TW: graphic references to current events
About three days after my daughter was born in 2017, I decided to get my head back into the news. After the hazy fog of sleep deprivation and breastfeeding challenges that characterized the previous 72 hours, I just wanted to know what the fuck was going on in the real world.
I remember sitting in the den, which we had transformed into a makeshift touchdown spot for basically everything because even walking up the stairs was overwhelming in my state of postpartum anxiety.
It was there that I lifted up my iPhone 6 and started to scroll.
The White Supremacists are Marching in Charlottetown. BOOM.
North Korea Has Nuclear Missiles Aimed at North America. BOOM.
I had to physically put my phone down. I remember looking at my newborn baby and feeling dizzy. I had already been struggling with intrusive, graphic thoughts that were like nothing I had heard anyone else talk about.
I was in a very heightened state of anxiety, and as petty as it may sound, these headlines were like an IV line infusing a palpable and physical sense of fear into my body.
I have never believed in apathy. As a cis white straight woman I believe I have an obligation to be aware of the things many don't get the privilege to ignore.
But it was then, in that room, overwhelmed and struggling, that I made the choice to be gentle with myself. To put the phone down and take time. I spent those first months blissfully unaware of what was going.
So much so that, as I packed our family's suitcase to return home from a family trip to Hawaii when my daughter was five-months-old, I missed the message pop up on my phone declaring an inbound ballistic missile threat.
I cannot imagine the abject terror I would have experienced if I had seen the first message, without the second "false alarm" message happily sitting on my lock screen. My phone/news cleanse had saved me from that unfathomable fear.
Then, a couple months after that I was set to return to work. At that point I felt it was my obligation as an adult person in the world – and as a mother who was grasping at ways to feel like that again – to read the news.
When I tell you not much changed in seven months... There were still white supremacists. There were still nuclear threats. And now, there were children in cages at the US/Mexico borders.
With my cleanse concluded, I tore through the stories. Parents and children separated. Children kept in horrendous conditions. Toddlers representing themselves in immigration court hearings. Reunifications with traumatized children.
I felt absolutely paralyzed all over again. I looked at my own baby and the pain of imagining what these parents were experiencing was debilitating. I berated myself for feeling upset about returning to work and not being with her.
In an effort to do something... God, anything... I organized a bake sale (yes, a bake sale. I don't even bake) to raise funds for the organizations that were working on family reunification.
Because the thing about this situation – and every heartbreaking situation like it – is that it leaves us feeling completely powerless. And, honestly? Guilty. Guilty for continuing on with the "minutia" of our own lives.
Today Ukraine is on my mind. Images of premature babies in makeshift, life-saving conditions. Strollers, lined up at the Poland border. And today, as I type, reports that a maternity health care centre was the target of an attack.
This war, like all wars before it, is personal. It lives in the heart of every mother on this planet. We mourn and ache collectively at the images of a murdered family – a mother and her children – attempting to flee.
I can't truthfully keep writing without breaking down, so maybe this is where this blog post stops being polished. Because the truth is, it's too much. It viscerally hurts to picture that situation.
But the headlines keep coming and they don't stop coming.
And let me be clear, this post is not about ignoring reality. But I think there is a valid conversation that needs to happen around postpartum mental health and managing our consumption of media.
I'm nearly five years in and my mental state has never quite returned to what it was before. I wonder, often, if the unstoppable barrage of crushing world events and constant, 24/7 social media access doesn't have something to do with that.
I guess that truth is, I'll never know. But I want to do this: I want to give permission to any new mother or parent who is struggling with their own mental health during the transition to parenthood, to tap out.
Take some time, as much as you need, really, to go inward. If I could go back in time to that version of me as a new mom, suffering from postpartum anxiety, I'd say this:
In the face of world events we all feel powerless... But there is one small, beautiful truth that prevails: we as parents do have one great and immense power.
We have the power to work on healing ourselves so that we may give our children the love they deserve. And that love will change the world.