A Plea for Help

Are you listening?

Posted Jan 19, 2014

People have an innate need to feel cared for.

I’m not so sure why it is so hard for so many women to feel heard and cared for after they have a baby, but it is.

This is a topic I write about frequently. In fact, each time I see a new mother who tells me that no one is listening to her or that she feels totally uncared for, it agitates my sensibilities and I feel compelled to send out an S.O.S. to moms and the PPD community at large.

Time after time I hear women in my office telling me they don’t feel understood. By their partner. Or their doctor. Or their mother, to name only a few.

It’s as if their suffering is invisible, or somehow slips through whatever mechanism is in line to receive it. How does this distress go undetected by some when it seems to others to be blatantly screaming for attention?

What is that?

It could be denial (I don’t have time for this)

It could be rejection (I am so sick of you complaining)

It could be defensive (I don’t think I am able to tolerate your pain)

It could be refusal (I do not have the capacity or interest to response appropriately to this level of pain)

It could be insensitivity (It’s hard for me to comprehend this level of suffering)

It could be selfishness (I’m not sure why your suffering should take precedence over mine)

It could be ignorance (I have never been exposed to this and have no idea how to respond)

It could be distraction (I am not focusing on what I am hearing or perceiving)

And a million other things.

I do my best to educate both sides of this issue. Reminding physicians, parents, siblings, family members, friends, and all healthcare providers that come into contact with new mothers that they need to be informed and especially attuned to what she tells them if she doesn’t feel well.

Make no mistake about it —missing her cry for help can have catastrophic consequences.

Likewise, moms must be equally responsible for making sure they are clearly expressing what they need to say. And if they do not feel heard, they need to say it again and try hard to figure out what is getting in the way of getting their message across. Without a doubt, symptoms get in the way. Moms who are depressed are unmotivated and often feel undeserving of help. They feel flawed and unworthy of attention. This is why those of us who treat women with perinatal depression and anxiety send out urgent pleas to suffering moms to dig deep within the paralyzing darkness and find the nugget of hope that can help them find the words. Say it. Say it again. And then, say it another way. Make sure you are being heard. Even if you think you are saying things that have never been said. Even if you think your thoughts are so bizarre or so weird or so hard to believe that no one will believe you. If you continue to be dismissed, rejected, patronized or ignored you are either telling the wrong people, or have not perfected the skill of making your needs known.

Do not settle for less than you need and deserve. Talk about your postpartum depression. Do this until you feel better. And you will.

copyright 2014 Karen Kleiman 

About the Author

Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, is the founder and Director of The Postpartum Stress Center, a treatment and training center for prenatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.

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