could, at last – find peace within the process of motherhood and all could understand the value of that role.
I hope that makes sense for all. I absolutely appreciate each of your comments and your feedback is gratefully accepted! ❤
I have to disagree that it is about being your pre baby self but more a new self yet one that can function in a healthy state. Postnatal depression was something I know with working with new mums and babies yet I had 4 babies over a span of many years and knew I wasn’t right but didn’t fit the specs for it. I had my first baby at 19 so had no pre baby life as such to yearn for once baby four came along at 34. Severe tiredness and running around meant I fantasized about driving the car into a pole many times traveling as we out of town. I was happy truly happy but developed uto immune condition from the many years of constant feeding, little time away from kids which I never minded and a busy life with older children and babies. Postnatal depression it was not. Postnatal depletion hell yes. Don’t ever want my pre baby self but wanted to function as a healthy human being. Nothing to do with work or home. I am happy to say this is all well managed using the same methods I would recommend to my mums at work with pnd i.e.exercise, purpose and connections, good food and nutrition.
Yes, great logic, unless you get in a situation where you need to leave your husband, and you can’t because you stuffed yourself financial by giving up work to “reinvent yourself as mama”.
If you read the article thoroughly and go to the author/doctor’s website, you will see that he basically agrees with you. He doesn’t seem to be encouraging women to somehow abdicate their new role as mother. What he really wants to do is help them to build up their bodies and their health, to create more of a support system so they can be GREAT moms! I threw myself into motherhood over 12 years ago, had 4 babies and 1 miscarriage in 7 years. I fought depression and anxiety like mad, never knew what was wrong of me. But I homeschooled and I practiced keeping my babies close, nursed until they were 2 years old, despite the fact that I was facedown on the floor some days, crying and desperately wondering how to hang on to life. I don’t regret ANY of it for one single minute. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat because no matter how I suffered, they are MORE than worth it! BUT, I wish I’d had someone like this doctor speaking into my life at that time. It would have saved me so much pain and suffering. I would have been an even better mother to my dear babies. By the grace of God and the autoimmune paleo diet, I have regained my health over the last 4 years. I hope this article and this idea gains traction because more mothers need this information!
Yes!! I also think the point of the original article was misconstrued!! Motherhood is life changing, challenging and rewarding all at the same time. Strategies that help us get to are best selves are always welcomed!!
Wow, I am deeply offended. There is so much judgment laying in wait out there for moms perhaps that is what is draining us as is this rant. I would make this more eloquent but I would rather be with my kids.
I don’t blame you, I would be too. I’m truly sorry. Please read it again, read the comments in this thread. I deeply apologize and I thank you for your comment.
I think unless you’ve been there you just can’t understand postnatal depletion. I’ve only heard of it today and I tick all the boxes. I love being a stay at home mum to 3, I’m great at going with the flow and living in the moment, enjoying my kids. I’ve breastfed for nearly 7 years. I have a wonderful, hands on, supportive husband and plenty of people to help if I need it. I’m studying part time in a course I love.
But I also have postnatal anxiety from 2 traumatic births. And I’m running on empty all the time. I’m always tired, I’m always thinking about my kids and husband, can sleep anytime, anywhere, my libido is shot (even though I think my husband is the sexiest man on the planet and he me). Physically, hormonally, mentally I’m DEPLETED. Not empty, just depleted. I’m so grateful to read it’s not just me.
I don’t like the judgement from people who have never been there, and who aren’t trying to understand. The title says it all. No thanks for souring the relief I felt at seeing there’s a name for what I’ve been feeling. It’s a shame, because I think I could have spent ages reading your blog under other circumstances.
Jane, I truly apologize for causing you to feel this way.
Your experience is real, your feelings are real and your desire to feel valued, alive, healthy and whole is, I assure you, very much real, warranted and should be valued.
Thank you for showing me your truth. I accept that my words may have made your experience feel less valued, less valid and you less deserving of joy.
As I have responded to other moms who have left me comments here similar to what you are saying, that was never my intention with this piece.
To be quite honest, I’m nearly ready to pull the whole thing down and write another which may better explain what I feel, but I don’t want the mothers here to feel I have removed THEIR comments or to think I can’t handle people disagreeing with me.
I don’t expect anyone to read every single comment in this thread to gain a clearer insight into what I truly meant to say here, but I did respond to other upset mothers who mistook my meaning and hopefully I helped them gain a little clarity.
Per your suggestion, I did review the title of this blog, and I agree – the name says it all. “The Fallacy of Postnatal Depletion- An Invention of the Entitlement Era” is exactly what I mean to say, but not as you are taking it.
Let me explain;
Postpartum depletion is a REAL thing. I stated this in my blog. I know because I experienced it. Honestly, I still experience it. I’m pretty convinced it’s not something that goes away, we simply learn to pull resources from other places and through proper nutrition and physical activity to remain healthy and strong, we can find a new place to call “normal”.
But here’s the thing that seems to be consistently missed in my article – it’s not MOTHERS who are entitled.
Here is what I am NOT saying – Moms, grow a pair, get over yourselves and just suck it up and deal with your life.
Here is what I AM saying – Moms, the world is telling you to deny what you have become to fit comfortably into society and it’s making you feel like crap. Don’t let them do that to you. Stop hearing them tell you that there is something wrong with you and that you have to pretend you are your “pre-baby self” and that by doing so, THEN and only then will you be happy. Be a MOTHER and rejoice in it and stop listening to these people who are treating motherhood like a virus that needs to be cured.
It’s the rest of our society who pulls at us, demanding EVERYTHING from us, denying us the natural instinct to keep our baby close, to breastfeed until they are ready to stop, to baby wear, to carry them with us, to spend some time outside society for a while to regain our strength of mind, spirit and body, to give us time to understand who we are as mothers – ESPECIALLY if we have experienced birth trauma, miscarriage, infant/child death experiences, postpartum depression or anxiety (of which I have had both with both children and still fight to this day)
It is our world culture of entitlement that believes it deserves everything NOW! NOW! NOW! that causes us to place our babies in cribs, that tries to convince us that “Cry It Out” is okay, even if it has been proven to cause neurological damage because mommy needs sleep and daddy needs to have sex and mommy has to go back to work, so helpless baby who doesn’t get a say, has to cry until she throws up and her brain shuts down to protect her.
It is our world culture which demands these sacrifices of us AND our children, causing us to feel torn, segregated and displaced from the world if we choose baby’s needs instead of the world’s.
Unless we “get back” to who we were before we had babies, (a woman who no longer exists, mind you) the world will treat us like we are doing something wrong and it makes the physiological and emotional reality of depletion a condition WE must fight because there is something wrong with us.
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH US. There is something desperately wrong with the world for not giving us the support we need from the moment of conception that causes us to feel like we have to choose between instinct and THEM.
The world asks us to be a person that physically, emotionally and spiritually no longer exists and that reality creates conflict, dis-ease, DEPLETION as we feel we have to be everything for everyone when we SHOULD be focused on ourselves and our baby because that’s “selfish” and we should understand that everyone else’s needs matter more.
It’s not okay.
I am barking mad about that and have been since the day I miscarried for the 4th time and got written up at work for taking time off because an employee is not offered bereavement for a child who isn’t yet born. I was told “it wasn’t even a baby, you basically just had a late period” when I was TEN WEEKS PREGNANT.
I was told, “we understood the first time, but … (in as politically correct terms as they could muster) … this keeps happening and we can’t just keep giving you time off”. I had four miscarriages within a six month period. I was not okay. But instead of taking the time I needed, I went back to work and I dealt with it like society says I aught to have and I literally almost went crazy. Going back to work, sucking it up and coping like I did… it does not make me a strong person, that makes me a victim of society’s lack of respect for mothers. When I finally did have a baby, I couldn’t leave him because I was afraid he would die. After four lost pregnancies, I was terrified I didn’t deserve a child and that this baby… that he was a fluke accident and would be taken from me. My job backed that up, demanding I return to work. My friends backed that up, demanding I go out with them, making me feel terrible and “indulgent” for staying home with my baby instead of going out and partying with them. My husband backed that up asking for sex when I had absolutely zero libedo to the point where I did it anyway, even though I didn’t want to because he made me feel so terribly guilty.
I cried all the time. I had horrifying thoughts of my child dying. I became agoraphobic. I became hyper sensitive to germs, dirt, sickness, meanness, violence. I was afraid to drive. I suffered panic attacks. I thought I was dying. I was afraid to go outside. I was afraid to do anything but sit at home and do nothing but hold my baby and fear the world and you know what people did? I begged people to come over and to keep me company, I asked friends, family, even neighbors, to come and help me stay sane so I didn’t feel so alone, and you know what they told me? They told me I was crazy. They told me I needed to get over it. They told me I was being a stupid, first time mom and there was nothing special about me or my baby so I should just suck it up and do what needed to be done like a real woman. Because a real woman doesn’t sit at home and let her baby rule her life. A real woman goes out and doesn’t abandon her friends just because she “pops out a kid”. I had an OBLIGATION to “my life” to return to it and I couldn’t allow a tiny, helpless being that had no say in any choice I made to effect my ability to do whatever the hell I felt like because it made THEM feel bad.
So, when I read about places like this, this facility that helps women cope with depletion and helps them to build themselves up, gain strength and feel strong, I am overjoyed that such places exist. Just as overjoyed as I was to learn when postpartum anxiety was a real thing and in spite of my friends and coworkers, I wasn’t being a self-entitled, over-indulgent parent with “new mom” syndrome- I was suffering from a legitimate issue that needed treatment and support and taking my baby from me and forcing me back into a life that no longer existed was NOT going to help me.
So, when I read this article a few months ago, and read that they had SUCH an opportunity to share with people that, look- this is not an invention of our mothers.
This is not a problem like some kind of psychological disease that can be medicated and the mother magically wakes up one day believing she is her “pre baby self”. This is a problem with our culture, with our society and with the demands and expectations that society has placed upon our mothers. They could have explained and provided facts about how our cultural demands and pop culture fads place unnecessary and unhealthy stress and depletion upon our mothers and how, as a result, those mothers now need a special place to be healed. Instead, they chose to validate those mother’s pain by telling them “yes, YOU have a problem”.
YES the mother trying to cope with this needs support. YES the mother deserves healing. YES the mother has a right to want to feel whole again. And YES this is a VERY REAL PROBLEM.
But the problem is how our culture handles, disrespects and devalues motherhood.
People in horticultural societies do not suffer depletion. Societies in the deep rain forests don’t suffer depletion. Women who birth their babies in fields and keep working with newborn on her breast – they don’t suffer depletion. Why? Because their role as mother is respected. Because they are honored. Because they are given the right to parent their child as instinct would lead them and not by the way some celebrity mom who hired a nanny at 3 days postpartum and went back to work did while the world ogles at her “strength” and amazing, zero fat postpartum body.
I have considered taking this post down because so many mothers have taken everything I said the wrong way. I don’t blame them for this. I blame myself. I blame my poor ability to vent my feelings appropriately, as clearly I did not convey the point I was trying desperately to make.
I honestly am not sure what to do about this, but to keep replying to people who read it and comment without reading the other comments.
I thank you, and each mother who has taken the time to speak their mind and show me what is in their hearts. I have learned so much from this experience, far more than I ever expected. You and all the other moms who have replied to this, have helped me to become a better human, a better writer and even have helped me to better make sense of how I truly feel and why.
The lessons here are immeasurable and I am so thankful, and for that reason I am leaving this as it is, but I will probably post something extra at the top because I truly don’t want anyone else to feel the pain of judgement over my writing.
Oh, and because of your comment, I have removed the second half of the title for now. If this is setting a negative tone before anyone has a chance to even read the article, it’s the wrong title. So, thank you for that, as well.
All my love to you and all…
As of this morning, I have broken blog writing code and I have edited my original article. I re-read it this morning, I’ll be honest, for the first time since I wrote it, and I could see exactly what each of you have tried to convey in your comments. I truly did a terrible job of explaining my true feelings on this subject in my original piece.
II apologize for causing mothers who are suffering to feel even worse because they felt guilt because I seemed to blame them.
That is NOT how I feel. That is NOT the message I wish to give ANYone. I have replied to those who have commented one by one, but I understand that no one can always read all the comments and I can’t expect everyone to do so, so I had to change the original piece to better reflect my true feelings and to reaffirm my belief to other mothers that their pain, their experience and their feelings are valid and they have a right to be honored.
I don’t want anyone else to happen upon my article and ever feel the way any of you felt. Thank you all so much for helping me become a better writer and even a better human.
I truly hope this helps and as always, I welcome comments and feedback from each of you!
Love to all…
I respect you for being willing to share your journey, heart, feelings and thoughts as a mother! And I am thankful I came across your post! Blessings!!! Keep writing!!! ❤
I’m so sorry you have suffered miscarriages and postpartum difficulties. It surely points to life not being fair. Reading your reply to Jane on July 30th paints a clearer picture for me of what you were saying in your article. Those people trying to get you out or back to your old self were just trying to help. They apparently didn’t have the sensitivity to get you and understand you. That is isolating and sad. Work is work and I don’t expect them to be understanding.
It seems like this experience has connected you with your personal power and a knowing that being a mom is the most important job you have done. I hope you continue to grow and heal and live your life fully. You are obviously helping people by expressing your true experiences and feelings.
Love and light,
Fantastic piece. Thank you for writing it.
Thank you, Ellen! So happy you enjoyed it!
Thanks for this post – it’s one of those that will have meaning for parents for decades to come. My experience is several-fold:
1) Identity crisis is hard enough without having others wade in to convince you that you should things a certain way. Two years on from becoming ‘mummy’ I’m just about feeling that it’s okay for me to be mummy and me. Going back to a research position with my lb being 7 months old was so hard and if/when I have my time again, I will take a year minimum.
2) With number 2, I will also being taking the advice of our lb Chinese god-parent and close friend of no visitors for a month with the exception of grandparents and sisters/brothers, and only if they do something useful like housework/cook whilst they are visiting! Me and hubby are agreed on that already.
3) There is a sense of entitlement to seeing/holding new babies within a few days/weeks – they turn up, with a gift, expect a drink, etc. Then leave. Had a funny instance where one relative expected us to turn up on time because she had a prior engagement. We were 90 minutes late and she had left by the time we reached our in-laws.
4) Mothers come last. How many times have you heard ‘all that matters is the baby is ok’. Mothers look after baby, but who looks after the mother? Maybe a week after giving birth, turned up at in-laws where it took three people to carry a newborn in carseat down the stairs. I carried everything else and no-one batted an eyelid. It was the first and last time it happened around my husband as he was truly an angel from then on looking after me as much as he could whilst working/not sleeping. But I have a sense of responsibility with that too – I put me last. I should have gone into the house carrying nothing and took care of myself, rather than trying to be the old me who hadn’t had a baby a week before.
It’s about time that motherhood was respected more and this ‘get back to your old self’ just went away. A midwife told me it takes 7 years for your body to get back to the pre-pregnancy body – hips in particular. Society tells us we can have it all – family, career, great house, holidays…you can have it all. Just not all at once. Acceptance of that (and being backed up by articles like this) and not giving a stuff what others think because it’s my life and I will live it how I choose – all have given me my sense of identity back. Not the old me. I’ve changed but I’m still me. And happy with it. So thank you again for writing. I hope it helps others too x