For me, becoming a mother came as a shock.
At the end of 2019, everything looked like 2020 was going to be my year. I had worked so hard and was about to be promoted to Head of, was continuously building my professional network and everything was going great in my personal life.
My husband had just quit his job to start all over again in his mid-30s and take up full-time bachelor studies. I was the main breadwinner and really wanted to go full speed in terms of my career. But shortly after Christmas, my health rapidly deteriorated and in January 2020 we received the shock news: I'm pregnant with twins. Immediately followed by the next shock: a global pandemic paralyzed our entire social life. Well, awesome...
Becoming a mother is one of the most beautiful and transformative experiences a woman can have. It is a time filled with love, joy, and hope as we welcome a new life into the world. But for many women, this time can also be filled with darkness and despair as they struggle with postpartum depression. This invisible illness is often shrouded in silence and shame, leaving new mothers feeling isolated and alone.
Research shows that postpartum depression is a common condition among new mothers. According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 10-15% of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that this number may be even higher, with up to 20% of women experiencing postpartum depression globally. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that postpartum depression affects one in seven women in the United States.
It's important to note that postpartum depression can also affect fathers, partners and other family members who are involved in the care of the newborn.
If you are suffering from postpartum depression, please know that you are not alone. You are not weak. You are not a bad mother. You are simply experiencing a real and valid illness that needs to be addressed. You are strong and courageous for facing this challenge head-on. You are a warrior for fighting through the darkness and for seeking help. You are a beacon of hope for other mothers who may be going through the same thing. You are not alone. You are loved. You are valued. And you will come out of this stronger and more beautiful than ever before.
Your Village is Your Superpower
Parenthood can be a challenging and rewarding experience, but it can also be isolating and overwhelming. Building a support system, or a "village," can help parents navigate the ups and downs of parenthood and thrive as individuals. Having a network of supportive friends, family members, and professionals can provide emotional, practical, and educational support, which can improve mental and physical health, and increase overall well-being.
Make a list of family members and friends who can help with babysitting on a regular basis (e.g. every Wednesday afternoon so you can go to Yoga.)
Talk to other parents you trust (from Kita, school, play group) about rotating babysitting ("One afternoon us, one afternoon you")
Research local daycare options and make a list of those that meet your needs and budget as early as possible. Consider preparing a pitch presenation for your family to stand out from other applicants.
Consider hiring a nanny, aupair or babysitter if other childcare or daycare options are not sufficient for you. Invest this money, if you can. It is for a limited period and totally worth it - even though it hurts. Believe me, I know.
Talk to your employer about hybrid and flexible work options as well as family benefits (e.g. paid childcare, parent-child-office).
If your employer is not supportive, consider changing your job. I am very serious! Just because we are financially dependent on a job does not mean that we have to sacrifice our souls and families.
Some countries subsidize the employer's contribution to childcare. For instance in Germany, this is known as the Kita or daycare allowance, which is governed by § 3 No. 33 of the German Income Tax Act (EStG).
FAMILY & HOME
Consider hiring a cleaner or housekeeper to help with heavy or time-consuming cleaning tasks. Again: Invest this money, if you can. Don't be afraid to ask other family members or friends to help .
Look into meal delivery services or meal prep services to make mealtime easier (We used HelloFresh for a couple of months and are often using the pickup service in the local supermarket around the corner)
Create a budget and set financial goals to help manage expenses. Some family apps offer premium plans including budget tracker and more.
Make a list of important phone numbers and contact information for family members, doctors, close friends and other important people.
Use your outlook/calendar at work to openly communicate your (un)availabilities well ahead of time
SELF-CARE & HEALTH
Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins... it may sound trivial, but a serious lack of vitamin D and other important elements favored my depression. A conversation with my doctor and regular checks ensure that I no longer lack anything.
Find a support group for parents or join an online community to connect with other parents. Only connect with those groups if they don't make you feel bad. We all know these mom circles that put more pressure on us...
Prioritize sleep (as much as you can), exercise and healthy eating. Again: It may sound trivial, but a 15-minute run during your lunch break or after the kids are in bed can be life-changing. And food: Everything you put in your mouth should fuel you and not tire you out.
Make a list of self-care activities and activities that bring you joy. Make time for them! I shared the list with family and friends. The result: people actively approached me saying "Shall I take the kids for an hour so you can take a bath and relax?" Sure!
Make a list of healthcare providers and schedule regular check-ups and screenings for the rest of the year. I plan them long ahead and block my calendar accordingly.
In some countries, health insurance companies offer an annual prevention budget that can be used for a variety of health courses, as well as health-related apps, such as guided meditation. Talk to your health insurance company to learn more.
It's important to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to organizing help, and what works for one individual may not work for another. It's important to be honest with yourself about what you need and what you can handle, and to communicate that with your support system. The most important step is to accept that you need a support system and actively build it.
"So I have stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been. There is no map. We are all pioneers."
Glennon Doyle I from "Untamed"