A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Want to help new families? Start by supporting mothers’ mental health

Print Friendly and PDF

"Are you just loving being a mommy?" my friend asked me, cradling my newborn son in her arms.

The words lingered between us as I pursed my lips and tried to figure out how to respond. My son was 4 weeks old, and I wasn't sure what I was feeling except tired, overwhelmed and numb. I knew the socially acceptable answer was a gushing "Yes! It's the best." But that felt hollow and foreign, so instead I broke the tension by saying, "Ask me on a day when I've had more than three hours of sleep."

Four long months later I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. With the right support, education and combination of medication and therapy, I began to emerge from the dark cloud that hung over my transition to motherhood.

Even as I started to heal, I felt alone in my experience with an emotionally challenging postpartum experience. There didn't seem to be any space for me in the common narrative of motherhood. In a world of gushing Instagram posts about "bundles of joy" and "lives changed for the better," my story of grief and losing myself just didn't seem to fit into this happy mold.


Statistics say one thing about postpartum mood disorders, social media says another

I felt like I couldn't identify with the blissful messages of joy other new moms were sharing on social media, the place where I found myself spending a lot of time as I was physically homebound in the early days of learning to care of a newborn.

But while I may have felt alone in my emotionally challenging postpartum experience, I certainly wasn't: Postpartum mood disorders are one of the most common complications of childbirth, affecting one in seven new moms, according to the American Psychological Association. While the medical community and society at large have made huge strides in recognizing and treating maternal mental health conditions, there is still quite a bit of work to be done to support mothers.

"This is a huge life transition, becoming a mom. We treat it in common culture like it should just be easy and blissful and the most natural thing in the world," says Kate Rope, author of the book Strong As a Mother, a guide to prioritizing mom's health and wellbeing during pregnancy and postpartum.

After Rope's own rough transition to motherhood 11 years ago, she was inspired to normalize the range of experiences someone might encounter and to offer solutions for the way forward.

"When you're expecting a baby, you may have a ton of books on your nightstand and none of them are about you," Rope says. "A lot of them are filled with strongly worded and conflicting advice, and it's all focused on baby, almost like you're producing a product."

During pregnancy, moms are inundated with information about how best to optimize their developing baby's health, Rope explains, from what to eat, to what medications are off-limits to playing music for the baby in the womb to foster brain development. That string of advice carries over once baby is born and becomes part of a larger message that a mom's needs are secondary, she says.

"It becomes this virtue of perfection that is not realistic," Rope says. "We've decided that any cost to mom is worth enduring to reduce medical risks for baby."

Rope stresses the need to recognize that a mom's well-being is central to positive outcomes for her children, saying "we need to look at them as a unit with as much kindness and compassion for the mom as for the baby."

Rethinking the care for mothers

To start, we need increased access to mental health services and specifically, professionals who specialize in maternal mental health, says Rope.

We also need better structures in place to help identify and support moms who may be struggling: While the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends providers screen women for depression both during pregnancy and postpartum, that is often left to obstetricians and gynecologists. However, mothers are more likely to encounter their child's pediatrician in the early months, notes Carly Snyder, a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist based in New York City.

Some pediatricians are catching on—in fact, it was my son's pediatrician who recognized my symptoms and encouraged me to get help. Yet, Snyder says more training is necessary to help these doctors be equipped to refer women to mental health providers.

"It can be tricky for a provider to screen, but then not know where to send someone," Snyder says. "There needs to be more general education for medical students, OBs, pediatricians. Everyone needs a basic understanding of perinatal mood disorders. It's coming, but we're not there yet."

Recognizing the link between physical and emotional postpartum recovery

One of the most common misconceptions about postpartum mood disorders is that depression is the only condition, Snyder says, when in fact people need to be aware of the spectrum of mood disorders and their symptoms, ranging from depression and anxiety to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Any of these can develop during the postpartum period.

Even for those who may not develop a clinical mood disorder, the body undergoes several physical, chemical and hormonal changes during pregnancy, delivery and postpartum, Snyder says—and all of these changes can affect a mom's physical and mental health.

"Delivery takes a huge toll on your body, it's like running several marathons. In our country sadly, women are discharged within a couple days," Snyder says. "So that toll of delivering the baby and running three marathons and caring for the baby isn't alleviated, and then you go home and you're exhausted and it's all a lot. And for those who receive C-sections, that is a major surgery, yet we really don't give women the opportunity to heal."

Brook Bolen, a mom of one living in Asheville, North Carolina, says she felt ashamed by the anxiety and fear she experienced after her child was born, which led her to suffer in silence for nine months.

"The mainstream narrative that we have is that this is a joyous time, and I think that narrative really clouded my understanding," Bolen says. "I didn't know how individual of an experience it is and how many women struggle. I wasn't feeling that joy and it reinforced this notion that I wasn't supposed to do this, that this [motherhood] was a mistake."

Once Bolen sought treatment at the encouragement of a friend and began taking prescribed antidepressants, everything changed she says, and she was able to enjoy her baby. Her daughter is now 5 years old, and while she didn't feel she could talk openly about her experience in the beginning, she says doing so now has helped her find community.

"In the experiences I've had with other mothers, I've learned that many of them may not feel like they can say it publicly, but they will pull you aside and say thank you, I went through that too and no one talks about it," Bolen says.

For Rope, increased awareness about the symptoms of postpartum mood disorders coupled with the willingness to seek treatment helped when she welcomed her second child.

"I've gotten over the hump of thinking it's a selfish pursuit to take care of myself. I now realize it's something I have a right to as a person and that it's good for everybody if I do," Rope says. "As a mom, your mental health matters. You deserve to have the support you need."

Resources and support for postpartum mood disorders are available through Postpartum Support International or via their hotline, 1–800–944–4773.

Originally posted on Medium.

You might also like:

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

If there's one thing you learn as a new mama, it's that routine is your friend. Routine keeps your world spinning, even when you're trucking along on less than four hours of sleep. Routine fends off tantrums by making sure bellies are always full and errands aren't run when everyone's patience is wearing thin. And routine means naps are taken when they're supposed to, helping everyone get through the day with needed breaks.

The only problem? Life doesn't always go perfectly with the routine. When my daughter was born, I realized quickly that, while her naps were the key to a successful (and nearly tear-free!) day, living my life according to her nap schedule wasn't always possible. There were groceries to fetch, dry cleaning to pick up, and―if I wanted to maintain any kind of social life―lunch dates with friends to enjoy.

Which is why the Ergobaby Metro Compact City Stroller was such a life-saver. While I loved that it was just 14 pounds (perfect for hoisting up the stairs to the subway or in the park) and folds down small enough to fit in an airplane overhead compartment (you know, when I'm brave enough to travel again!), the real genius of this pint-sized powerhouse is that it doesn't skimp on comfort.

Nearly every surface your baby touches is padded with plush cushions to provide side and lumbar support to everything from their sweet head to their tiny tush―it has 40% more padding than other compact strollers. When nap time rolls around, I could simply switch the seat to its reclined position with an adjustable leg rest to create an instant cozy nest for my little one.

There's even a large UV 50 sun canopy to throw a little shade on those sleepy eyes. And my baby wasn't the only one benefiting from the comfortable design― the Metro is the only stroller certified "back healthy" by the AGR of Germany, meaning mamas get a much-needed break too.

I also appreciate how the Metro fits comfortably into my life. The sleek profile fits through narrow store aisles as easily as it slides up to a table when I'm able to meet a pal for brunch. Plus, the spring suspension means the tires absorb any bumps along our way―helping baby stay asleep no matter where life takes us. When it's time to take my daughter out, it folds easily with one hand and has an ergonomic carry handle to travel anywhere we want to go.

Life will probably never be as predictable as I'd like, but at least with our Metro stroller, I know my child will be cradled with care no matter what crosses our path.

This article is sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


The phrase "women can have it all" has always left a sour taste in my mouth. Sure, our options for fulfillment extend beyond the home. But between wage gaps, the astronomical cost of childcare, student loans and ever-rising living costs coupled with shrinking wages, can we have it all?

Some women know their calling is at home with their babies and they make it work. They budget like it's an Olympic sport and find resourceful ways to save money. Many women are single mothers and are the sole earners in their homes. Every household has different needs and we absolutely deserve to choose whatever best fits our lifestyle.

Whatever that fit may be, it never encompasses "all."

I knew from a young age that I loved babies and wanted a family of my own, but that vision always included me working. Maybe it was the 90's TV boom of Ally McBeal and Detective Olivia Benson but I knew I wanted a career. I wanted a purpose that contributed to the world outside of my home. I knew I wanted a degree or two, maybe three. The fact that I made up my mind so early and never wavered, made me sure that "mom guilt" was something that other women felt; women who maybe felt the pull to be home but other circumstances were in their way.


Mom guilt wouldn't hit me, I'd be immune, I thought.

Fast forward to the first month I went back to work from maternity leave. I ugly cried on my way into the office so frequently that I kept makeup in my car so I could fix it before going inside.

I'd dive headfirst into work until I had to pause to pump. Work, pump, work, pump, shove in some lunch at my desk at some point and sprint out the door to get my baby. I was productive but distracted. When I was at work, I wanted to be home. When I was home, I thought about the possible mistakes I had made at work.

I was in a job that was full of stress, last minute late nights, terrible pay and no appreciation. But from the standpoint of working and having a family, I had both. I had it "all."

Some days, I felt as though I was maybe just ungrateful for all the responsibilities I had to juggle. I blamed my attitude.

Facing my unhappiness at work and the baggage I brought home to my daughter and husband weighed on me. Then, six months postpartum, I lost my dad. I packed up that baby and flew home to say goodbye.

At the visitation, his colleagues shared many memorable stories, but the ones that kept coming up were his dedication to his wife and six children. They were memories of my sisters and I hanging out in his office, coloring while our mom worked. In fact, one of my masterpieces, a mosaic Great Dane, still hangs in my dad's old office window on Court Street because the owner of the building watched us grow up and didn't have the heart to take it down when he retired.

Dad was an attorney who nearly always made it home by 5:30, something unheard of in the world of owning your own practice. He didn't live to work; he worked to live.

I realized that when I leave this world, I don't want anyone to tell my children stories about how hard I worked. I wanted them to tell my children stories about how much I loved them and that they always came first. I had to make a change.

The right doors opened in the next month and I eagerly took on an entire career change (not something I necessarily recommend with a 7-month-old, but we made it work). I closed the doors of childhood ambitions that didn't match with the type of mother I wanted to be. It wasn't sad, it was liberating.

My new job included work from home days and a team of women, mostly moms, who value hard work and success but prioritize family and their roles as mothers. That attitude starts at the top of the company and trickles down. It was a breath of fresh air after seven months of feeling like I was suffocating.

Despite these life changes, I still don't have it "all." What I do have is realistic expectations for what I can accomplish in a day.

I have a house that looks like it's been ransacked Monday through Friday. I have a sink full of dishes.

I have a car littered with smashed cheddar frogs and peanut butter smears. I have a bedroom containing endless laundry baskets of clean clothes that get folded and put away maybe once a month.

I have a supportive partner whom I madly love and helps me rage clean all of the above when we can't take it anymore. I have a happy, healthy daughter who couldn't care less about dishes, laundry and dog hairballs.

I have a job that contributes to the betterment of humanity and a team who makes office days a joy.

I have women in my ear sharing their disdain for me working out of the home, but I also have women in my ear championing me as a mother, wife, homemaker, and career woman.

Maybe the answer to finding that peace was leaving a toxic job. Or maybe it was found in losing my dad and having my daughter in the same six months. Perhaps it was the priority shift that followed those changes. It could have been extending the same grace to myself that I so willingly give to those I love. Whatever it was, I'm grateful to have found it so I can enjoy living in our good old days, today. I don't have it all, but I really love everything I have.

You might also like:

Work + Money

It's been more than a year since Khloé Kardashian welcomed her daughter True Thompson into the world, and like a lot of new moms, Khloé didn't just learn how to to be a mom this year, she also learned how to co-parent with someone who is no longer her partner. According to the Pew Research Center, co-parenting and the likelihood that a child will spend part of their childhood living with just one parent is on the rise.

There was a ton of media attention on Khloé's relationship with True's father Tristan Thompson in her early days of motherhood, and in a new interview on the podcast "Divorce Sucks!," Khloé explained that co-parenting with someone you have a complicated relationship with isn't always easy, but when she looks at True she knows it's worth it.

"For me, Tristan and I broke up not too long ago so it's really raw," Khloé tells divorce attorney Laura Wasser on the podcast. She explains that even though it does "suck" at times, she's committed to having a good relationship with her ex because she doesn't want True to pick up on any negative energy, even at her young age.

That's why she invited Tristan to True's recent first birthday bash, even though she knew True wouldn't remember that party. "I know she's going to want to look back at all of her childhood memories like we all do," Khloé explained. "I know her dad is a great person, and I know how much he loves her and cares about her, so I want him to be there."


We totally get why being around Tristan is hard for Khloé, but it sounds like she's approaching co-parenting with a positive attitude that will benefit True in the long run. Studies have found that shared parenting is good for kids and that former couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse" are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Khloé says her relationship with Tristan right now is "civilized," and hopefully it can get even better with time. As Suzanne Hayes noted in her six guiding principles for a co-parenting relationship, there's no magic bullet for moving past the painful feelings that come when a relationship ends and into a healthy co-parenting relationship, but treating your ex with respect and (non-romantic) love is a good place to start. Hayes describes it as "human-to-human, parent-to-parent, we-share-amazing-children-and-always-will love."

It's a great place to start, and it sounds like Khloé has already figured that out.

You might also like:


Kim Kardashian West welcomed her fourth child into the world. The expectancy and arrival of this boy (her second child from surrogacy) has garnered much attention.

In a surrogacy pregnancy, a woman carries a pregnancy for another family and then after giving birth she relinquishes her rights of the child.

On her website, Kim wrote that she had medical complications with her previous pregnancy leading her to this decision. “I have always been really honest about my struggles with pregnancy. Preeclampsia and placenta accreta are high-risk conditions, so when I wanted to have a third baby, doctors said that it wasn't safe for my—or the baby's—health to carry on my own."

While the experience was challenging for her, “The connection with our baby came instantly and it's as if she was with us the whole time. Having a gestational carrier was so special for us and she made our dreams of expanding our family come true. We are so excited to finally welcome home our baby girl."

A Snapchat video hinted that Kim may have planned to breastfeed her third child. What she chooses to do is of course none of our business. But is has raised the very interesting question, “Wait, can you breastfeed when you use a surrogate?"


The answer is yes, you sure can! (And you can when you adopt a baby, too!)

When a women is pregnant, she begins a process called lactogenesis in which her body prepares itself to start making milk. This usually starts around the twenty week mark of pregnancy (half way through). Then, when the baby is born, the second phase of lactogenesis occurs, and milk actually starts to fill the breasts.

All of this occurs in response to hormones. When women do not carry a pregnancy, but wish to breastfeed, they can induce lactation, where they replicate the same hormonal process that happens during pregnancy.

A woman who wants to induce lactation can work with a doctor or midwife, and start taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone (which grow breast tissue)—often in the form of birth control pills—along with a medication called domperidone (which increases milk production).

Several weeks before the baby will be born, the woman stops taking the birth control pill but continues to take the domperidone to simulate the hormonal changes that would happen in a pregnancy. She'll also start pumping multiple times per day, and will likely add herbal supplements, like fenugreek and blessed thistle.

Women can also try to induce lactation without the hormones, by using pumping and herbs, it may be harder but some women feel more comfortable with that route.

Inducing lactation takes a lot of dedication—but then again, so does everything related to be a mama. It's a super personal decision, and not right for everyone.

The important thing to remember is that we need to support women and mothers through their entire journey, no matter what decisions they make about themselves and their families—whether Kardashian or the rest of us.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.