IN HONOR OF MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH THIS MAY, WE WILL BE FEATURING GUEST BLOGGERS, EACH OF WHOM BRING THEIR OWN UNIQUE EXPERTISE AND PERSPECTIVE TO THE DISCUSSION. IT IS MY HOPE TO HELP EDUCATE AND NORMALIZE THE EXPERIENCES OF ALL MOMS.
Guest Blog Post: The Tribe
By Krysta Dancy, MFT
Here is my fantasy:
A woman gives birth surrounded by fellow women wiping her brow, getting her water, fanning her face. After, she rests tucked into bed. Daily work all fades from the new mama’s mind because it’s covered. She eats warm, delicious, and nourishing meals that she doesn’t have to prepare. Her healing body is allowed to sleep whenever the baby sleeps. And if said baby doesn’t sleep? No matter, because that’s covered too. There are plenty of arms to rock a newborn and grateful noses to breathe in their smell.
This continues until, and only when, the new mama feels alive again. Her body and soul are allowed to take their time. Recovery happens as it happens, without agenda. Only when she is ready, the new mom finds her feet again. But even then, the tribe of wise women doesn’t disappear. Instead, they minister to her spirit when her body is whole. Because birthing a baby turns out to be faster than birthing a mother. And wise women know this. So they fill her with courage and support. They offer her their strength to make it through. And if this mother-birthing doesn’t go well? If the work gets off to a rocky start? That’s okay too. Because she is never EVER alone in it. Her ears are filled with whispers of “I get it” and her tears are caught by sisters who have been there.
Here is reality far too often:
Women are sometimes lucky enough to have a supportive partner; a partner who must return to work far too soon. Responsibilities pile up around her exhausted body and she spends a good deal of the early days alone with an infant. If there are wiser women in her family, they likely don’t live near her. If she is lucky enough to have friends who are already mothers, they are drowning in their own responsibilities. Perhaps she will have beautiful moments of communal support, and those moments must last. They are not often enough. If her mother-birthing process called the postpartum period doesn’t go well, she usually hides it. Perhaps she collapses into a dark hole deep enough that she decides to try medication. This is almost always a secret, even though it’s a common one. And that pile of responsibilities? It doesn’t slow. The piles grow around her. Body and soul, she is in a dark valley. And she is mostly alone.
The room is so full when the baby is born. The room is so empty when the mother is born. Both need a cheering section. Both need whispers of encouragement and support. Both need to be seen.
Please know, if you are in the mother-birthing stage of life, that although you might be lonely, you are not truly alone. In my therapy practice, I have peered into so many postpartum lives and realized that each mom sitting on my couch needs the other ones scheduled before and after her. But they are separated by a false belief: that they are each the only one who feels lonely.
Please know that although our system has failed you, you have not failed. Although the tribe no longer comes to you, one can be made. Mother-birthing sometimes weaves into the creation of tribe. It shouldn’t be that way. It shouldn’t require work on your part. That’s unfair. That’s the bad news. But the good news is- it exists. Technology has allowed the creation of more mom’s groups than existed even five years ago. Women grabbing ahold of each other in the birth process and whispering words of comfort to one another. Don’t believe the lie of “you’re the only one”. Your tribe is out there.
Krysta Dancy, MFT is a licensed therapist and sees clients in Roseville, CA where she has been since 2005. Her specialties include a variety of women-related topics including: birth trauma, infertility, motherhood transitions and healing from childhood wounds. In addition to traditional therapy methods, she loves using EMDR and Brainspotting to help accelerate the healing process. She also supervises and co-directs a nonprofit that provides low fee counseling for those who cannot otherwise afford it. A wife and mother herself, she believes strongly in the importance of "the tribe" of women and works to see it reborn.
Her blog: www.confessionsofatherapist.com
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