05 December 2012

You just don't realize how lucky you are

As I've said before, a question that I hear a lot is "What can I do to help?" or "What should I say to my friend who's struggling with *insert PPMD here*?". I've written about things that can help; today, I'd like to discuss what NOT to say.

One of the things that irritates me to no end is when people say things like "Well you just don't know how lucky you are that your baby is healthy" or "You're luckier than you realize". That type of statement can get me seeing red and breathing fire in about the same amount of time it takes my dog to jump up on the chair to pull a plate of food off of the middle of the dining room table, which is to say, pretty darned fast. My feelings about that genre of statement are complex and I doubt that I can adequately express why I feel the way I do (or even the extent of how I feel) but I'm going to give it a shot.

Whether or not the person spouting this pearl of wisdom realizes it, this type of statement assigns blame to the mother for feeling the things she feels, for fighting the battle she's fighting. The message is that if you would just REALIZE how lucky you are, your troubles would disappear. For one thing, we're not stupid. For those of us with healthy babies, we know we're lucky. I think mos - if not all - of us know at least one person whose baby had to stay in the NICU with health problems, was stillborn, died after birth, etc. We KNOW how easily it could be us watching our baby fight to survive. For some women, they have been there before, You're not telling us anything we don't know and you're not giving us some great key to unlock the door that will magically release us from whatever battle we're fighting.

If it were as easy as realizing how lucky we were, don't you think that the number of women suffering from PPMD would be significantly lower, if not completely erased? One of the things that made it so hard for me to seek help the first time around was knowing how lucky I was and feeling guilty for not being "more appreciative and grateful for that".

If you say or have said this, you probably didn't even realize that it can (and often does) come across like this. But now that you do know, please don't say it to us any more. Regardless of whether we're dealing with baby blues in the first few weeks postpartum, or a more serious PPMD such as Postpartum Depression, we don't need to hear that we "just need to realize how lucky [we] are". We already know; it doesn't help.


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