Be the Village – Supporting Pregnant/Postpartum Moms

I don’t blog very often, actually I don’t blog at all. I’m more of a speaker and host of podcast shows. But today, I felt the need to really pen my careful thoughts into a piece that I could read back to myself and share with the world in black and white.

Let me start out by telling you why this piece is important to me. I was born in the United States, but had the opportunity to spend some years of my life in India & Japan. Ethnically, I’m South Asian. I’m also a mother, wife and therapist. I’ve extensively trained to be a perinatal mental health counselor and I’m a passionate advocate for the awareness and education of perinatal mental health in our community.

I heard about the recent loss of a South Asian mother in California struggling with Postpartum Depression, #breakthestigma4nima and it really hit home.

Perinatal (during and after pregnancy) mood and anxiety disorders are real, but so is the Stigma around it.

We’ve made strides towards researching perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, but it’s not enough.

We can’t just be researching & treating the illness, without intervention in the environment.

As a society, community and generation, we must focus on the stigma that continues to surrounds us.

It is this stigma that:

  • Becomes the barrier to treatment
  • Leaves women to struggle in isolation
  • Sets a false perception of weakness associated with reaching out and strength in isolated endurance

We need to focus on eliminating the stigma so our evidenced-based treatments, interventions, skilled expert counselors and doctors can be accessible by the people that need it the most.

The South Asian community and culture is known for it’s colorful taste, hospitality and communal gatherings. A culture that values at it’s core cohesiveness in the community and prioritization of the community at large over the self.

Starting from pregnancy all the way to the 40th day postpartum (and beyond), the culture at large includes several community and family rituals that focus on nurturing the mother and the baby. This is care taking and support at it’s finest.

But when that same community is unaware or lacks understanding of the “other side” of this beautiful life-changing transition, it can leave the mother and baby feeling deeply isolated.

When we embrace pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood, we have to embrace it all; the joy, the kicks, the nausea, the scars, the pain, the sleepless nights, the feeding challenges, the changes in body, the emotional ups and owns, the the mood swings, the possible perinatal mood/anxiety disorder, the recovery, the baby’s first smile, the baby’s first word and so much more.

We can’t just embrace, emphasize and glamorize the beautiful parts of it, we must also accept & normalize the raw, painful and distressing parts of it.

Pregnancy and Postpartum are truly life-changing experiences. However, the postpartum period is also the most vulnerable with high risk, even without a history of any mood/anxiety disorder in the past.

Being pregnant and postpartum around your extended family can be an incredibly warm and special experience, but it doesn’t make us immune to a perinatal mood/anxiety disorder. Being pregnant or postpartum away from immediate & extended family can be challenging and often a risk factor.

We can support pregnant/postpartum Moms by actively cultivating a village in our communities, because not only do we need a village to raise a kid, but also to raise a mother.

I urge all of us to take some time to think about how each of us can be that warm, accepting & nurturing village for pregnant and postpartum moms in our communities.

If you have a family member or friend that’s pregnant/postpartum, here are few things you can say/do do that can provide support and acceptance of her entire experience.

  • Always ask her, “How are YOU feeling these days?”
  • Ask: “Moms often feel emotionally overwhelmed or confused during this time, have you experienced anything like it?
  • Ask: “This overwhelm/anxiety is temporary and treatable, I can help you find a professional so you can actually find relief”
  • Ask: “Is there any task I can do to help you today? (Grocery run, pick up kids, load the dishwasher, babysit, etc.)
  • Ask: “Can I babysit sometime, so you can catch a nap?”
  • Encourage the Mom to take a break from baby and set aside “Me” time everyday.
  • Drop off a self-care basket with some healthy snacks, a reusable water bottle, body care items etc.
  • Start a meal train so the mom and her family can focus on healing, nurturing and resting, instead of meal planning.
  • Throw the mom a “postpartum shower” and pamper her with all kinds of support, self/baby care items.
  • Don’t wait for them to reach out-check in with Moms regularly-perinatal mood/anxiety disorders can creep up months after a delivery.
  • Leave a list of resources with her (listed below), even if she says she doesn’t need it right now. She may need it later.

Here are some don’ts:

  • Please, don’t tell her that she should just be happy and grateful for her baby
  • Please don’t tell her that prayer and exercise is all she needs in order to feel better
  • Please don’t tell her that she must be happy otherwise her baby will suffer
  • Please don’t tell her to just focus on being happy
  • Please don’t tell her that she has to choose to be happy

 

If you’re a South Asian Mom that’s made it through a challenging pregnancy and/or postpartum period, I want you to know that your courage and resilience is extraordinary.

It is for Moms like you that we have around us,

Moms like you that are within us,

Moms like you that have left us,

that I do this very important work of cultivating a village that nurtures, embraces & accepts motherhood in all it’s evolving shape and form.

I see you

I hear you

I am here for you

 

Love & Light,

Heena Khan, LPC, RPT

@yourpostpartumwellness

 

Resources for Perinatal Mental Health Support

☛ Postpartum Support International

Call the PSI HelpLine at 1-800-944-4773(4PPD)

Send a text message to our Helpline: 503-894-9453 (English)
Mandar texto en español al 971-420-0294

☛  Find a Perinatal Mental Health Specialist Directory here: https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/locations/

☛  At Uplift Counseling Services, Heena Khan specializes in providing individual and group therapy services for pregnant and postpartum mothers. Contact 214.810.2156 for a free consult.

☛  Postpartum Support International hosts free, live phone sessions every week:

https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/chat-with-an-expert/

☛  National Suicide Prevention Hotline and Website: 1-800-273-8255

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