Moms Supporting Moms: Maternal Mental Health
Taryn Zweygardt, LMSW | Executive Director, The Village ICT
My entire life I wanted to be a mother.
I remember telling many people growing up that I honestly felt as though I was put on this earth to be a mom.
I dreamed of the day when I could tote around my precious little bundle of joy, showing her or him off to the world, hearing a little voice call ME “mama”. So in 2015 when my husband and I found out that we were expecting our first child you can only imagine the sheer joy and excitement that consumed me knowing that all of my childhood dreams were about to come true.
The months leading up to delivery were spent decorating a nursery, stockpiling diapers, and celebrating with family and friends. As a social worker, I felt prepared for all that parenthood could throw my way. Most of my career had been spent working with children and families, so it seemed as though there wasn’t an obstacle that I didn’t know how to maneuver and find appropriate resources for.
That is until postpartum depression and anxiety reared its ugly head about 3 months after the birth of our daughter.
1 in 7 women will suffer from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Only 40% of cases are diagnosed, and of those diagnosed, only 60% receive treatment.
I don’t remember the exact moment I realized something was wrong, but I just knew I was experiencing something different than I ever had before. I remember feeling so ashamed. How could I, the social worker, the woman who had dreamed of being a mother her entire life, being feeling the way she was.
The intrusive thoughts were overwhelming. The rage almost seemed uncontrollable. The tears could be turned on and off like the bathroom sink. I felt like a terrible mother, a terrible human. I felt broken.
The current American culture sets new mothers up for failure. Unrealistic, social media filtered expectations of motherhood. The rare cases of paid maternity leave, and the social stigma surrounding mental health issues in general leave mother’s feeling forced to push forward as quickly as possible; with little regard to how the experience of motherhood is taking a toll on our mind, body, and spirit.
When it came to finding support during these hard months, I found the most comfort in knowing that other moms out there were feeling or had felt the same way I was. I turned to social media, my mom friends, mom blogs, and educational resources to learn more about perinatal mental health issues. I was able to learn what had been successful to help other moms recover. In retrospect, I wish that someone would have simply educated or prepared me more on what could happen postpartum. I wish that a support group in my community would have existed. I wish that someone, anyone would have screened me for the symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety. Now, I hope to provide all of the things that were missing for me to moms in the community through services provided by The Village Perinatal Support Network.
The Village Perinatal Support Network is Wichita’s newest maternal mental health resource. Our mission is to build community awareness through advocacy and education, and to promote social support and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing throughout Southern Kansas. We want to create a safe place for mothers to heal and be heard.
One of the unique aspects of the services that we intend to incorporate in our practice is peer lead support groups. Karen Kleiman, the “mother” of maternal mental health, speaks of the impacts that support groups have had on mothers dealing with postpartum depression or anxiety. “Postpartum women in distress report that they relate to each other’s stories and crave the endorsement and comfort derived from shared experiences.” When you are in the trenches and dealing with the darkness that can be postpartum depression or anxiety, it’s easy to feel alone or that no one else could possibly be feeling or thinking what you are.
The support groups will be a great place for new mothers to come together and support one another throughout all the trials that parenthood brings. They will allow these women to feel heard, for their feelings to be validated and for the creation of their own personal motherhood village.
Are you—or do you know—a new mother who is struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety and not sure what resources might be most beneficial for you?
Give us a call at (316) 272-0072 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
We would love to be your village.