Too often as a new mom, you are not fully prepared for the first few months after giving birth. Everything from the unexpected emergence of your menstrual period, sleep deprivation, to possible complications after birth, hair loss, or interest or lack of interest in sex can all affect new mothers. Even celebrities have spoken out about this fragile state after birth. Your hormones are coming back online and you may experience severe physical and emotional symptoms related to postpartum. You may even experience postpartum depression, which can hit differently for Black women.
POSTPARTUM HITS DIFFERENTly for BLACK WOMEN
Black women have issues affecting us that white women don’t have. More research is needed to see how depression and anxiety affect Black women, specifically because of medical racism and unconscious bias in the medical community. Erika Hardison, journalist, and founder of Blerd Feminist asks the question, “What does postpartum depression look like in Black moms? According to researchers, they still don’t know, which does Black mothers everywhere a great injustice.”
Too often Black women are not taken seriously. “We know that Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate yet the medical community remains slow to advocate for Black women before, during, and after pregnancy,” said Hardison.
Even Serena Williams fought for her life postpartum to get the nurses in the maternity ward to listen to her when she said that she was experiencing a blood clot in her lung. This is a problem that Williams previously experienced and she recognized what it felt like. Indeed, she did have a pulmonary embolism. Often when Black women speak up to advocate for themselves, they are then labeled as “aggressive” and they don’t get the help or support they need. Add to this the women who don’t even realize they are going through postpartum depression, they just know that something is wrong and the medical community too often does not ask the right questions.
Many new moms feel this depression because of the lack of a strong community surrounding them. We often find ourselves alone trying to manage the image of the “strong black woman.” Even doctors have historically believed this trope. You think that you are supposed to be a superwoman and cleaning the house, raising all of the children, cooking, and juggling all of these mom-balls that can send you to a dark place. You feel that you’re supposed to be happy but you might be scared to share publicly that you’re actually sad inside.
POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION could FEEL LIKE:
- “Baby blues” don’t get better
- Sadness or guilt consume your thoughts
- Loss of interest in things you enjoy
- You have trouble making decisions
- Worry that you won’t be a good mom
- Sleep patterns have changed
- You’ve had big, stressful changes in your life
- Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
Mental health care is traditionally not accepted in the Black community. You are often looked at as being weak and it is often said that the only mental health care that you need is prayer and church. Prayer and church are fine but so is mental health care.
“While economic factors can be a trigger for postpartum depression, Black and non-white Hispanic women have a great concern about how they are perceived by social workers. They all share the fear that if they are seen as unfit or troubled with a new baby they are at a greater loss of losing their child to the state or the system. With the mistrust in the medical community and the social services community, many Black mothers find themselves taking measures into their own hands when it comes to battling postpartum depression,” said Hardison.
Another trigger for postpartum depression that is traumatizing is the pressure to leave your weeks-old baby behind for someone else to raise so that you can go back to work, which is inhumane. Postpartum depression can be multi-layered. Mental health attention can help you to be the best mom that you are.
YOU Must ASK FOR HELP
This is the time to lean heavily on your tribe. If you can’t lean on your village of family or friends, find a support group online. Use sites like MeetUp.com and Facebook to find postpartum groups where you can ask questions or just vent. It is most important to remember that you are not the only person experiencing what you are feeling and thinking even though you may catch yourself saying, “What is wrong with me?” Nothing. What you are feeling are your hormones causing an imbalance. It’s normal. It’s okay. Ask for help and talk to others.
Some things others can do
Start a support system to assist you – drop off homemade frozen food, or offer to clean your house
Do Laundry – either they pick up your laundry and do it or hire a laundry service for you
Gift you a nail salon, hair salon, etc., gift certificate so you can still feel like yourself outside of the role of mom
Hire food delivery for you from apps like DoorDash, Postmates, Grubhub, and UberEats
Launch a postpartum party to elicit help – people can give gift cards to help you with the transition
Hire a doula to assist you with all that comes after having the baby and to communicate any concerns that you may have and help you decide what is normal or not
“I’ve seen first-hand how non-Black mothers respond to topics on how race influences postpartum care. The conversation is quickly dismissed and the blame is shifted to the Black and Brown mothers who choose to suffer in silence.”
– Erika Hardison, Founder of Blerd feminist
How to ask for help: If you don’t ask for help, no one is likely to help you. Family and friends will watch and expect you to manage when you’re not asking for help. If you don’t know how to ask, here are some suggestions for building a successful village.
- Ask directly for postpartum help at your baby shower. Have a sign-up sheet to recruit helpers
- Review with the father prior to the delivery what you expect from him postpartum. i.e., “When you get home from work, I need you to take over most (or all) of the caregiving of the baby/children every other day because I am working all day too, as well, caring for the child(ren).” Make a written list of expectations and email it to him so he can search and find it later
- Your healthcare savings account can help you to pay for a doula. Most doulas will work out an affordable payment plan with you and some will even barter with you
- Join online new mom groups for support and share what you’re going through
The world, including family, friends, and non-Black people have to do a better job of protecting Black women at all times, especially Black mothers, and moms-to-be during postpartum.
Comment below with your postpartum story.
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Journalist and CEO of Successful Parenting Media
Janice Robinson-Celeste started her journey with a degree in education. She became the early childhood specialist and parent educator for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and for the Philadelphia Child Guidance Center. This is where she began her formal career of public speaking. Robinson-Celeste was with African American Women on Tour and has traveled nationally speaking to parents and professionals at various expos, and includes Disney as a client.
She has been a director of NAEYC accredited childcare centers and a multimedia news journalist covering the education beat. Later, she founded Successful Black Parenting magazine, obtained her M.B.A., and won several awards, including one from Allstate as a Woman of Triumph, alongside Patty LaBelle. She was a journalism professor for Hofstra University in New York, taught multimedia to teens at several high schools, and is a contributing writer for The Huffington Post.
In addition, she won a Sara Award for her work from Women in Communications, the Benjamin Franklin Technology Award, and an Apex Award for her multimedia talent. She is a best-selling author of several parenting and children’s books. Robinson-Celeste once held the title of Mrs. NJ United States (2015) and is currently the executive producer of Ethnic Animations, as well as the publisher of Successful Black Parenting. She suffered from postpartum depression with her second child who is now a successful multi-talented adult. Robinson-Celeste currently resides in Los Angeles with her dog, Gigi.