Guest Post by Dr Gillian Sawyer & Jen Reddish: Grief in the Transition into Motherhood
I never even thought this was a possibility until I was sitting in a room with Jen, who you will meet below having this ah-ha moment. About 6 months after having my second baby I started to feel really anxious. I was getting frustrated easily, I was checking out often, I was becoming short with my loved ones, I was angry and overwhelmed. I really was not feeling myself. I started to wonder if postpartum anxiety was creeping in. After several weeks of feeling not good I followed my gut and sought some professional help because navigating all of these feelings seemed like a lot for me to manage on my own with 2 small kids. And I can tell you it’s one of the BEST things I’ve done. Jen and I talked about the transition into motherhood. For me transitioning into motherhood the first time coincided with losing my mom… at interestingly enough 6 months postpartum was right when I started to feel off the second time around. We talked about how some of the feelings that were coming up or that I was expressing outwardly were familiar/easy to express like anger but there was for me a whole lot of underlying grief that was bubbling up. I realized through our sessions that grief is common in transitioning into motherhood for so many women, even if you haven’t lost a loved one.
One significant aspect of the transition into motherhood that is often overlooked is grief. You might be wondering, what does grief have to do with becoming a mother? – This is not something commonly discussed, but there are so many things that a woman must grieve as she enters into the post-partum period.
Grief occurs whenever you experience change, because with every change comes loss. Every woman experiences a multitude of changes as she enters into motherhood, and therefore, she has a lot to grieve. Just to name a few of these changes:
Relationships, day to day activities, thoughts, plans & decisions, our bodies, hormones and emotions. And we are also grieving what our lives used to look like, we are grieving the loss of our former selves, our independence, and often we are grieving the loss of what we wanted/planned for our birth experience & transition into the post-partum period. During pregnancy you probably had thought a lot about what your birth would look like and what it would be like once you had your baby, and the reality doesn’t always meet these expectations, so you need to grieve the loss of what you had wanted and expected.
What grief can look like in the post-partum period:
Noticing frustration or anger coming out more frequently in daily tasks and interactions
Feeling angry or resentful towards your partner for being able to live their life more freely
Feeling anxious or overwhelmed with how much has changed in your life
Trying to live life the same as it was before baby, wishing that things were different or wondering when things will change again/get easier or more manageable
Feeling disconnected from your sense of self and who you are
Feeling isolated and alone
Avoidance of emotions
Acting as if everything is okay and normal, despite struggles that you are experiencing
You might notice that the above list resembles traits of post-partum depression and post-partum anxiety. While it is possible to experience some of these without having post-partum depression or anxiety, it is also common for there to be overlap with these. If you are experiencing any of the above, it might be worthwhile exploring this further with a counsellor or other mental health professional to get support.
Mama’s again, I can’t stress enough the importance of your Mental Health Postpartum. To have access to the video interview with Jen and myself in my upcoming program #YourBodyAfterBaby you can still join the waitlist. The program releases June 27th and will guide you through all things postpartum. I hope you’ll join us!