Hi Friends! Thanks for joining me again on the blog. If you’re new here, WELCOME! And if you’re a vet, WELCOME BACK!
July 19th-25th is Black Maternal Mental Health Week, and I am extremely excited to spread awareness and break the stigma surrounding the mental health of Black mamas.
A few weeks ago, in my post, Dads Matter Too, I referenced how one of my favorite TV shows, Insecure, showcased Derek & Tiffany’s transition into parenthood. In previous seasons I never longed to see Tiffany as Kelly is my favorite character, but season 3 was different. Every week I tuned in anxiously waiting to see Tiffany’s storyline.
The Therapist & Coach in me was eager to see IF and HOW the show would address Tiffany’s mental state after becoming a mama. Overall, I think the show did a good job of sprinkling signs of Tiffany’s mental health throughout the season, but I wondered if it was enough?
Did I catch the red flags because of my profession or where these signs noticeable to everyone?
As a viewer I waited for Derek or Kelly to pick up on the red flags Tiffany was throwing at them as I didn’t have hope in Molly or Issa.
But unfortunately, this didn’t happen. It was not until the season finale when Tiffany went missing that her girlfriends realized something was wrong. That was when they realized their home girl was not well.
Ever since Tiffany’s character was introduced, she has had it all together. Dressed from head to toe, poised, graceful, and unbothered. So, a drastic change in her mental state is unchartered territory for her and her support system.
So, let me ask you this…
How many times have we missed the red flags, the warning signs, the cues that the ‘Tiffany’ in our lives is having a difficult time adjusting to motherhood?
While you think on that let’s explore some of the red flags Insecure’s new mama, the token “strong friend”, our homegirl Tiffany dropped throughout the last season.
The Red Flags
Unplanned pregnancy: Even though Tiffany is married that does not mean she was ready to have a baby. If you think back to the conversation between Derek and Lawrence, he revealed they did not plan to have a baby for another two years so they could purchase a home and travel the world. This red flag is subtle, but hits close to home.
When asked if my husband and I planned to have our son my answer is always yes and no, as I got pregnant only one month after stopping birth control. A significant amount of pregnancies are unplanned and this unexpected news may add an additional layer of stress. So, it is important to keep in mind that being married is not a pre-requisite for a planned pregnancy.
Birth trauma: When the girls came to Tiffany’s house to fold clothes, hold the baby, and just chat (which I thought was amazing) she shared a little about her birth experience. This short conversation between Tiffany, Issa, Molly, and Kelly hit on A LOT.
In classic Tiffany fashion she mentioned that giving birth was “ugly” and “it hurts!” Even though every woman may not share Tiffany’s views on labor and delivery I agree with her 100% as my labor and delivery was not a pretty sight.
Tiffany also shared that she felt like her medical team was not listening to her. She felt like she was going to pass out and expressed being lucky that her husband was there to advocate for her because she later found out she had a blood clot.
Trauma is subjective as what one person finds traumatic another person may not. My story is not like Tiffany’s as I did not have any major medical concerns or complications during my labor and delivery (aside from receiving oxygen). But personally (please note I said personally not professionally) I believe every woman experiences some form of physical or mental trauma from giving birth. But hey that is just me.
Per the CDC (2019), Black women are 3x more likely to die during childbirth; therefore, it is possible Tiffany may have experienced some form of birth trauma as a result of feeling that her concerns where not taken seriously by the medical staff, or if you agree with my personal theory solely by giving birth.
Difficulty bonding: Issa’s block party was jam packed with red flags from Tiffany. In this episode Tiffany revealed that she was no longer breastfeeding after being asked if she was “pumping and dumping” where she responded, “nah it didn’t take… her loss.”
Breastfeeding is not a requirement for an instant bond between mommy and baby, but I am curious as to how this may have affected Tiffany and “why it didn’t take?” This conversation seemed to raise some suspensions for Kelly as she did a quick check in by asking, “you good?”
I get it a block party is not an ideal place to have this conversation so it didn’t go much further than that. But I would have liked to see Kelly check in with Tiffany during their car ride home or at a later time in the show.
Also, during the scenes at Derek and Tiffany’s home and in the block party episode we hear Tiffany compliment Derek’s actions as a dad and see him interacting with their baby.
At their home Derek is the one who tended to their daughter when we heard her crying over the monitor, received the phone call about her inability to be calmed while they are at the block party, and is the one who went home while Tiffany remained out with her friends. I believe the show showcased Derek’s instant bond with his daughter as a way to highlight Tiffany’s difficulty bonding.
Intrusive AKA Scary thoughts: The last red flag we are going to explore are Tiffany’s intrusive aka scary thoughts.
During various conversations with her girlfriends Tiffany made statements like, “we should always leave the baby at home”, “I want to leave her at the supermarket one day”, and “Don’t rile her up, I only like her when she’s chill.”
I believe these comments were the show’s way of highlighting scary thoughts some mamas experience after giving birth. If you recall when Tiffany made these statements, she did in a casual nature which may be why her friends never explored these thoughts with her further.
Experiencing scary thoughts can be extremely alarming and worrisome to a new mama as they’re unwanted and can be graphic. It is also important to keep in mind that having intrusive thoughts does not mean you love your baby any less or you are going to act on these thoughts.
Mama, you can experience scary thoughts and still be a good mom.
So, now that we know some of the red flags what can we do as mamas and support people?
Tips for Mamas & support people
Do your research and learn as much as you can about maternal mental health and perinatal mood disorders. There are several organizations, books, blogs, and let’s not forget about good ol’ Google where you can find tons of information regarding the mental health of new mamas.
Mamas: Knowing is half the battle. I have worked with several women who said, “I didn’t know this was normal.” Learning about hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, baby blues, postpartum anxiety, depression, & other diagnosis can be extremely beneficial as it can help you identify some of your own warning signs, normalize your experience, and confirm that you are not alone.
Support Persons: As a support person it can be extremely helpful for you to learn about maternal mental health and perinatal mood disorders as well. As the outside person looking in you may notice changes to the mama’s behavior that she may not see at the time and can offer support and guidance on next steps.
Some of my go to resources
Mamas: Before you roll your eyes and skip to the next tip hear me out. As a mama who has struggled with sleep with my little one, I stand with you in that struggle. One question I always ask clients is, “how is your sleep?” as it plays a tremendous role in their daily functioning and mental state. Sometimes it is easier said than done but incorporating helpful sleep habits can go a long way as sleep deprivation can contribute to an increase in anxiety, agitation, irritability, sadness, fatigue, and difficulty making decisions.
In my post Dear Sleep, I Miss You Part II, I shared a few sleep hygiene tips that I have been incorporating into my nightly routine. In addition to those tips it may be helpful to develop a nighttime “waking schedule” with your support person (if you are exclusively nursing I know this can be tough), avoid sweet & spicy foods a few hours before bed, high stimulating activities, and limiting alcohol use.
If you find yourself having trouble falling back asleep you can do breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation (tighten & loosen body parts), or simply continue to lay down with your eyes closed as a way to encourage yourself to go back to sleep by resting your body.
Support Persons: If you live with mom, it can be extremely beneficial to tag team the little one at night. Again, this can be difficult if mom is exclusively nursing. When I returned home from the hospital and was in a lot of physical pain my husband helped by getting my son out of the bassinet until I was able to do it on my own.
If you do not live with mom, it can be helpful to watch the little one(s) when you visit so she can nap or just lay down and rest.
Mamas: In all honesty, being a mother is A LOT of work; therefore, it is extremely important to take care of yourself. Not just physically, but mentally. I have shared this before on the blog, but the best piece of advice I was given prior to having my son is to show yourself GRACE. Your mental health matters mama so showing and extending yourself grace daily is a must.
And mama, if you find that connecting and bonding with your baby is a challenge keep in mind that for every woman it is not always love at first sight. Our babies are little strangers we are developing a new relationship with. So, keep at it. I encourage you to talk, sing, smile, and play with your baby even when you don’t want too. So, pull out your favorite magazine, blog, and jam out to your favorite song.
Show yourself some grace mama! You’re doing the best you can.
Support persons: Your words of encouragement can go a long way. Let the mama in your life know that she is doing a good job, making a difference, and that it is important for her to care for herself. On the days where it is difficult for her to extend herself grace your words may make all the difference.
Ask for help
Mamas: Please, please, please ask for help. You are not weak or a bad mom by asking for help. Make a list of your support people and various tasks they can do such as changing diapers, laundry, preparing meals, entertaining older children, or holding the baby.
In addition to you support system there are professionals who are trained to help you during your recovery period such as lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, or licensed therapists & mental wellness coaches such as myself. You do not have to go at this alone.
Support persons: If you know a mama who recently had a baby, she may not know what she needs; therefore, it can be helpful to turn general questions such as, “is there anything I can do to help” into something more specific such as, “can I do your laundry, drop off a meal, or take your 2-year old to the park?”
The key is to be very specific when offering to help.
I know you just read A LOT of information, but I hope you found it helpful in some way. I believe mental health is in everything we do; therefore, I appreciate when shows such as Insecure showcase it in their storylines because it forces us to take a step back and think about these important topics.
The mental health of our mamas is a topic we need to continue to discuss. I have worked with clients and have repeatedly heard them say, “I wish I would have known this was normal.” Or “I wish I would have known that earlier.” I am excited to announce that I will be offering a group called, A Postpartum State of Mind. This 6-week re-occurring group was created for pregnant woman to educate, normalize, and validate the changes they may experience to their mental health after having a baby. If you would like to know more about this group please click this link and set up a time for us to chat.
Did you experience any changes to your mental health after having your baby(ies)? If so, let me know in the comments, and please share with a mama who may benefit from this information.
See you next time,
If you are a mama who has experienced changes to your mental health, I want you to know you are not alone.
**If you need any additional support as you navigate motherhood schedule a 15-minute consultation with Patience today. You are not alone mama.**
Racial and Ethnic Disparities Continue in Pregnancy-Related Deaths | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC. (2019). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0905-racial-ethnic-disparities-pregnancy-deaths.html
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