Yesterday I walked with an old high school friend I hadn’t talked to in a long time. This blog has been a great way to reconnect with people and hear more about their stories of pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing as we all reach the age when that’s become more common.
One of the things we talked about was our pure, unfiltered anger at how poorly we prepare people who procreate for the challenges they will face. How underestimated and dismissed our various traumatic experiences are and how unsupported we are throughout the process of literally furthering the human race.
It’s honestly a wonder to me that anyone successfully has kids at all, with all the possible things that can go wrong at each stage of the game.
One of the reasons I write this blog is that I feel strongly that people should know what they’re getting into. I don’t want to scare them, but I do want to prepare them to expect the unexpected. That has become my number one piece of advice when someone tells me they’re pregnant: “Assume that, at some point during your experience, something will go wrong. Everything will hopefully turn out ok on the other side, but mentally and emotionally preparing yourself for something to go wrong will go a long way in being ready for this journey.”
This may not sound like particularly uplifting advice, and in many ways it’s not. But I believe it’s necessary. In my experience, the focus of prenatal education was to somehow make people believe that they were in control of their own perinatal journeys (spoiler alert: they’re not). If you simply ate well and exercised during pregnancy, created a meticulous birth plan, and napped while the baby napped, you’d be golden.
They informed us of the things that could go wrong, but generally adopted the same rosy outlook on those situations. If you had postpartum depression, all you had to do was tell your husband and talk to your doctor and they would magically take care of it. Or, as I wrote about here, you didn’t even have to worry about postpartum psychosis because it was so rare. (Side note: some early evidence indicates that the stress of the pandemic may be making this experience less rare: the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences found that four times as many women at their center suffered from postpartum psychosis during the pandemic compared to previously calculated rates).
Many individual perinatal complications are, blessedly, rare, and yet there are so many out there to choose from that it seems as though everyone I talk to has experienced at least one.
This means that, in my experience, I’ve found an equal, if not greater, amount of unity with others in discussing the sorrows of this journey as the joys.
I’m not trying to tell people to only complain and never talk about how great their kids are or how much they love them.
But I am trying to encourage others to be upfront with each other about the difficulties they’ve faced and the trials and tribulations they’ve been through to earn those kids that they love so much.
It shouldn’t be an either/or. We shouldn’t feel guilty for discussing how traumatic the process of birthing a child can be just because we’re afraid that that will make someone perceive us as weak or abnormal or, worst of all, ungrateful.
I am strong as hell for living with bipolar and still raising a healthy and freakishly happy baby.
I am learning that a seamless experience is much more abnormal than a fractured one. (Plus, putting my shit out there on the internet has made me care a heck of a lot less about who thinks I’m normal anymore- I don’t tend to like normal people very much anyway).
And lastly, I am beyond fucking grateful to have my baby and to even still be here after experiencing postpartum psychosis when she first came into the world. My hardships have put things into perspective and given me the gift of appreciating what I have on a new level.
This may have come across as an angry post (sorry, Mom, for the curse words).
But there’s a lot to be angry about. There’s a lot that we, as a society, should be demanding to make this process easier and less grueling and more forgiving. But the first step of the process is acknowledging the problems. Then recognizing that those problems are NOT a moral failing on your part, but rather a natural, though unfortunate, part of this challenging process. And lastly, remembering that it’s ok for us to ask each other for help or guidance. No one knows what the experience is like better than someone who’s been through it. So talk to someone.
And if you’d like it to be me, I’m here.
Thanks for Reading,
84 miles down, 16 miles to go