Emotional distress and stress are on a spectrum, from very mild to very severe. We all run along this spectrum as we face different life situations. Infertility, pregnancy, loss, and the postpartum period each bring up a unique set of stressors that also run along that spectrum.
Sometimes stress starts out as mild, then builds. At other times, it hits you like a ton of bricks. For the most part, it seems that most people don’t reach out for help…until. Until they are under the weight of sadness. Until they cannot sleep due to anxiety. Until they feel utterly overwhelmed. Please, if you are at that point, get help.
On the other end of the spectrum, I hear a lot of moms and dads who say things like “Well, the early months were hard, but I don’t think I was anxious,” then they go on to say how much they worried about their baby’s sleeping, eating, development etc., how much sleep they themselves lost, and so on. I’m not here to diagnose everyone with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. I am here to say that you don’t need a diagnosis to get support or help.
You don’t have to feel the worst you’ve ever felt in order to justify therapy or a support group.
It’s all too common for moms and dads to push past pain, whether emotional or physical, to keep on keepin’ on. I get it, I did that too. If you are in the middle of coping with day-to-day life, it can be hard to recognize when things are not right. We often don’t notice when things start to get hard, until… it’s in our face (and sometimes still, we are stubborn about acknowledging the facts). We say things to ourselves, like, “Oh, I’m fine” or “I just need to get some sleep, then I’ll be good.” Maybe that’s true.
But, maybe you just need a little help.
Let me put it this way, if you were starting a new job that required being on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and for which you only had a couple hours training and yet were expected to just learn as you go, and it was the most important job you’d ever “gotten” and you wanted to get it “right”…you might be a little stressed, right? Yes!
Well that’s called becoming a parent. Add to your job description, especially for moms, that you won’t be getting a lot of sleep as you start this job. You have hormones and bodily fluids running every which way and 5,000 people giving you “helpful advice.” It’s hard. Beautiful and amazing, but hard.
Getting support isn’t being “weak” and it doesn’t mean you can’t do your job. Getting help at whatever point, no matter how ‘mild’ your stress feels, is being proactive and honoring your wellness.
What’s that phrase…”An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” I’m saying, you don’t have to wait…until.
Katayune Kaeni, Psy.D. is a psychologist specializing in maternal mental health. She was drawn to this specialty after going through postpartum depression and anxiety with her first child. Dr. Kat hosts a Podcast focused on maternal mental health, called Mom & Mind. She also supports her local community by partnering with the county to provide training for health care providers. She volunteers for Postpartum Support International as the area co-coordinator for San Bernardino County. Dr. Kat looks for any soap-box or mountain-top she can find to raise awareness about maternal mental health.