Postpartum Depression Through This Therapist’s Lens.
Updated: Feb 9
“She is not disabled! She is pregnant!” This was a statement blurted out, to my fiancé about a then 3mths pregnant me, across a room filled with family and friends. I know you’re wonderinghow I responded, well I hate to disappoint you, but, I did not respond at all. I simply brushed it off as something that was not meant to be taken personal. In retrospect, amid trying to figure out how to survive feeling uncomfortably nauseous, I may have ignored the statement because I just did not have the strength to engage in that sort of dialogue. I had no clue that this incident would set the tone for what was to come.
To put things into perspective, my fiancé and me were both born and raised in the Caribbean and are both of African descent. This meant, that we were raised in homes where saying you are tired, felt overwhelmed, or asked for help equated to complaining. God forbid you “complained” in a Caribbean home. You would be forced to receive an ear full on how “there is always someone who has things worse than you do”. Just for clarity, I do believe there are instances where one’s current circumstance may be better than others. However, it is important to always consider context.
Let’s fast forward to a postpartum me. To date, this phase of motherhood was by far my most difficult. It was during this phase that as a trained psychotherapist, I came to terms with the reality of postpartum depression. I always say, people prepare you for pregnancy and for delivery. But rarely do they prepare you for the crap storm that follows, also known as the fourth trimester. The fourth trimester is known as the first three months after a baby is born. During this phase, both the baby and his/her caregivers will go through an adjustment period as the baby learns to acclimate himself/herself to the world outside the womb. In addition, women go through a multitude of not only physical but also emotional changes which without adequate resources and supports can negatively impact mental stability. To give you an idea of what that looks like, imagine consistent sleepless nights, hourly feedings, endless diaper changes, and let’s throw a dash of a baby with colic in there just to spice things up a little. Let us not also forget that oh so unexpected, untimely postpartum hair loss, and a pinch of weight fluctuation.Oh, crap am I “complaining” again? Bad Kyla! (hits self on the back of hand).
Postpartum mood disorders are by no
means race specific. However, research has shown that black women are at a higher risk than their counterparts. A study conducted in 2016 produced findings that black women suffer from postpartum mood disorders at a rate of 44% in comparison to 31% for white women. In my professional opinion, I do believe this is in part due to the level of support, and the perception that exists regarding the postpartum phase within the black community. In addition, based on personal experience during my first postpartum phase, I do believe my own faulty expectations with regards to living up to the “Strong Black Woman” stereotype along with the inability to openly express my own discomforts, catapulted me right into postpartum depression. Ariel Gore states, “When you study postpartum depression, there is a very clear understanding that in communities where you see support, there is less depression.” When comparing my first postpartum experience to my second postpartum experience, I can honestly say my experience was entirely different.
In the latter, I had the ability to openly verbalize my needs without judging myself or being judged for doing so. Of course, there are other factors that play a role in the presence of postpartum mood disorders within the black community. However, it is my belief that we can begin with changing our language and doing away with the “Strong black woman” concept. Likewise, by continuing to engage in more dialogue regarding postpartum depression and the alarming rate that it represents in our community, we cansimultaneously create more resources and forms of support for our women therefore resulting in an overall decrease in the numbers. I hope this blog opens the door for dialogue and further research on the topic. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns on this or similar topics.