Dear Strangers, Think Before Saying This to New Moms
Imagine being a new mom in Target trying to get your errands done. Your baby is in their car seat in the shopping cart taking a nap (yay!) and you have a Starbucks coffee happily in hand. So far, a good outing and you are feeling good. Not just about being able to do your errands, but you are feeling good about yourself! Then a stranger approaches you and sees the baby napping and you expect them to say the usual, "Aww, how cute!", "What a sweetie!", etc.
Instead you get something you would not expect someone to say to another human being.
"Oh, you don't matter anymore do you!" Or, "You're invisible now, aren't you!"
I have literally had multiple people say this to me as a new mom. Enough that I brought it up in therapy and my therapist stated that when people say this it must bother me because I am bringing it up to her. That the reason why I see her in the first place is because I have postpartum depression and anxiety (PPD/A). That I feel like I do not matter anymore and that I am invisible. That the only reason why anyone would want to see me is to see my baby.
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I know all of those things are not true, but it can legitimately feel that way when PPD/A has its tight grip on you, squeezing your confidence out. I can feel on top of the world in the morning only to have it all come crashing down by one small comment like that. Because it confirms what the harsh voices are saying in my head. That I do not matter.
When people have said this to me, I do not know how to respond and usually just go with a tight smile and nod. It catches me off guard to be told straight out that I do not matter or that I am invisible. Would that person say that to anyone else? Would you say that to someone out walking their dog? What about two friends out to lunch? Or a bridesmaid in a wedding? Why is it ok to say something like that to a new mom? If you were in that moms shoes, would you want someone saying that to you?
Maybe these people are just saying it as a sort of joke, but did they stop to think that it is not in any way funny? How is telling someone that they don't matter a joke? Especially a new mom who has been through the depths of labor or a c-section, recovery, try to breastfeed, possibly making the decision to use formula, taking care of a small and helpless human, and maybe take a shower. She probably is at Target today because she finally was able to shower and wanted to go out without feeling like she looked like she crawled out of a cave.
One of the craziest parts of all this is that a few of the people saying those things to me are women. If you have gone through being a new mom, you know how it feels to be alone and left with the voices telling you that you do not matter. You have looked at your baby and apologized for being you because you feel like you are not good enough. You have cried by yourself because you are so ashamed of who you are even when you aren't quite sure why.
But, Mama, listen to me. You are good enough. You are great enough. You are the perfect mother for your baby and they love you a tremendous amount. That sweet little baby needs you. You do matter, not just because you are the mother to your incredible tiny human, but because you are you. Aside from being a mother, you have extreme value because you are still the person you were before taking on that role.
So Stranger, if you are in a store and see a new mom and feel compelled to say something, choose words that will build her up and keep her feeling on top of the world. Tell her how adorable her baby is, that never gets old. Tell her she deserves that Starbucks coffee (or buy it for her!), or say hooray for a napping baby so that she can enjoy her Target run. Do not tell her that she does not matter or is invisible because you do not know what is going on in her busy brain. She could be fighting those thoughts at that moment and saying to herself that she does matter.
If you or someone you know is suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety they can reach out for support to organizations like Know the Signs and Postpartum Support International (PSI).