During season 4 of Insecure, we saw the show’s power couple Derek and Tiffany transition into parenthood. In previous seasons I never longed to see Tiffany’s character but found myself tuning in every week eager to find out IF and HOW the show would address Tiffany’s mental state after becoming a mom.
When we met Tiffany, we were introduced to a graceful, poised, overly confident, and unbothered woman who stayed dressed to impress from head to toe. So, as the friend who “always has it together’ the changes to her mental state sprinkled throughout the season was unchartered territory for viewers.
As I watched I waited for Tiffany’s husband Derek and best friend Kelly to pick up on the red flags she was throwing at them, but unfortunately, this didn’t happen. It wasn’t until the season finale when Tiffany went missing her friends realized she was not well.
So, let me ask you this.
How many times have we missed the red flags, warning signs, and cues that the ‘Tiffany’ in our lives was having a difficult time adjusting to motherhood? While you think about that, let’s explore some of the red flags Insecure’s new mama, token “strong friend”, our homegirl Tiffany dropped throughout the season.
The Red Flags
This subtle red flag was presented in a conversation between Derek and Lawrence where Derek revealed he and Tiffany didn’t plan to become parents for another two years as they wanted to prioritize purchasing a home and traveling. Approximately 45% of pregnancies in the US are unplanned which can result in an additional layer of stress for parents. So, even though Tiffany is a married woman it does not mean she was ready to become a mother.
When Tiffany’s girlfriends came to her house to fold clothes, hold the baby, and just chat she shared a little about her birth experience. Her story started out witty and in typical Tiffany fashion by saying childbirth “is ugly, and it hurts!”
The conversation quickly transitioned and highlighted the racial disparities Black women face in the US healthcare system, where Tiffany felt ignored and unheard by her medical team. This narrative is common amongst Black women and effects them regardless of their education level, economic status, or social class. Since trauma is subjective, Tiffany, may be among the 9% of women who experience trauma as a result of her birth experience.
Approximately 15% of women experience symptoms of depression after childbirth with Black women being 2-3x more likely to experience these symptoms. Throughout the season there were a few instances where the writer’s highlighted Derek’s bond with his daughter, which exposed Tiffany’s difficulty bonding with her new baby. For instance, Derek received all the phone calls from the babysitter, left the block party early to tend to their daughter, and engaged with her during the majority of the episode when the group visited their home.
In addition, while Tiffany guzzled a glass of her favorite drink at Issa’s block party Molly asked if she was “pumping and dumping” where she responded, “nah it didn’t take, her loss.” Nursing is not a requirement for an instant bond with your baby, but act can release the ‘loving or cuddling’ hormone oxytocin which can increase the bond between mom and baby.
Intrusive AKA Scary thoughts
The last red flag we’re going to explore effects approximately 3-5% of new mothers and is the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.
Postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder
Tiffany’s intrusive aka scary thoughts were presented in casual conversations with her friends where she made statements such as, “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.”
Experiencing intrusive thoughts does not mean a mother loves her baby any less or will act on the thoughts she’s having. In fact, these thoughts can be extremely frightening and worrisome to a new mother as they are oftentimes graphic.
So, now that we’re aware of some of the red flags Tiffany experienced throughout season 3, how can we support our own mental health as we enter motherhood, and wellness of the mothers in our lives?
Tips for birthing & Support Persons
Learn as much as you can about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders as the numbers surrounding the amount of women experiencing them is alarming. In fact, 1 in 5 women suffer from these disorders with 40% of Black women experiencing these issues after childbirth. Despite Black women being 2-3x more likely to experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders than White mothers, they are less likely to receive treatment.
There are several organizations, books, and blogs containing information on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
Postpartum Support International, The Postpartum Stress Center, Shades of Blue Project, The Blue Dot Project, and 2020 Mom
Postpartum Support International, Shades of Blue Project, Sisters in Loss, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, and Cherished Mom
Oh Sis, you’re pregnant! by Shanicia Boswell
Good Moms have Scary Thoughts by Karen Kleiman
What happened to us? by Karen Kleiman
Breathe Mama Breathe by Shonda Moralis
When Postpartum Packs a Punch by Kristina Kowan
Tips for birthing persons: Knowing is half the battle. I have worked with several women who expressed statements like, “I didn’t know this was normal.” Learning about hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, baby blues and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can be extremely beneficial. This can help you identify your own warning signs, normalize your experience, and confirm you are not alone.
Tips for 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 a mom’s behavior and can offer support and guidance on next steps.
Sleep is the #1 protective factor against perinatal mood and anxiety disorders as it can contribute to an increase in anxiety, agitation, irritability, sadness, fatigue, and difficulty making decisions. Despite the helpfulness of sleep many parents suffer from sleep deprivation due to adjusting to life with a new baby.
Tips for birthing persons: Getting enough sleep can be extremely difficult; therefore, adopting habits like a consistent nighttime routine, relaxation activities, prioritizing rest and avoiding unhelpful habits close to bedtime like electronic devices, sweet or spicy foods, high stimulating activities, and limiting alcohol use.
If you’re having difficulty falling back asleep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or lying down with your eyes closed can encourage your body to go back sleep.
Tips for support persons: As a support person you can assist mom by caring for the baby throughout the day, allowing her to take naps, or creating a nighttime sleep schedule where you alternate in who wakes up with the baby.
Ask for help
Asking for help is not an indication of being a bad parent, lazy, and mental weakness. Help can be received form family members, friends, or professional services.
Tips for birthing persons: Creating a list of family members and friends who are willing to help as you embark on your motherhood journey can be extremely helpful. These persons can assist with changing diapers, doing laundry, preparing meals, entertaining older children, or holding the baby. If your list of support persons is limited companies that provide cleaning, laundry, cooking, grocery delivery/pick up, or meal subscription services can be added to your list.
In addition to your immediate support system having a list of trained professionals who support pregnant and postpartum persons such as lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, licensed therapists, and chiropractors close by can helpful if you’re needing professional help.
Tips for support persons: Some new parents find it difficult to ask for help or make decisions; therefore, your assistance is invaluable. If you know a mom who recently had a baby offering specific ways to assist such as “can I do your laundry, drop off a meal, or take your 2-year-old to the park?” can be extremely helpful as she may be overwhelmed and unsure of what she needs.
Show yourself grace
Tips for birthing persons: Being a mother is A LOT of work; therefore, it is extremely important to take care of yourself. One of these ways is by extending yourself grace. You’re deserving of rest, alone time, and to be mentally well. Mama, you’re doing the best you can.
Tips for support persons: On days where it’s difficult for a mother to extend herself grace; your words of encouragement can make a huge difference. Letting her know she is doing a good job, making a difference, and caring for herself is extremely valuable.
Some believe mental health is a part of the human experience and in everything we do; therefore, I appreciate when television shows such as Insecure highlight the effects mental health has on day-to-day life. Seeing the conditions of these characters allows us to take a step back and evaluate the mental health of the people in our lives along with our own mental health. If you believe you may be dealing with some of the same experiences as Tiffany or can identify the Tiffany in your life you are not alone. Finding a person, you feel safe with to discuss how you are feeling is a wonderful place to start in prioritizing your mental health and getting connected to resources.
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Depression during Pregnancy and Postpartum. (2021). Postpartum Support International. https://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/depression/
Medela. (2021). Medela. https://www.medela.com/breastfeeding/mums-journey/bonding-with-newborn
Pregnancy or Postpartum Obsessive Symptoms. (2021). Postpartum Support International. https://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/obsessive-symptoms/
Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (2021). Postpartum Support International. https://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/postpartum-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/
Weese, K. (2018, May 1). Almost half of the pregnancies in the US are unplanned. There’s a surprisingly easy way to change that.https://Www.Washingtonpost.Com/News/Posteverything/Wp/2018/05/01/Almost-Half-of-Pregnancies-in-the-u-s-Are-Unplanned-Theres-a-Surprisingly-Easy-Way-to-Change-That/. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/05/01/almost-half-of-pregnancies-in-the-u-s-are-unplanned-theres-a-surprisingly-easy-way-to-change-that/
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