From the time a new baby arrives, a woman needs more support than ever as she embarks on her motherhood journey. It’s one that is bound by a rollercoaster of highs and lows as she finds her footing in this new stage of life.
Between sleep deprivation, drastic hormonal changes in her body, and the unrealistic societal expectations of what motherhood ‘should’ look like, the postpartum period is one of the most challenging times for many new mothers. Coupled with the fact that 25-34% of women report traumatic birth experiences, it’s no wonder her mental well-being is at risk.
And the numbers show for it.
20-25% of women in the U.S. experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, which includes postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
It underscores the need for a wider, systemic change to support one of women’s most basic rights – improved care during birth and the postpartum period.
That’s why 150 changemakers, non-profits, and everyday moms from across the country are joining forces in Washington, D.C. to advocate for improved maternal health access at the 3-day Mom Congress Conference in May.
Because through each birth emerges a rebirth of a woman who is forever changed, and we need to do better in celebrating her role by better supporting her health and wellbeing.
As they look back at their own birth experiences, these 13 Mom Congress mothers reflect and share their words of encouragement to themselves as a new mom.
Grow through the discomfort.
“It’s going to be absolutely transformational in every aspect of your life—and it’s almost all for the better. But that growth and change is on the other side of many hard things: giving birth, learning to breastfeed, adjusting to the financial burden on parenthood and finding your footing as a working mother.” – Liz Tenety, Co-Founder & Chief Digital Officer of Motherly
It takes a village.
“Share as much as possible with friends and loved ones throughout the process of becoming a mother, from pregnancy all the way through the postpartum period and beyond. As a mother of teens now, I believe wholeheartedly in sharing our experiences with others to help prepare us for what is to come and to bring comfort in times of need or isolation. Motherhood is an endurance game. Once a mother, a mother you will always be. I love the African proverb, ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ “ – Christy Turlington Burns, Founder of Every Mother Counts.
Find your own way.
“Take a deep breath and enjoy this time, because it goes by quickly. Nothing has to be perfect; in fact, it’s better if it isn’t. You will figure out what works best for you and your baby.
Ask for help, and listen to your friends, your nurses and doctors, aunts, mom, mom-in-law. They all have great tips and insights, but you will be the one who figures out your own formula, your secret recipe that will work for you and your baby.” – Beth Battaglino, CEO of HealthyWomen
You are a mother, no matter what.
“You are a mother, even without a living child. The first time I became a mother was when my son was stillborn and this doesn’t make sense in our society. Now I tell other mamas who lose their child that they are indeed mothers, and transition into their role as a mother during pregnancy.” – Kiley Krekorian Hanish, Founder of Return to Zero: H.O.P.E., Los Angeles, CA
You deserve care too.
“You are not alone, nor weak. You are just going through changes, and every change requires time to adapt. Stop judging every action you take, because you are an amazing mom. Don’t feel bad when you focus on yourself, because the only thing your baby needs is a healthy, happy mom.” – Lorena Garcia, co-founder of Majka
Give yourself time and grace.
“You’re not forgotten – who you were, what you dreamed of, what you hoped for – it still matters, even if it’s hidden away in your heart. You’re not supposed to have it all figured out. Time will be your best teacher and healer. With time comes healing, acceptance, confidence, & understanding.” – Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Maternal Health Expert, San Diego, CA
Trust in yourself.
“It’s all going to work out. Take time to sit and breathe more often. These big worries in your head are just stories you are telling yourself, they are not truth. The truth is you will figure this all out, one step at a time.” – Kate Rope, Author of ‘Strong as a Mother’, Atlanta, Georgia
Get the help (and sleep) you need.
“Remember to take care of yourself in order to be a better mom. Asking and accepting help is really brave and absolutely not a sign of weakness. Don’t compare yourself to others, because out of the 24 hours in the day, sleep is more important than negative self-talk.” – Courtney Haller, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Maryville University, St. Louis, MO
Perfect doesn’t exist.
“As an expecting mom, you’re surrounded by expectations that birthing and caring for a baby is easy. Everyone is happy, there are no problems and life is a breeze. This is far from the truth, and that it’s okay. You don’t have to be the perfect, smiling mom who has it all together. There is no shame in struggling or in feeling things other than happiness. You’re going to be okay. Your children are going to be okay. And you’re going to use what you know to make a difference.” – Casey Newman, Akron, OH
Embrace your inner warrior.
“Every morning you look at yourself in the mirror, tell yourself that you’re a warrior, because that is what you are. You have created, carried and birthed a beautiful little person. You will have battle scars to show it, whether it is on your belly from your C-section, under your eyes from lack of sleep, or your hair from lack of maintenance or showers. These are all beautiful signs to show that you have created life and that you are a warrior.” – Leah Bahrencu, Personal Trainer & Wellness Consultant, Austin, TX
Put your mental health first.
“There are no societal pressures or expectations that are worth your mental stability. Put money aside for a postpartum doula and accept more help from family and friends. It’s time to stop pretending that you have it all together.” – Kristina Dulaney, Founder of Cherished Mom, Johnson City, TN
Vulnerability is strength.
“To love a child is to figure out how to love yourself, which now requires you to figure out the kind of woman you want them to see in you. Find strength in being vulnerable, and in knowing that your feelings inform you of your power.” – Mara Watts, Northern Virginia Coordinator, Postpartum Support Virginia
You will create change.
“The early months are so hard, it’s like being hit with a ton of bricks in so many ways. But you have great support, and will get through it. The hormone-related anxiety doesn’t help and things will be a little rocky, but your body will adjust. In 9 years with non-profit organizations and other mothers who have had incredibly difficult birth experiences and very little support, you will be planning something really amazing, called Mom Congress.” – Joy Burkhard, founder of 2020 Mom and Mom Congress