By: Jareesa Tucker McClure| June 02, 2020
"On Monday, May 25th—my last day of maternity leave after giving birth to my second daughter—yet another Black man, George Floyd, lost his life at the hands of police officers in Minnesota, where I live. In the wake of his death, protesters took to the streets to demand accountability and charges against the officers involved. What started as peaceful protests morphed into the destruction of property, not only in the Twin Cities but across the US.
I've spent the last week cycling through various emotions, from anger to fear to helplessness. My anxiety levels have spiked through the roof, as I worry not only about my husband's safety but my own as well. I've watched my community demand justice for George Floyd and also come together to support those who have been impacted by the uprisings happening throughout the area.
My husband and I have been very intentional in teaching our daughter about Blackness since she was born, using tools like the books we buy her and the toys she plays with. Her favorite books are about Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks, and we've used them to initiate discussions about racism and inequality.
But at this moment, with protests happening all around her, I have an opportunity to share with her what's happening in a way that she can understand. And I'm not alone. In my community of Black moms, virtually all of us are engaging our young children in conversations covering everything from racism and prejudice to protests and uprisings.
Here are some of the phrases I'm using to talk to the young kids in my life about current events.
"Sometimes unfair things happen, and we don't like it."
On some level, every child understands the concept of unfairness. They also know how it feels when something is unfair, and that they don't like it. Using this phrase helps them begin to relate to the unfairness that the protesters are calling out."
By Heather Marcoux
"For nearly 100 years America has seen its historic moments reflected on the cover of TIME magazine, and this week the cover reflects what happens when a nation ignores its own history.The red border around the cover lists the names of 35 Black people killed by fellow Americans and systemic racism and centers the pain of Black mothers as represented in a painting by artist Titus Kaphar.
"In her expression, I see the Black mothers who are unseen, and rendered helpless in this fury against their babies," Kaphar writes in a piece accompanying his painting. "As I listlessly wade through another cycle of violence against Black people, I paint a Black mother … eyes closed, furrowed brow, holding the contour of her loss."
The oil painting is titled Analogous Colors, and Kaphar cut his canvas to symbolize lives cut too short, leaving so many mothers' arms empty."
The names of just a few of the deceased border Kaphar's painting. They are:
Danny Ray Thomas
By: Megan Richardson, LMFT, NCC
"There is no doubt that COVID is putting a strain on a lot of aspects of our life, one of them being our relationships. While some couples may find that spending extra time with their spouse is creating additional problems in the relationship that once did not exist, many couples are also finding prior relationship concerns are now being placed into a spotlight that may have been easy to avoid or ignore before.I am a strong believer in the fact that the goal of relationships is surprisingly not to feel happy all the time, as it can be easy to blame unhappiness on a partner when there may be other contributing factors. Instead, it is important to acknowledge what you may be feeling in your relationship so that you can take action to address your emotional reactions.
Aside from being in a relationship where you or your children’s safety is at risk, unhappiness may not actually be a good reason to end a relationship. Our partners were not created to make us happy, just like we should not be expected to make our partners happy. Couples often find relief in learning most relationships go through seasons where they do not necessarily feel happy but can still have a satisfying experience in the long term if they remain committed and work on their relationship concerns. Happiness can be worked on. Couples who end relationships because they are unhappy often continue to find themselves unhappy outside of the relationship, as well.
So while it can be easy to blame your unhappiness on your partner, it may not be all of their fault.
If you find yourself feeling especially irritated with your spouse since the start of the quarantine, you are not alone. But it also may not be their fault."
By Meghan Holohan| April 20, 2020
"After experiencing infertility for almost four years, Sarah and Brian Piett felt thrilled to welcome their new son, Brooks, on February 26. Soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed life. Now friends and family can’t meet the baby or offer to babysit. As the quarantine lingers, Sarah feels more listless, worried and frustrated.
“Our whole family has really been waiting for Brooks forever and have been on this journey with us. We finally have our baby and nobody can even see him,” the 29-year-old recovery room nurse from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, told TODAY Parents. “I’ve cried a lot.”
"After facing infertility for almost four years, the Pietts were excited to finally welcome a baby. But that feeling lessened as stay-at-home orders means Sarah feels isolated." -- Courtesy of the Piett family
"Sarah struggled to breastfeed and a phone call with the lactation consultant made her feel guilty about pumping and supplementing with formula. She wishes she had a little more help around the house or could even go to a moms group or walk around a mall.
“I love my baby and I love holding him,” she said. “Sometimes you wish that somebody was here just to hold him for like five minutes to give you a break.”
At her six-week follow up appointment, she scored high on a diagnostic test for postpartum depression. Her doctor gave her a prescription and a therapist recommendation. She feels like being isolated is making her depression and anxiety more severe.
“It sounds so selfish but I keep thinking this isn’t the maternity leave I envisioned. I thought I’d be able to see friends and they’d be able to see my baby and enjoy him,” Piett said. “It just totally all around completely sucks.”
By Anne Miller| April 15, 2020
"When the first pregnancy arrives with little effort, struggling to conceive again can come as a shock."
"The doctor sketched a rough outline of my reproductive organs and nearby anatomy as she talked. The black lines on white paper seemed so sparse, when in reality they represented our hopes for the future. My husband and I had a healthy, smart, sassy, thriving preschooler; but we wanted another child. And with the relative ease of our first pregnancy — three months of trying followed by a clockwork 40 weeks (and three days) of pregnancy — we assumed the second would come easily.
Instead, it took us a little more than two years to conceive. The process hit us like a shock wave, draining our savings and deflating our dreams.
The doctors called it secondary infertility, a sometimes nebulous term that’s often given to women (or couples) who have successfully given birth but are struggling to get or stay pregnant again. As with regular infertility, it’s diagnosed in women who can’t seem to conceive after trying for a year or more (if they’re under 35); or for six months or more (if they’re 35 or older).
For many women, a secondary infertility diagnosis can come as a shock — if you’ve had a baby once, why shouldn’t you be able to have another?
“I had heard that secondary infertility was possible, but I never thought it would happen to us,” said Shannon Stockton, a mom of two girls who are more than eight years apart. “I had gotten pregnant so easily the first time.”
Stockton, who works as an executive assistant for a medical nonprofit, had her first daughter at 28, and hoped to have a second child four or five years later. She and her husband started trying again when she was 33, but she didn’t give birth until she was 37.
“Why couldn’t we figure out the timing? Why wouldn’t our bodies do what they were supposed to do?” they wondered. Their diagnosis: unexplained secondary infertility."
Sixteen women on their personal transformations.
"I Started Saying Yes to No"
By Casey Wilson
"I am a yes person. Shonda Rhimes lived a “Year of Yes” and I have lived a lifetime of yes. In fact, I prided myself on coming from a place of yes, emotionally, whatever that means?
Yes, I'll take a red eye to be at your bachelorette party.
Yes, I'll help the male stripper round up his lose clothes after the music has stopped and everyone else stands around in horrified silence.
Yes, I'll co-lead a self-help retreat for friends in Joshua Tree, despite the fact my own life is in utter shambles.
Yes, I'll hurt when no one wants to attend!
Yes, I'll go to couples therapy with a boyfriend for a year after we stop dating to "tie up loose ends."
Yes, I'll suport your pyramid scheme and buy your chalky shakes and bad jewelry and Flat Earth pamphlets.
Yes, I'll sell those items myself, to little success.
Yes, I'll host. Yes, I'll speak. Yes, I'll march. Yes, I'll give. Yes, I'll be there. And here. And everywhere.
And perhaps most upsetting: Yes, I'll go to your one-person show.
And then I had children. Two spirited little boys. Suddenly I was barely getting to or even halfway doing the things I cared about most: working, deepening my marriage, tending to my precious female friendships, fighting for change and watching every episode of "The Real Housewives."
Something had to give, and it wasn't gonna be The Housewives. It became clear I had to drill down on what was truly necessary. That meant only doing the things it felt (as a friend puts it) "joyful for my spirit to do." I imposed a Marie Kondo-like approach to social commitments and anything that extended beyond the rewarding (yet relentless!) work of motherhood.
It's still hard for me to say no. It's simply not in my nature. I hate to disappoint people, be they a boss or a male stripper. But nothing forces you to create boundaries like having kids. We have only so much energy. I have, maybe, almost...none?
Because that sound we have always been aware of, that dim hum that has been running under our entire lives, grows louder as children are ushered in. It's the hum of mortality.
There's only so much time. We must say no in order to say yes to what is most essential.
Until the time comes to say goodbye."
"I Started to Worry About Failure"
By Nikole Hannah-Jones
"I grew up in a dysfunctional household because my father was an alcoholic, and when I was young, I would lie in my twin bed next to the window and write out the life I planned to lead when I grew up and gained control. I still have the battered, sunshine-colored notebook in which I plotted my future.
Our family was working class. We had no wealth and no family connections to open doors, but the one advantage I can claim was unwavering confidence in my ability to change my circumstance. I did not trust many people, but I trusted myself absolutely.
Even as a young child, I believed in my mind, my work ethic and my ambition. And so, my journal did not record my hopes for the future. It recorded what would be.
I have been afraid of many things in my life, but failure was not one of the. Until I had my daughter.
Because of my childhood, I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about all the things I would never do as a parent, all the ways I would be better. I had a determination to create the home life for my dhild that I wished I had growing up.
Yet before she breathed her first breath, when she was just a flutter in my stomach, I began to feel a tightness in my chest driven by a fear that I would not be up to the task. That no matter how much I loved her, I would make so many mistakes, mistakes I likely would not even know I was making, mistakes that would somehow scar my child the way that I feel scarred.I likely would not even know I was making mistakes that would somehow scar my child the way that I feel scarred. The confident control I have exercised over my entire life feels so tenuous now that I am in charge of raising another human being who is witnessing me and all my flaws while her personhood is being formed.
Even now as I now have more empathy for my own parents, I am consumed by the fear that in the most important venture in my life, I will fail. So when my daughter was just a baby, I started writing a journal to her. Over the pages, I tell her how much I love her, how much she means to me, how she has changed my life, and own up when I make mistakes.
My hope is that one day when she is grown up, this journal will allow her to extend me some grace for the failures I know I will make. It is a strange conversion. As a child, I did not find hope a useful thing. But now that I have my own, I often feel as if hope is all that I have."
By Alexander Sacks, MD + Catherine Birndorf, MD| May 9, 2019
Photo: Michelle Kondrich
"Thoughts like these are completely normal, but many new moms feel ashamed of having them. Here’s how to let go of self-judgment and too-high expectations, from reproductive psychiatrists Alexandra Sacks and Catherine Birndorf.
I’ve have been working in women’s mental health for the past decade and my mission has been to educate people about the identity shift that occurs with motherhood, a phase called “matrescence.” Like adolescence, this developmental transition is hormonal, physical and emotional — all at the same time. But unlike adolescence, this transition hasn’t been part of the public discourse, and new mothers often end up judging themselves for these natural feelings. Of course, this conversation also includes the transitions of fathers, partners, and non-birthing parents. To cover the experience of matrescence from pregnancy through motherhood, I coauthored (with reproductive psychiatrist Catherine Birndorf, MD) the new book What No One Tells You; below is an excerpt.
If you’re interested in learning more about the subject and hearing real women’s stories, I invite you to listen to my new podcast “Motherhood Sessions,” where I sit down with mothers and share therapeutic conversations about guilt, perfectionism and many other human struggles. My hope is that by reducing stigma and shame around these topics we can all start to better understand the mothers in our lives — whether it’s yourself or someone you know and love. —Alexandra Sacks, MD
We often hear moms whisper in hushed tones something they’d never tell their friends or partner: “Sometimes I wish I had my old life back.”
Or they wonder, “Am I a bad mother because sometimes I’d rather take a nap than nurse my baby?” These ambivalent thoughts are completely natural, yet many moms feel ashamed of them. We call this the push and pull of motherhood — sometimes you’ll feel pulled toward your baby’s needs and your identity as a mother, and sometimes you’ll want to push it all away.
Motherhood, like all complex experiences, is a mix of both positive and negative.
Loving your child doesn’t change the fact that sometimes the work of caretaking is not fun. Yet for many moms, admitting that there are moments, days or weeks when you want a break is scary, because it can make you ask yourself: “Am I trapped with this feeling forever? What if I made a mistake? Does this mean I don’t love my baby?”
Ambivalence comes up when you find your attention is pushed away from your baby to care for yourself and others in your life, and you don’t know how to make it all work.
With every choice, someone gets shortchanged. How are you not going to feel guilty about leaving a meeting at work to go to the pediatrician? Or sleeping an extra 15 minutes while your baby is fussing, only to find him lying in spit-up? And what about when you’re with the baby but really thinking about returning a friend’s call, replying to a work email, eating dinner with your partner, or sleeping?"
How to shift your mind-set from giving so much of yourself to others.
By Pooja Lakshmin| May 5, 2020
Photo: Dadu Shin
"I was teaching a group of new mothers a few years ago how to recognize postpartum depression and anxiety when a woman raised her hand. “My work is letting me take an extra two weeks of paid maternity leave. I don’t know what to do. I feel bad if I take it. My team will have to pick up the slack. I feel bad if I don’t. I’d be giving up precious time with my daughter.” I responded, “Is there any option you wouldn’t feel bad about taking?”
As a perinatal psychiatrist who takes care of women coping with the transition to motherhood, I meet mothers who lean into their guilt like it’s a security blanket and hold up their self-sacrifice as a badge of honor. Adopting a martyr identity doesn’t always correlate to clinical depression or anxiety. It’s a role that women can inhabit even without a diagnosable mental health condition.
I don’t blame those mothers for shielding themselves under a cloak of suffering. Appearing too well adjusted can be a liability. Leaving your kids in the car for three minutes to get a coffee can be grounds for a call to Child Protective Services and daring to bottle-feed your baby without trying to breastfeed can lead to criticism from strangers.
In 1996 Sharon Hays, Ph.D., a sociologist, coined the term “intensive mothering” to describe parenting that is “child-centered, expert-guided, emotionally absorbing, labor-intensive and financially expensive.” Two decades later, the mental load describes the invisible labor that goes into running a family. We still find ourselves living in a world where most mothers, even while working outside the home, bear the brunt of household work. The coronavirus pandemic only seems to be intensifying that pressure."
Postpartum is already changing. What about during COVID-19?
By Margaret M. Quinlan, Ph.D., Bethany Johnson, MPhil, M.A.| April 22,2020
"Maggie and I are both fascinated by social media discourse, and particularly any conversations that center around bodies and health crises. We've researched the infertility community on Instagram (Bethany never thought to turn to Instagram during treatment), and then we had to make an account for work. This was a very awkward endeavor for us (trained academics who don't have experience marketing our research), but the upside is we've met some incredible people.
Today we are interviewing Chelsea Skaggs of Postpartum Together. Not only does she have an excellent Instagram account with relatable, vulnerable images, but she fosters necessary dialogue about the difficulties of the postpartum period, and she runs an online group for newly postpartum folks. We began by discussing COVID-19 and the postpartum experience, then we asked about her work.
As someone who works with postpartum women, how do you think COVID-19 is changing postpartum experiences right now?
We are seeing a lot of changes for women who are entering postpartum during this season. First of all, many women are grieving the loss of a picture they had in their mind—from the birth experience to bringing baby home to meet the family to have more in-person support. We must have permission and space to grieve that loss while also holding the gratitude women have for this time of their lives. (I remind people that grief and gratitude are not mutually exclusive!)
We have to get more creative with support—how do we stay connected to friends and family and other aspects that make women feel like themselves? Postpartum can be an isolating time already, so adding on social distancing means women need, more than ever, more access to virtual supports and resources to keep them connected. On the flip side, some women have the chance to embrace the slow-down of postpartum. So many other cultures prioritize a slow transition, and in America, we are typically more fast-paced. With COVID-19, many women have the chance to step back, slow down, and have that time to rest and restore while having intimate time with the immediate family."
"How are you and your family doing in all this?
Every day is different for us. I know personally having things I can't control is an anxiety trigger, so I have been extra mindful to carve out time for joy and being present. I am also tempted to measure my value in how productive I am, and right now, my brain needs a lot more time to restore (more sleep and downtime), and I've had to challenge the belief I've held all my life about productivity.
It has been very introspective. Some days feel heavy—seeing the impact on our family, our friends, and extended family, but it also feels so refreshing to be living with fewer complications. The pandemic allows us to remove some of the stressors our family was falling into that aren't part of our values; ultimately, we have "sifted out" things, and I appreciate that. I wish it weren't because of such tough circumstances."
By Dr. Pragya Agarwal| March 8, 2020
"Fertility treatment is on the increase in the U.K., approaching 68,000 treatment cycles carried out every year and approximately 1 in 6 couples (3.5 million people) affected. One in 8 women of reproductive age may face problems when trying to conceive a child, which makes infertility more common than Type 2 diabetes. In 2015, 73,000 babies were born using assisted reproductive technologies, a number that has doubled in the last decade. But, it is still being treated as a niche issue.
Michelle Obama, upon the release of her memoir in late 2018, revealed that she and her husband Barack Obama had used IVF to conceive their daughters and opened up the public discourse around infertility. However, there are no clear workplace policy guidelines on the kind of support that individuals undergoing fertility treatments should expect to receive. Paid paternity and maternity leave has been a subject of discussion and debate in recent years, therefore aiming to make workplaces more inclusive for parents, and women in general. But, fertility treatments have been largely seen as a private matter, and not the subject of robust policy discussions.
In most cases, infertility is surrounded by silence and stigma and women, in particular, are reluctant to share this in the workplace, for fear of being stereotyped. In general, women already face a number of barriers and biases in the workplace. Mothers specifically face a motherhood penalty even before they have a child. In a study published in the American Psychological Association, Eden King shows that discrimination starts the moment a woman announces that she is pregnant. Women encountered more subtle discrimination in the form of rudeness, hostility, decreased eye contact and attempts to cut off the interaction when they appeared to be pregnant (wearing a pregnancy prosthesis) while applying for jobs in retail stores than when the same women did not appear to be pregnant. Implicit unconscious biases and stereotypes are at play here, as women are being penalized for acting out of their feminine stereotype. The study shows that these acts of subtle sexism and microaggressions starting when a woman announces their pregnancy puts her firmly on the "mommy track" and can have a huge impact on her decision to leave the workforce. Women who become mothers also earn less than their childless peers."