It was enough. She had had enough. She was lying on her bathroom floor in a puddle of tears for the nine millionth time, wondering what had happened to the girl she used to be. That girl was fun…she was strong…she was energetic…she was adventurous.

This woman wasn’t.

And she missed her old self.
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She could hear baby girl crying in the other room and knew her sweet angel wondered where her mommy was, why she had left her in the baby swing and walked away. She only wanted to be held. And maybe to nurse. But mostly just to be held. Like she needs every moment of every day but it was just too much. Mama was “touched out” as she called it and needed a break. But the feeling of needing a break was coming more and more frequently each day. She was reaching her maximum amount of energy and patience before noon most days.

While that feeling had a lot to do with how little sleep she was getting at night (all she wanted to do was sleep…for like six days straight) she couldn’t help but wonder if her frequent inability to cope in motherhood had more to do with how she felt about baby girl’s birth…those lights, the smell, the noise, the cold, the uncontrollable shaking, the conversations she heard from the hospital staff regarding their weekend plans ….didn’t they know she was HAVING A BABY?! Why was nobody listening to her? Could they not hear her? Or see her? She felt invisible that day….a day she had anticipated for so many months.

She was afraid to open up, to tell anyone, for fear of invalidation. She hated talking about birth stories with other women because hers was so painful. She was afraid to be intimate with her partner again as it always seemed to trigger those same feelings of loss, shame, regret, sadness and despair. She was afraid of the hospital, even driving near it made her heart race and her temperature rise enough she would start to sweat. She could still feel the physical pain of that day, a day that was supposed to be one of the happiest of her life yet she left that building feeling empty, hurt, betrayed, angry, embarrassed, lonely, scared, and wishing she could do it all over again. Because she would do it differently.

And she couldn’t sleep. Even when she tried. Even when she was utterly exhausted.

So she pressed on but by the time noon rolled around most days, she was losing her grip on things. She had no more strength to make it to bedtime. She had no more patience for baby girl’s cries. She had no more joy to give her child. She. Was. Done.

She wanted to march up to that hospital and give them a piece of her mind. Really, she did. But that sounded too exhausting. There was no energy for that.

She knew she needed help. She knew the signs of post-partum depression from her prenatal childbirth classes. She knew she needed more support. She knew her feelings were not how she was “supposed” to feel after having a baby. Something was wrong. But who should she talk to? Who would refrain from passing judgment and help her find professional help? Who was actually going to listen to her and hear her?

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Does this sounds familiar? Have you cried on your bathroom floor more times than you can count? Have you wondered why a day that is supposed to be so full of joy and gratitude was filled with so much pain and trauma? Have you ever felt that you were robbed of something on the day you gave birth? Have you ever felt you were wronged? Or know another mother who feels this way?

Up to 1 in 3 women experience a traumatic birth in the United States. Most of those women go on to be diagnosed with PTSD related to childbirth. And a large majority of women who experienced a traumatic birth suffer from post-partum depression.

That’s not okay. And we do not discuss this problem nearly enough.

The United States ranks at the bottom of the list of developed countries for maternal health. We have some of the highest statistics of maternal morbidity among other developed nations. Our care of pregnant and birthing women is abysmal and poor to say the least.

We can do better. And we should. For the health of our women and children.

Post-partum depression is all too common these days, and has been for a while. Almost every mother knows that term, what it means, the varying degrees and levels one may feel post-partum depression, and it’s almost always brought up in prenatal classes across the nation. Yet it’s not discussed much in the post-partum period. And many women state that when they bring up this stigmatized topic in various family or social circles, it is a topic that is usually not well-received or uncomfortable to discuss.
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Yet it needs to be discussed.

And it needs to change.

A lot of women experiencing post-partum depression would describe their baby’s birth as traumatic on some level. Birth trauma is typically tied to how a woman was treated during her labor or her baby’s delivery as well as the 12-24 hours post-birth. It usually is not necessarily related to what type of birth she had but how the staff and “care” providers spoke to her, listened to her, respected her in general, and whether she felt in control of the process or not. A loss of control for a woman during labor and birth is a significant source of trauma. When talking about post-partum depression, we don’t often discuss the correlation it has with birth trauma. A large amount of women experiencing post-partum depression are unaware of the root of their depression. Once aware of the root, or cause, of their feelings, it can be processed and cared for more effectively.

How can we change this in our culture?  How can we lower the rates of post-partum depression? What can be done to help those suffering in their post-partum period while trying to care for their babies at the same time?

First, we can all talk about it. To each other. Openly and candidly.

Second, we can ask questions. And truly listen.

Third, we can offer support, either emotionally or physically. Watch another mother’s baby for an afternoon so she can find professional help.

Fourth, check in frequently and ask how you can help.

Last, never pass judgement or suggest to a woman what she “should” do. Offer acceptance and comfort always.
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Adventure Mamas Initiative is a group doing just that….building a community of mothers, talking with one another about the trials and triumphs of motherhood, listening to one another with open hearts and minds, and offering support on many levels to all of us in our journey of raising small humans together. It is a village in an era when real villages do not exist commonly anymore. Post-partum depression is real, it’s legit, and it’s dark. It’s not something women should experience as frequently as we do. As part of Redefining Motherhood, we – as women and mothers – must grab maternal health by the horns and change it. For ourselves. For each other. And for our children and families.

Through Redefining Motherhood and the Adventure Mamas Initiative, women suffering from post-partum depression can use adventure to combat their pain, their darkness, their despair while processing the guilt, shame, resentment, anger, and depression within a community of mothers who are walking the same path, maybe even farther down that path and can offer insight and support that is sometimes hard to find at park playdates.

Post-partum health is vital for mothers to fully enjoy and care for their little ones. Spending time outside with Mother Nature brings a sense of calmness and peace that is not found elsewhere. Building relationships with other women and mothers who are accepting and supportive brings a sense of community to counter-act feelings of loneliness and isolation most often found in depression. None of us should be crying on our bathroom floor, feeling lost and angry and sad, during a chapter of life that can bring so much love and joy and gratitude.

Let’s Redefine Motherhood and make it ours. Let’s take control of our pregnancies, our births, and our journey in motherhood. Let’s adventure together and pursue health, wellness, and happiness. We owe it to ourselves and our babies.

About Lindsay:
Lindsay Askins is a professional {birth} IMG_3680photographer and doula at Spot of Serendipity. After repeatedly hearing from women as well as witnessing clients who were victims of obstetric violence during their labor and birthing, she felt strongly to bring light and awareness to the complete disregard of women’s basic human rights during pregnancy and childbirth. Using her photography, she and Cristen Pascucci of Birth Monopoly, started the Exposing the Silence Project to meet and speak to women all across the United States to not only document their stories but to expose their silence.

When she’s not trying to change the world, Lindsay can be found in the great outdoors, reading, writing, playing polo, enjoying fabulous wine, traveling, hiking or skiing mountains, riding horses, drinking cappuccinos, holding babies, or dancing. She has two little girls, ages 5 and 3 years old, a Thoroughbred mare and an insanely crazy bird dog.

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