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What Is This Superwoman Syndrome?

postpartum doulas in wilmington north carolina

I recently read a blog that really stirred up some thoughts and questions as far as why we don't reach out for help as new moms, as women. Or when we do it's often well after we tried to do it alone. Why do we just deal or even suffer in silence? Is it because we feel that we have something to prove to ourselves? Is it because of the pressures of everything we have going on? This especially blows my mind because we crave real, raw experiences with our friends, our tribe.

We want a shoulder and we want to be a shoulder for our people to cry on. We want to laugh so hard with each other that our cheeks hurt.

Weddings, birthdays, date nights, ladies night, the day our baby's are born, our children's milestones. We invite people into these spaces to experience them with us.

There is a reason we want to walk through this life with a relatable companion who has been where we are, who is experiencing similar things.

We want a togetherness. A bond.

We want support.

So when we are sitting in our bedrooms with our new baby on our breast for the 12th time that day, negative, doubt filled thoughts racing through our minds; why do we feel the need to carry that alone? Why do we keep that to ourselves?

Yeah eventually we may be talking to our friends and let out a sigh of relief when we realize that she too has felt the same way before or she has had similar thoughts as you. But why do we wait so long? Why do we feel that we must keep these feelings bottled up inside as if to protect those around us from what we are thinking and feeling. And why don't we go any further and ask for more. For help.

As people we poke around and see who is going to truly listen to us. A comment here, a statement there. Will the person you are speaking with respond in a gentle and caring way? Will they brush it off and tell you, it's normal? Or even worse, will you, purposefully or not, be shamed for not enjoying every moment with the "love of your life"?

I know from experience that being told these moments are so short and we should enjoy them doesn't encourage a safe place for my feelings to land.

And we need that.

Often times you'll hear the simple and quite frankly, flippant answer that we have a super mom complex, also known as Superwoman Syndrome. What even is that? I mean am I the only one that feels that term is condescending? My postpartum anxiety and depression did not start because I directly thought I had to be "super" at anything. Of course I wanted to be great to each one of our babies from conception on, but perfectionism or this need to be "super" comes from deeper, different places for different people.

We've put a name to it. We've thrown a labeled blanket over top of women's desires to be heard, seen and understood, individually and personally. Saying women have supermom complex or superwoman syndrome is hardly recognition of what's really going on and honestly, another platitude.

As a mother of five I often hear, "I don't know how you do it." "Wow you are super mom." Just today a new mother of two told me she had serious respect for me for being postpartum and taking care of a newborn with young children multiple times. Every time I hear this from other moms I am my authentic self and every time, I'm honest.

I told her, "Full disclosure, I didn't and don't always do well mentally." And this is the truth.

How do I do it? Sometimes I don't. As a postpartum woman I didn't always juggle healing, breastfeeding, toddlers and to'do's well. Somedays I was convinced I was a failure. Some moments I was so full of postpartum anxiety and desperate for help that I would give just about anything for someone to come spend some time with me. No fast paced agenda, just time.

So why don't we ask for it? Why aren't we really honest with each other on how we are feeling, what we are experiencing. Not after we've made it through the fog, but when we are so far inside the thick of it we can hardly see in front of us. I have thought a lot about this question and wanted to give the answers that came to mind for me. Something to give a bit more understanding and show a heck of a lot more respect for women and families other than the term supermom complex or super woman syndrome. Eww.

As I reflected on WHY I didn't reach out during some incredibly difficult times, these reason {or lies} came up for me.

🖤We don’t want to burden others

🖤We don’t want others to impose their opinions and feel entitled bc we are asking for help.

🖤We don’t want to feel less than.

🖤We want to be able to “do it all” because that's what we are "supposed" to do.

🖤We’re so tired and wrapped up in a number of other thoughts that we literally don’t even think about it.

🖤We think others are too busy with their own lives.

🖤We hear the voice of our mother or grandmother saying “when I raised my kids..”

🖤We feel shame that we don’t have it all together.

🖤We compare our insides with others outsides.

🖤We don’t know who we can trust.

🖤We don’t want to be judged.

🖤We don’t want to be told what we “should” be doing instead.

🖤We don’t want our partners to be judged for what they “aren’t doing”.

🖤We think this is how it’s supposed to be.

🖤We wonder why people aren’t checking in with us more so they must not care to help.

While I do wish that we are all able to reach out before we feel like our ship is starting to sink, just reading these reasons I can see exactly why asking for help does not become priority.

So how do we change this? Well first as a listener you could be exactly that, a listener. People don't continue to reach out often after not feeling heard the first time. So listen and validate. If you're finding it hard to NOT offer up your opinionated advice at every turn, you should work on that.

As the mom needing help, needing to be heard, needing to be validated...find your people and stick to them. Like literally stick to them.

I like to call these people I have velcroed myself to, my life doulas. Find them and keep them close. And when those moments arise that you are SURE there was some mistake made when you were chosen to be some very special little person's person for the next 18 or so years, send an SOS. Call, text, send a hilariously accurate gif or get in your car and drive to see their face.

You are surrounded by millions of women feeling the same way. Rushed, lonely, stretched too thin. So many thoughts and questions running on auto pilot. Find someone who can support you as you recover from birth and connect with this new version of yourself. Someone who understands where you came from and where you are going. We know these remarkable compassionate people as postpartum doulas.

Give us a call today and we will set you up with the most exceptional, in-home support.

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