Some of you need today’s episode. Some of you may think it’s a little extreme. If so, it will give you a look into an experience that many other moms are having, that luckily you didn’t. So either way there is something to be learned, or a new perspective to be gained. My guest, Marissa, a licensed marriage and family therapist, talks about broadening the postpartum depression diagnosis, and even abandoning it in some cases. She talks candidly about her own rocky transition into motherhood as a therapist and mother, and how it forced her to rethink everything, including coining a controversial new term that she thinks will help struggling new moms to avoid depression. We talk about anxiety, taboos, mom guilt, postpartum myths few mothers say out loud, experimenting with out-of-the-box norms in our home, and we debate our differing viewpoints on self-care. Also, I may or may not sing the world’s most annoying Gymboree song.
Brandy: Hello, Adult Conversation Podcast listeners. Some of you need today’s episode. Some of you may think it’s a little extreme. If so, it will give you a look into an experience that many other moms are having, but luckily, you didn’t. So, either way there’s something to be learned here, or a new perspective to be gained. My guest, Marissa, a licensed marriage and family therapist, talks about broadening the postpartum depression diagnosis, and even abandoning it, in some cases. She talks candidly about her own rocky transition into motherhood as a therapist and a mother, and how it forced her to rethink everything, including coining a controversial new term that she thinks will actually help struggling new moms to avoid depression. We talk about anxiety, taboos, mom guilt, postpartum myths, saying yes to the things we automatically say no to (and vice versa), experimenting with new norms in our home, and we debate our differing viewpoints on self-care. And I may or may not sing the world’s most annoying Gymboree song.
Brandy: What’s wild about this interview is, Marissa and I found each other online, set up the interview over the computer, and in the first 30 seconds of talking, we realized that we live less than a mile away from each other. So, her Gymboree was my Gymboree. Small world. And a special shout out to my newest Patreon peep, the awesome Amy Halperin. If you’d like to join her and others in supporting me and this podcast, please check out www.patreon.com/adultconversation. On to the show.
Brandy: Today on the podcast, we have Marissa Zwetow. So, the reason that it’s super-exciting to talk to you today is because you are a licensed marriage and family therapist, correct?
Brandy: You got certified in this before you had children, is that right?
Marissa: Yes, yeah. I was already a therapist.
Brandy: Okay, so I’m dying to know, how were the expectations and the reality different? I’m curious what you learned from a book, and from case studies, and in your program, and then how motherhood was different when you were actually in it? So, that’s what I’m excited to talk to you about today. But before we get to that, what do you think the listeners need to know about you?
Marissa: I think what’s important to note is that I’m brutally open and honest about my very difficult transition into motherhood, with the hope of helping other moms avoid some of the shame and embarrassment that I felt. So, I am just a complete open book about everything I experienced.
Brandy: Yeah, you’re our people. Welcome. And the fact that you’re close by, you and I could get together and hash this out in real time, I’m just so excited about that.
Marissa: I can’t wait. We absolutely have to.
Brandy: Let’s go meet on the corner of Aliso Creek and-
Brandy: So yeah, so tell me, where do you want to start?
Marissa: What’s important about my message is that I’m kind of veering away a little bit from this diagnosis called postpartum depression. And it’s a little sticky, because I am a licensed marriage family therapist, and I absolutely believe that this is a real diagnosis. But I think there’s something missing. So, when I began to accept that what I was going through wasn’t temporary, in fact, it was getting worse, I began kind of reading and researching about postpartum depression. And although it helped, like I’m saying something was missing. And so, I knew I had an experience that wasn’t quite being talked about, which is postpartum regret. So, having regret for becoming a mother.
Brandy: Oh, my gosh, is that a thing? Is that a diagnosable thing?
Marissa: It’s kind of a term that I’m pioneering. I’ve never heard of it, so I really had to kind of invent it. And the reason why is because, I think moms that struggle in this way, they need a name for what they’re going through. And this may or may not fall under postpartum depression or mental illness. And that’s the distinction for me. And it’s scary to normalize this, and to say it out loud. And yet, I know how important it is to talk about, because I think I could have been spared some shame and embarrassment, had I been able to identify this and knowing that I wasn’t alone.
Brandy: So, before you had children, when you were in your program and you were learning about maternal mental health, what did you expect, and what things did you learn that you thought would be applicable? What was it like before you knew, before you had been initiated?
Marissa: Well, I’d have to say, I don’t think I learned a thing about maternal mental health in my Master’s program.
Marissa: Maybe it was a side note when learning about depression. I don’t ever remember really going into it. Maybe it was just under the umbrella of depression, here’s a list of 20 different things. Now, I could teach an entire semester on maternal mental health. But yeah, it’s not one of the topics that’s covered, in my opinion.
Brandy: Wow. So, that maybe, answers part of the question, which is, you really didn’t have any specific expectation that, “Hey, motherhood might be rife with mental problems, people might be having a hard time transitioning into motherhood and accepting that new role and finding themselves in that new role.” So, it was maybe not even on your radar? Does that sound right?
Marissa: It absolutely sounds correct. And I think, like most mothers, we are aware of this thing called postpartum depression, based on media, and maybe, if you’re lucky, maybe your OB talked about it. But, like most mothers that actually experience postpartum depression, they are blindsided. And I think for me, I want to talk more about the struggle and some of the taboo truths, including regret. For me, it wasn’t helpful to be diagnosed, to be told, “You’ve got this illness.” If anything, for me, I wanted validation, either from a professional or another mother to say, “Given everything that you are going through, of course, you are having regret,” right?
Marissa: And I’m a sane, normal person. So, I feel like I might get some pushback on this as a mental health professional, and I understand that. I will take it. But I wasn’t mentally ill, right? Does that make sense? I wasn’t sick. I was-
Marissa: I was struggling, and it led to depression. It’s not the other way around. And I think the difference is that when we hear a mother talk about regret, which I see all the time in some of the Facebook groups I’m in, or the mother groups, the go-to, is to say, “Wow, you must have postpartum depression,” because otherwise, we couldn’t fathom a mother feeling regret or struggle. And I want to say, if not validated, if someone doesn’t validate and say, “You’re okay for feeling that way,” it will lead to depression. But it may not start out as depression. And that’s the difference.
Brandy: That’s so true. And, are you even a mother if you don’t feel some form of regret or struggle? I mean, honestly, I feel like that part, what you’re talking about with the normalization, when a mother is, “Oh, my God, what have I done? This is so hard,” that we should be like, “Welcome. We all pass through this gate. And how we get here and how long we stay here varies, but we all hit this mark.”
Brandy: And I think that that’s why there’s so much shame around it is, people don’t want to admit that, because then they are going to find themselves with a postpartum depression diagnosis. It’s partially that there is a stigma to that, but it’s partially that it doesn’t feel right.
Brandy: Because I, like you, had all sorts of identity and, “Oh, my gosh, this is my job, but I can never leave it,” the trapped feeling.
Brandy: I loved my kids, and there were so many parts, especially when they were newborns, of motherhood, that I just loved so much. And yet, there was this whole other side of things that was happening, where I, all of the sudden felt like I couldn’t breathe, because my autonomy had just been yanked away. I didn’t feel depressed. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the motivation to do things, or the want, or the zest in my life, it’s just that I don’t want to do these things, like clean up Goldfish crackers 100 times a day, or wake up hours before my body is ready, or try to anticipate the needs of someone all day long, or cleaning up a poop in the bathtub, and waiting for my husband to come home, and then make everybody dinner, and then feel like I should have the energy and desire to have sex with my husband at 11 PM.
Brandy: Is that depression? I didn’t feel like depression to me, but it felt like … You know what? I don’t know what it felt like. And I still sort of struggle with, what is that? And in fact, I wrote a novel that’s coming out next year. And this whole piece is at the core of it. There’s a line in the book that I feel like encapsulates everything, which is the main character says, “Is motherhood broken, or am I?”
Marissa: Aw, yeah.
Brandy: And it’s like that thing that we do, where we are constantly trying to figure out, “Is it me? Is something wrong with me? Or is this job kind of impossible?” So anyway-
Marissa: I’m doing the same exact thing. And I just kind of know I’m taking it pretty extreme, where I’m willing to go to that scary place of saying, “I had some serious regret.” And I didn’t bond with my baby. I didn’t know that would happen. I made note when I saw the movies, that, “Oh, my gosh, I’m going to be moved to tears, and I’m going to be in love.” We talk about that, right?
Marissa: I didn’t have any of that.
Brandy: And the moment, the way that moment looks and feels, right?
Marissa: Right. So, I had a high-needs baby. She had acid reflux, which is synonymous with colic, which just means a baby that really can’t be soothed.
Brandy: Right, an air-raid siren in your arms?
Marissa: Yes, and she had a scream. I mean, you could hear it from across a football field. And no bond. And so, that expression, “The hardest job you’ll ever love,” I thought, “Well, I can relate to the hardest job part, but I can’t relate to the love part. So, I am screwed.” And it just felt like if it wasn’t validated, and supported, and treated, depression was inevitable. And unfortunately for me, it did head into clinical depression, but I don’t think it had to. Because I know it didn’t start out that way. I just, I didn’t know where to turn. Though the research, and the articles, and the literature on postpartum depression helped, that missing piece was hating being a mom. Nowhere in those books was it talking about that, or feeling regret. It was more like, these are the symptoms, and this is a clinical diagnosis, and it’s not your fault.
Marissa: And I thought, “Well, maybe it is my fault, because I’m not identifying with this mental illness. Maybe I am a monster, because I want to go in a time machine and undo it.
Brandy: Right, and it’s fascinating that even you, with a mental health background, is like, “What the fuck is this?”
Brandy: So, imagine every other mom out there who doesn’t have that background is like that times the infinity power. You, at least, had some knowledge and tools about coping and mental illness, and all the things that I don’t know, but I would imagine are in a program that therapists go through. And how lost you felt. So, how old are your kids, or child?
Marissa: She will be six in July. So, I am genuinely happy as a mom. However, I have one for a reason.
Brandy: Yeah, yeah.
Marissa: So, that’s part of my journey, was a little bit of an identity crisis. I thought that I would love being a mother, and I thought I would have two or three. I think we spat out these numbers without having any knowledge going into it. I mean, I was an older mom, so I remember saying, “Oh, you know, we’ll have to have them close together.” And I kind of compare it to, I was just trying to knock out some college courses to get it done sooner, having no idea what I was actually saying or doing.
Brandy: Okay, so if your daughter is six, so then, how long did it take you, and what was your journey like to make sense of this and to get to a place where you realized the motherhood regret, and that you didn’t feel shame, and that you kind of healed, if you’re at that place. What was at journey like?
Marissa: So, unfortunately, or fortunately, because of how passionate I am, but it took a long time. I felt shame and embarrassed, which I think is very common with feeling depressed after having a baby. But again, I couldn’t, I think part of not reaching out for help is, I felt like my only choice was either A, I have this clinical diagnosis or B, I’m an asshole. I really felt like, “These are my two choices.” And now-
Brandy: Totally. Oh, my God, wait a minute. I just want to have a moment of silence for what you just said. Ah, let me just feel that for a minute, because there is something so fucking real about it, right?
Brandy: Because right, you feel like an asshole. Oh, dude, yeah. Thanks for bringing me to my knees. That’s the realness of it. There’s no middle.
Brandy: And especially if you have people around you who are enjoying it, or even the well-meaning older people in your family, like grandmas, who don’t remember the real hardship.
Marissa: I think what I’ve come to terms with is that there are moms that love it. And it’s okay that I wasn’t one of them. But there are. So, the middle for me now is, just that validation piece. And again, I absolutely want to be clear. There is truth to this diagnosis, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum psychosis. These are real things.
Marissa: I am simply adding to it, and saying, “Well, wait a minute, maybe there is something else.” And so, to get validation that the struggle is real, and I’m okay, I’m okay that I’m having these feelings. And so, kind of the first step was what I call “Find your tribe.” This could be including social media, there are a ton of Facebook support groups. There’s a Fussy Baby Facebook group site, which there are just tons of mothers who are singing my song, and saying, “This sucks. How do I soothe my baby?” Or, “My baby hates me,” or, “I hate my baby,” and feeling, “Oh my gosh, another mother feels the same way I do. I’m not an asshole, I’m just hanging on.” And I think, too, what can be damaging when I say “Find your tribe,” I had joined a Gymboree class – a Mommy and Me –
Marissa: And it made it worse, because these moms were happy.
Brandy: Was it the one by the Domino’s pizza?
Marissa: Yeah, see, we are neighbors.
Brandy: And you know what? My daughter is one month different from your daughter. I swear, we could have possibly been … Okay, wait a minute. I think we could have possibly been in the same class.
Marissa: Gymboree class?
Brandy: Was there a woman who sang the friggin’, the Log Roll … What’s that stupid song? Okay, there’s a way that her voice sounds that my son and I just crack up about. (Nasally singsong voice “That’s the way the air log rolls.”)
Marissa: That was good.
Brandy: Do you remember that woman?
Marissa: There was a man, actually, that led our group, which is a little interesting. I was definitely not going to talk about my depression in front of this man. Not that there was even, that we were going to go around and talk about our depression. In fact, I remember going around the circle and saying, “Okay, what do you love most about your baby?” something like that. And I’m thinking, “Oh, just skip me.”
Brandy: And you’re right, because those classes, it’s like a snapshot, right? It’s an hour of your day, and you see these other moms and babies, and it’s almost like subconsciously or consciously, you’re like, “I want to look like I’m enjoying this, and like my baby’s happy, and we are happy.” And so, I wonder how many of those moms felt the same way that you did.
Marissa: And it was exhausting to put up this front. I mean, I was mortified. I couldn’t even tell my own mother. I just felt so much shame and embarrassment. And I think I could have found humor, or at least gotten to humor sooner if we had gone around the circle and just given permission … I would’ve liked to have found moms of like mind, and that’s why I say, “Find,” like you said, “Find your people, find your tribe.”
Marissa: But when I finally heard from other moms saying things like, “I had a baby to add to my life, not take away,” what I thought in that moment was relief. “Oh, my gosh, that’s exactly how I feel.”
Brandy: This side, people don’t talk about. And there’s so much out there to talk about how wonderful it is and how great it is. And it really isn’t hard when you’re enjoying something to say how great something is. But it’s really hard when you’re not enjoying it, or you feel isolated, or alone, or you don’t even have the words for it. It’s hard to even communicate about that. And that’s part of my duty and my passion, is to give a voice to that, to balance out the conversation. And I think, wouldn’t it be helpful in a group like that if, when you go around the circle, there are both things, right? I’m always about, “There’s both.”
Brandy: So, what if you were to say, “Okay,” – and this is what, when I used to host postpartum groups and mom’s groups, we’d go around and we’d talk about – “What’s one thing that’s working? And what’s one thing you’re struggling with?” And that way, the mom gets to choose, which way are you going to go and where are you going to put more of your emphasis? And that’s a healthy conversation, rather than it’s all one way either way. There needs to be the space to be able to explore these things without being judged.
Marissa: Yes. And I think that’s why this conversation is so important, so that another mom can be saved and know, “I’m not alone.” You know, even if I felt a little awkward talking to a professional or my OB, but if I had read a book, or heard this podcast, I’m at least going into it knowing, “Okay, maybe this OB is misinformed, but I know what I’m talking about, and I know I’m not alone.”
Brandy: Right. So, you were talking about how you did the Gymboree classes. And actually, it sounded like those made you feel more isolated? Is that right?
Marissa: It did, yeah. So, I wish I would have joined more of … There’s local postpartum support groups. But even social media actually helps a lot, with the online support groups, because there’s just … We think of Facebook, it’s international. I mean, there’s just thousands upon thousands of women who are coming together and saying, “Hey, I have a high-needs fussy baby,” or, “I have depression, following the birth of my child.”
Brandy: And the anonymity of it, of social media, one of the upsides is that I think people can say things online, because they’re like, “Oh, this person’s a stranger. I’m not at a Gymboree class trying to show how happy I am.” There’s something about having that barrier, that wall, that I think people can be a little bit more real. They can also be more awful, because there’s no face-to-face interaction.
Brandy: But I think in terms of what you’re talking about is online for some of this really personal stuff sometimes is the place for it.
Marissa: Yeah, and I say to the moms I work with, even if they’re not into Facebook or maybe anti-social media, be an onlooker. Just take a look at what’s being posted. I don’t post too much, myself. Maybe because I’m not struggling at the current time. But just simply reading, being onlooker, helped tremendously.
Brandy: Did you ever get a validation? Did you ever, when you were saying, “Find your tribe,” did you ever meet that person who was super-validating, who was, “Oh, yeah, this job sucks,” and you’re like, “BE MY BEST FRIEND?” Did you ever have that moment?
Marissa: Yeah. Part of it was my own kind of aha moment of, “There has to be something more than just, I’m an asshole and there’s postpartum depression.” And so, it kind of came through my own research. I started posting inquiries in these social groups, saying “Calling all moms who felt the same.” And so, I started gathering data and hearing all the stories, and that helped tremendously. And then, my contributor to my book, Shoshana Bennett, who is a psychologist who specializes in postpartum mood disorder, she asked me a very powerful question. She actually, I have to give her a lot of credit, she planted the seed, because I hadn’t named, I hadn’t come up with this term “postpartum regret.” I’m still just kind of thinking, “Okay, I had postpartum depression, and I want to learn more about it.”
Marissa: But she said, “I wonder if you actually had postpartum depression?” And I looked at her kind of like, “Well, I had depression following the birth of my baby.” But now I get it. It led to depression. But what if it could’ve been prevented had I received that validation, had I read the right book, or listened to the right podcast and thought, “Oh, my gosh. I’m just struggling as a mom. I don’t have to be mentally ill to say, “This sucks,” or, “I hate being a mother,” or, “I have regret,” which are very harsh. Like I said, I am really open and honest saying these terms so freely, which I think might shock some moms who love it. But it’s so important to say these things out loud.
Brandy: Yes, and by doing that, you are freeing other people who can’t say it, who wish they could.
Brandy: That’s the gift that you give people. But, this idea that postpartum depression could possibly be avoided, I find it so fascinating, and I think you’re so on to something. Because when we have such a big transition like this, and with all of the different pieces and things that get taken, and what you were talking about, how these things weren’t even on your radar. They’re not on many of our radars. Really, what the sacrifice is, and then you take into consideration modern-day mothering, and dad privilege, and gender roles, and all of these things, it’s not just, “Oh, I now care for a baby, and that’s hard.”
Brandy: There are so many different pieces of it. And if we are not dealing with those pieces, and validating people, and letting them know, “Hey, you might find this hard in ways that you don’t even know why,” … One of my first episodes when we talked about why you hate your husband when he goes for a run, I’ve had so many people contact me and go, “I didn’t know why he hated my husband for it, and he’s not a bad person. But I did. And now I get why.” But even just something like that, those little pieces, having words for it, the fact that that could stave off postpartum depression, I think is really powerful. And I think that postpartum depression is such an umbrella term, and I like that you’re looking at it from the little nuances. And so, I’m thinking about where I would fit into this. Because my experience, I enjoyed it especially, newborn to six months. Sign me up all day long.
Brandy: Well, and breast-feeding went easy for me. And there was something about that time that I loved. Basically, a year to three and-a-half or four, I’ll just be over here. I’ll go check out, and then I’ll come back. But I’m trying to think of … And I would imagine other listeners are trying to think about, “Okay, well, what’s my specific thing? Is it regret?” Because unlike you and your situation with the bond, I had that, and yet, I don’t know, what’s the word for, “I love these people, but my life is not my own anymore”?
Brandy: And it doesn’t get to come back. Is that grief?
Marissa: I think so. I mean, I definitely have grief for my old life, and I did not expect … No one talked about that, that you might feel grief.
Brandy: Right. And then what about, I’ve had a hard time making peace with … One of the things that I always say to myself is, “Brandy, why can’t you just accept this? You’re 12 years in. Why can’t you just accept that you’re a mom, and you’re not in control? You’re not sailing your own ship anymore?” And obviously, as my kids have gotten older, I sail my ship a ton more than I did in the beginning. And that’s why I think I find those beginnings – it’s like the honeymoon phase for me. And then, when the reality of, “But, no, you have to do this with intense aged kids for the next five years,” that’s where I lose it.
Brandy: But so, why could I not, and why can I not just accept that this is what it is? And I feel like I just keep railing against it. So then, I’m thinking to myself in terms of, if we’ve got the umbrella and we are trying to find little nuances that go off of the umbrella. What is that? What is the, “I refuse to accept that I’m in this position”? What is that?
Marissa: I think that’s valid. I hear some fight in you, which I think is good, to kind of say, “Maybe something needs to give, or something needs to change. I haven’t quite found my happy or sweet spot as a mom.”
Marissa: I think that’s good. I’m an advocate for don’t settle. Don’t accept. Let’s keep exploring. So, part of the solution for me and what I work with my moms, is to redefine what motherhood can look like. I’m always going to be a mom. That is a new role. I’m a mom. And so, to say I’m going to regain my sense of self 100%, it’s going to be different. However, I did regain a lot, like you said, too, and that helped tremendously. I do feel a sense of freedom now. And part of that was my choice to have one. So, I know … But that was a choice I had. And I could’ve easily fallen into society, especially where you and I live, here in South Orange County, I am not the norm. I’m the minority.
Marissa: I’m a mother of one. And I could have fallen into that, via messaging. My own husband wanted another one. And that was very challenging, but I knew my happiness mattered so much to the family, to my daughter, and to my husband. So, I guess I would say for any mom who is saying, “I don’t want to accept this,” I would say, keep exploring what might be missing for you.
Brandy: And sometimes, I think, too, it’s just time. Sometimes it’s about just them getting to be old enough where they don’t need you for every last thing, if that’s the thing that’s tough for you. Or going to school. Sometimes, there are a lot of people who financially, can’t afford childcare, so you’ve got a mom who’s with kids nonstop until they start going to school. So, I know for me, I start to feel freedom when my kids are in half-day, and then full-day school.
Brandy: And then I’m in a sweet spot. Honestly, right now, with an almost 6-year-old and a 12-year-old, I could just about bottle this time right now. I’m able to do some of the things I want to in life. I’m still with them tons of the time. We still get to do fun family stuff. So, I feel like I’m in a really nice balance. But then, it’s like the second I feel that, everybody’s saying, “Oh, my God, but teenagers.”
Marissa: Oh, no.
Brandy: It’s like, “I’m just trying to enjoy this part of it!” Because I feel like the other parts have been harder to enjoy, just because of the nonstop … I basically, have just wanted to press pause on life and go away for three months in a cabin in the woods without sound, and just hole up, recharge, and then come back. But you can’t ever do that.
Brandy: So now it feels like every day, there’s a little bit of that time to do that, which is huge.
Marissa: Yes, yeah. And maybe there’s room to stretch it a little more. Maybe you get a hotel room for one night.
Brandy: I actually did that two weekends ago, me and my friends. What we do is, we went for two nights. And it’s so funny just how times change, but we check in, we get in our pajamas, we get in bed, we turn on awful reality TV, and we order room service. And we don’t do anything. And the whole time we’re like, “We should go dancing. We should go do something.” And we are all, “No, I can’t.” So, that right there is my sanity. That is my antidepressant, is friends and space away, for sure.
Brandy: So, your book … Did you write that while you were still in the thick of it, or had you figured out some things?
Marissa: Yeah, I had definitely figured out some things at that point. However, I would say gathering my research and putting that book together, it just was the cherry on top. I would say I was out of the depression, but it just, well, it became my passion, and my meaning, and my purpose. And I remember hearing that if you’re looking for a book and you can’t find it, you need to write it. And I didn’t see really, any books, at least from a … Like you said, I’m a clinician, but here I am talking about how maybe, this is nonclinical.
Brandy: Yeah. People gain so much from other people being real as who they are, as opposed to being the expert. The expert stuff’s fine when it’s colored by the actual lived experience.
Marissa: Oh, definitely. I knew how important that was. When I first started getting therapy, I was trying to save money. Here I am a new mother, and I think a lot of moms can relate to this. All the sudden you got a baby … you just moved, you have a new house.
Marissa: It’s like this reality of, “We’ve got a mortgage.” And so, I’m trying to save money, which was a huge mistake, in terms of getting therapeutic support. I’m meeting with these therapists that mean well, but they have no idea what I’m going through. So, I think it’s so important for me to say, “Not only have I done training, but I have lived it.” And I’m so happy to share with my clients. I’m very open.
Brandy: What’s great about the book, too, is I think you’re exactly right about, for a lot of us, when we have kids, we have a mortgage. And then one of us maybe, isn’t working if we are a stay-at-home parent.
Brandy: And so then, you have your income sometimes cut in half. And so you feel like, “We’ve got to scrimp, and we can’t afford things.” But then all of a sudden now, we need therapy. And it’s the last thing we are going to pay money for.
Brandy: Because we are barely making enough money sometimes for groceries, or Gymboree classes, or these sorts of other things. So, it’s such an unfortunate thing where it’s at a time when moms need emotional support, and they can’t afford it, for many people. And so, I think that that leads to higher postpartum depression rates, as well.
Brandy: We could nip it in the bud. So, kind of like what you’re saying is, something like a book that gets it, podcasts that get it, groups that get it, that’s your therapy that doesn’t cost $200 a session.
Brandy: Right, so it’s finding the therapy in the other places. Also, just being alone in a room with nobody touching you is also good.
Brandy: You know, a hotel room with your friends. I think if we look at therapy in a bigger way, then maybe it becomes more achievable or more affordable. Granted, the hotel room with friends might not be the affordable route, but some of these little things … And I think sometimes when people are talking about self-care, I think another term for that self-care is therapy. Even though I hate self-care with a passion. What’s your take on this bullshit … And I’m going to tell you my take … But I’m curious, what’s your take on this bullshit where people who could help us don’t help us and then tell us to fucking self-care? Are you as irate about that as I am?
Marissa: Can you be more specific? Who are these people?
Brandy: Well, everywhere, everywhere. I feel like I see articles, I see books about this. And the hard part is, it’s the women buying into it. So, there’s this overall, general idea that, “Moms, don’t forget to self-care!” And I get it, I get that self-care, the idea by itself, not being told to us by people who refuse to help us, the idea of self-care is wonderful. Because it is, it’s like therapy, and it’s taking care of yourself, and it’s putting yourself first, which is something that as moms, we don’t do.
Brandy: So, I love that idea. I don’t love it when it’s being told to people who are basically, gasping for air, and people are like, “Just take a breath.” And it’s just like, “Can somebody help me here?” So, my problem is when it’s an overall societal thing, so instead of making legislation, instead of making laws, and foundations, and systemic support for mothers, instead of making things more affordable, instead of making the conversation more nuanced and true, instead of that, we just tell moms to self-care. “Don’t forget … Oh, take a bubble bath, have a glass of wine.”
Brandy: That sort of thing. And it’s like, “How about you do some stuff to make it so that all of us don’t feel like this?”
Marissa: Yeah, I get what you’re saying, yeah. Putting the burden on the mom.
Brandy: Because the thing is, we are care-taking people all day. So then, for somebody to be like, “But don’t forget to take care of yourself.” It’s like, “How about you take care of me?” So, I’m thinking about this in terms of family members, close friends, and husbands.
Marissa: Sure, sure.
Brandy: It drives me nuts, especially to see these really kind of natural mom social media pages that just talk about self-care, and “Have you done your self-care today?” And I just rage at it. Because then moms go, “Oh, this is also my job.” And the reality is, it is. It also is your job, because society doesn’t give a fuck about you, really. That’s what we’ve been shown.
Marissa: Yeah, I hear you. I have kind of a different perspective, and it’s just based on my own experience, that my husband became my enemy during this time. Like you said, he’s sleeping in, or running, going exercising, or whatever it is that he’s doing. And the truth is, once I stopped blaming him or expecting him to be in as much pain as I was, and started taking responsibility, that it was up to me to make changes and find my happiness.
Marissa: So, I hear what you’re saying, as far as legislation and change needs to happen, but I guess for me, my journey was, the freedom was once I started making those changes for myself. And when I think of self-care, it’s so much more than just these little things, like a bubble bath, which is great. That is great. But the bigger picture is, are you happy? And if you’re not, do you want to maybe, return to work, or do you need a whole afternoon off, that maybe you can arrange for your aunt to come every Wednesday from 12 to 5. It would look different for everyone, but for me, it’s more than just a shower or-
Marissa: … a glass of wine, which, keep doing those things, but-
Brandy: But it’s more foundational, too.
Marissa: It is.
Brandy: Yes, I hear you on that. And I totally get what you’re saying, and I appreciate and respect that you found the freedom, and you were released from some of the struggle when you figured this out for yourself. And so, that’s the reality: nobody’s coming to save us. We have to save ourselves. But the part that rubs me the wrong way is that it is part of that more systemic thing, where our society doesn’t value women, and we don’t care take them in the way that the women care take everybody else. So, it’s like even though it’s not our husband’s job to find our happiness for us, there are so many little things along the way that seem like us waving a white flag in front of their faces. We also need to be teaching our men how to better support the women, and the wives, and the moms in their lives. Because it’s like they go by not even knowing that this is happening.
Brandy: Men in our society have to do better for us. And sometimes that means, “I’m going to figure out what I need to be happy. But I also need somebody to be on board to support me.”
Marissa: Oh, sure.
Brandy: And when I’m saying this it’s advocating for other people, and myself, too. But my husband has been crazy supportive. I mean, to be married to me is probably not the easiest thing, because I’m the kind of person that’s like, “That’s your privilege right there. See that thing that you’re not doing that I’m doing?” So, my husband has no choice but to be a better, amazing person. And he has totally risen to that challenge. But overall, we are in charge of our happiness, to a certain extent. But when you’re living in a system, and sometimes for some people in a marriage, in which things are not equal, you are pushing a boulder up a hill, and you’re already exhausted.
Marissa: I get that. And there’s just so much messaging and societal norms that just feed into that. Again, I kind of go to personal responsibility, that I was the one getting in my own way. To this day, my husband will walk in the door after work, and dinner is kind of a mystery. Maybe I made dinner, maybe I didn’t. Maybe he’ll make dinner. The norm in my house is, there is no norm. I got to let that go. Do I want to be responsible for dinner every night? No, I don’t. I got to re-create the new norms. And he’s fine. He’s never once complained about it. And laundry, I let that go. I don’t do his laundry.
Brandy: I love the idea of changing the norms, because this is really what it is. So, the bigger system is set up, and if it doesn’t work for you – and this is similar in my life too – then you change it. And I wonder how many people have partners that would really be supportive, truly supportive and understand, “This thing that you want to change in our world, this supports your mental health and your sanity, so sign us up.” I wonder how many would be like, “But, you’re not making money, you’re home with the kids.” Whether that’s conscious or subconscious, I know that that’s got to be eating at people, and that’s why they don’t do the things that maybe, they’d rather do, like have their husband do his own laundry, or not be the person to make dinner all the time. You know?
Brandy: What other things in your world have you changed? So, you’re not the dinner maven. Dinner is, “I don’t know, let’s figure it out,” right? It’s a conversation.
Marissa: Yeah, yeah.
Marissa: I do not do his. Not as a “fuck you” or anything, just as, “It’s just not my truth.”
Brandy: Yeah, and it’s just as a gender equality, just as, “Why am I inherently doing your laundry?”
Marissa: Exactly, exactly.
Brandy: Okay, what else? I want to give the listeners ideas for things that they can go home and go, “I listened to this podcast, and I’m no longer doing your laundry.”
Marissa: Well, one of the things that I did early on, which had a little guilt in the beginning, but I put my daughter in daycare full-time, which is nothing out of the ordinary. However, I worked part-time. And I had to wrestle against that voice, especially when she was really young, to say, “Wait a minute, you’re not working. Shouldn’t you be with your baby?” But the truth is, that was part of regaining a sense of myself again. I could exercise without pushing a stroller. I could take a nap in a quiet house while my daughter was at daycare somewhere else. I had to push against those norms, that this is costing a little extra, and yet it was worth it. And I really had to prioritize it and create it.
Brandy: Yeah. So, I want to go back to something. I want to go back to the bond piece. So, did that happen? Was that a delayed thing? And if so, when and how did that bond happen?
Marissa: That is a great question, and it’s so tough to answer. So, her temperament, her scream, just played a huge part in it. There was a moment where I did feel some validation. There was a coworker, and she saw a picture of my baby, and kind of asked me about it. And for some reason, because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, but for some reason, on this particular day, I just said … I don’t know what I said. I want to say, “I hate it,” or something. And she paused, just dead in her tracks and came back, and we talked for like, an hour. Because she had a similar experience.
Marissa: And what I love that she said is, she also had a baby who had colic and the scream. And she said, “How can you bond with that?” I thought, “Wow, that’s so reassuring to hear.” Because that’s what it was, this screaming baby. When I thought of being a mother, I thought, well, it’s these soothing, skin-to-skin, breast-feeding moments. And I just didn’t have that. And breast-feeding was a struggle. I wasn’t producing enough milk, and she wasn’t latching correctly. I know that there’s a chemical reaction, oxytocin. I know this is a thing. I have no idea what went wrong in my case. I joke that I didn’t get any.
Marissa: I don’t know. I do know it’s common, though. It’s more common than we realize for moms and dads. I think dads kind of get that free pass for some reason, like, “Oh, it’s okay, you’ll bond later.” But for moms, we don’t talk about it as much. Or when the dads bond immediately and the moms don’t, we think “Well, that’s not supposed to happen.”
Brandy: When your daughter was less colicky … How old was she when she began to be less colicky and less scream-y?
Marissa: It’s all a blur.
Brandy: Okay. What’s the range? Was it a year? Was it six months? Was it till three?
Marissa: At least a year. I could be wrong, though.
Brandy: Oh, goodness.
Marissa: So then, what happened is, as my story goes, is that I did fall into depression. And actually, as much as I’m steering away from diagnosing a mental illness, the truth is, I should have been on an antidepressant. Because it did lead to depression. So now, I’m depressed clinically, at this point. And so, I’m not going to bond with anything or anyone. If ever you or the listeners have had depression, it’s just there’s this dark cloud over you. So, I should have gotten help sooner, and I should’ve gotten on an antidepressant.
Brandy: Or, someone should have noticed how far gone you were, and helped you to do that.
Marissa: Yeah. I was so stubborn.
Brandy: So, do you feel like part of it, you didn’t show? Nobody, even the closest people in your life, nobody would have known how far gone you were? And did people ask you how you were doing, and you just completely shut that down so that nobody would ever know?
Marissa: Yeah, I went through the motions. I did everything I should be doing as a new mom. I think my mom detected it. And I really respect her for this, she didn’t push, or pry, or ask. And I thought that was very nice of her. Husband was completely clueless.
Brandy: See, that’s what I’m motherfucking saying! That is the shit that I’m saying. Because here you are, you’re like, “I really should have,” and it’s like, you know what? I mean, I’m not a man hater. Everybody out there, I love men. In fact, I tend to get along with men sometimes better than women. But, this is, “Open your eyes. The person who you love more than anything else, who you know better than anybody else on the planet, is in a hole pretending to try to claw her way out.” It’s like, “How is that non-detectable?” I know how much toothpaste we have left in all of our toothpaste tubes just because I’m a mom. And so, I feel like dads don’t get a pass for just being like, “Oh, yeah, someone was circling the drain in my house next to me for six months, and I had no idea.” Okay. I’m not trying to make light of that, but I just feel like I always rage against it. Okay, go on.
Marissa: No, I get it. And it’s so frustrating. But my husband’s brain, I can only speak for him. And I’m sure it’s fair to say for a lot of men, but his brain just doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t. And in some ways, he is my role model. Honestly. I don’t have to do half the things I do, just because I’m aware of it. I don’t have to change the toilet paper roll if I don’t want to. It is my choice to do it.
Brandy: Yeah, you know, that’s a great point. There’s a guest I had on here a while back who’s … Oh, she’s our city council member. She said at her meeting, she was like, “I asked myself, ‘What would a man do? Would a man cower down and not say anything?'” So she’s like, “the next time I came to the meeting, I was going to fight it tooth and nail, because I’m like, ‘What would a man do?'” So, you bring up a great point, as them being the role models. So, I like what you’re saying, in that maybe we take some of the rage that we have towards how our husbands are, and maybe we’re like, “I’m going to do that, too.”
Marissa: Seriously. It is so true.
Brandy: But then, does the toilet paper ever get on the roll?
Marissa: Well, maybe it will be his problem and not mine.
Brandy: Yeah, but, I mean, I just legitimately can see that that paper never makes it on the role. Because at what point … I guess the experiment is, how long can they go, with seeing it like that? But I feel like it’s decades.
Marissa: Yeah, could be. I experiment. I love that word experiment. I do experiment. I don’t care to be the dish elf, or whatever you want to call it. And dishes will be left in the living room. And I thought, “Well, let’s just see,” right? And he always does it. It’s a much different timeline than me. It just reminds me that all the things I’m doing, I’m doing it because I’m doing it. And what would it look like to not do it? And would that lead to greater happiness?
Brandy: Yeah. I feel like I derailed you. Somewhere when I was raging about husbands … My poor husband, seriously, I’m looking at a picture of him right now that’s on … I’m in my son’s room. And he’s just the sweetest, most engaged, awesome father, and sweetest man. Sometimes I’m just like, “I’m so sorry, but for the greater good, I have to talk about these things.” So, I’m so glad that he gets it. Okay. So, you were talking about something … Because I’m wondering with the bonding, I’m wondering where that-
Marissa: Oh, yeah, the bond.
Brandy: Yeah, yeah.
Marissa: I don’t even know. It took a long time, just because I was drowning in my own misery. Once I got happy, I loved everyone again.
Brandy: Yeah. So about how long was that? Was that years? And did you have a moment where you looked at your daughter and you were like, “I like you. I like this”? Did you have a moment where you realized, “Oh, this is different”?
Marissa: I don’t remember a moment. I mean, things only got easier. She only got cuter. You know, just that progression. Although, it sounds like you almost had an opposite experience. So, it just goes to show, we are all on such different journeys.
Brandy: You know, the cuteness always goes up. But for me, the thing is, is illogical things. I am such an asshole probably, but I’m such a … not logic, because I am also very feeling. I don’t know, things like when somebody’s so tired that they’re crying and melting down, but they refuse to nap, illogical bullshit like that-
Marissa: Oh, yeah.
Brandy: … is so hard for me to deal with. It drives me nuts. So, it’s like when you get into the stage of that, where they resist everything that keeps them alive, that’s where I have a hard time. Because you can’t force people to do certain things. But then when they get a little bit older, if they choose not to do certain things, well they are the ones that deal with the consequence of it. But it’s that stage where they aren’t the ones that have the consequence, YOU have the consequence, that’s my hardship. And the cuteness is off the charts. Okay, so in your book, I think you talk about Twelve Taboo Postpartum Truths that you wish you’d know. Is that right?
Marissa: Yeah. That’s actually a free article that any of the listeners can get. It’s not in the book, but it’s on my website, www.postpartumhappiness.com. And they can download the Twelve Taboo Truths. We’ve kind of touched on this. It’s exactly what you said, that I wish I had known that these things might happen. They might not, but they might. And so, things like, you might not bond with your baby. So, let’s just talk about it. Or breastfeeding might not be wonderful and natural, so let’s talk about that. And this is how I put it. It sounds so simple, but you might have an easy baby and you might have a difficult baby. Let’s talk about that. I was so blissfully ignorant. And maybe for some moms it’s okay, because it ends up being a wonderful experience. But I was so ill-prepared and had no idea that these truths might happen.
Brandy: And I’m curious, when you say that you were ill-prepared, I wonder what could have been done? I mean, there are things that we are talking about now, which is maybe you would have known to get help, or to reach out, or to say, “This is what’s not working.”
Brandy: But coming from a childbirth educator perspective, when I would teach classes and we would talk about this stuff… because it was funny – after I’d gone through being a parent myself, and I’m teaching the classes, I was like, “A tenth of the class needs to be about birth, and 90% of it needs to be about postpartum.”
Marissa: Hallelujah! Yes.
Brandy: Nobody wants to pay for that. Everybody is still in the mode of trying to get their perfect birth. And trying to control all of that. And so, it’s like, well, you have to give them some of that, because as we know, in birth, there can be birth trauma that sets the stage for a harder mothering experience. So, it’s all connected. But we get to the postpartum part, which was half of one class, and I always just felt like, “This is never enough.” But nobody signs up for the classes that are about postpartum, because they don’t realize that they need it.
Brandy: So, when I would talk about stuff in postpartum, I always talked about the lack of bonding that could be a possibility. And I talked about breastfeeding being possibly hard. We talked about things in terms of when you feel like things aren’t going how you’d wish that they would, and what different actions you can take. But it was interesting seeing clients that I worked with, who I talked … I definitely told him about these things. And then, if I worked with them through birth, if I was their doula, and then saw them postpartum, sometimes they would be completely shellshocked by the thing, even though I knew I had told them about the thing. And I think there’s a thing that happens, and I remember being in that with my first, with my son in a birth class. I kind of feel like when you’re a pregnant person, you tune out the things that you hope don’t happen. And you just kind of focus on … You still have the illusion of control, in a way.
Marissa: Yeah, I knew about postpartum depression, which is a diagnosis. And we all think, “That’s not going to happen to me.” They say that. The statistics say almost every mom that has it, unless she had a history of depression, she’s going to be blindsided. And so, we can still talk about it, but we need to remove this diagnosis and just talk about lack of bond, breastfeeding issues, grief of your old life, regret. And I hear you. I don’t know, I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know how I would’ve responded, but I suspect it would have planted a seed, and I would’ve thought, “Oh, yeah, I remember this being talked about.” But postpartum depression just wasn’t, it wasn’t a service for me, because I couldn’t relate that I was mentally ill.
Brandy: Postpartum depression seems like a physiological chemical imbalance.
Marissa: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brandy: And that doesn’t take into account the shift of role, the constantness, the sleep deprivation. All of those sorts of things. So, there’s a lot of things that are just natural to motherhood that it doesn’t take into consideration. Which leads me to, can you give us a taste of your book? I’d love to know, are there one or two things that answer the “What to do when you love the kids but hate the job”?
Brandy: What are your top two or three tips or things that the listeners could implement that could help them if they’re feeling like this?
Marissa: It’s kind of three sections. The first one, The Job Sucks. And I go through my journey. The point again, is to validate any mom who also feels the same way. “This is … wow, this kind of sucks.” And I include all kinds of anonymous mom quotes. And then I talk about how to be a mom your way, which is to let go of maybe what you thought it would look like. I thought I would love it, I thought I would just enjoy it so much, and I didn’t. And so, I got to reinvent what it could look like. And that might include daycare full-time and work part-time. Or I’ve had moms who put their baby into daycare two weeks prior to going back to work. So, they literally had two weeks just to themselves. It’s like they were a stay-at-home mom, but without the baby. And I thought, “Bravo. Good for you.” That’s a little bit of outside-of-the-box thinking. And that’s what I would encourage. Don’t compare yourself to your own mom or your neighbor. What do you really want, and can we get that? Like, how you did the hotel room. So, how to be a mom your way that fits for you, that might look a little different. And for me, to be a mother of one, that was, “Wow! Can I really do that? Is that really possible? Am I a horrible person for doing that?” But I realized, “No. This is for me. I’m being a mom my way,” which looks different than my neighbor.
Marissa: I think it’s breaking that stigma. I even identify myself as being a postpartum coach, rather than just a therapist. So, that piece of, you don’t have to have a diagnosis to come and see me and to get some coaching. And I invite people just to brainstorm. The question I ask is, it’s a three-part question, “What would you add, change, or take away if you could?” And it’s almost like a, “If you had a magic wand” kind of question. Don’t worry about money, don’t worry about any of that for right now. Let’s just brainstorm.
Marissa: Like you said, three months in a cabin. And so, maybe you don’t get your three months in a cabin, but maybe you get an entire weekend in a hotel room. So, we have to honor our wants and needs. And I think for so many moms who are in it, like you said, we don’t even go there. We don’t even ask ourselves what might be missing, or what do I need? Because we just are going through the motions, doing the next thing. Breaking away from the stigma and just getting some support, that it could look better than what it currently is.
Marissa: And just experiment. It was difficult to change the norms. When I was married, newlywed, and we had this tiny little apartment, it was the happiest that I remember being. And I did do everything. I cleaned. I … Actually, we did make dinner together. But I know I did the laundry. And it was great. And then all of a sudden, I’m with a new baby, and in this big house. I had to reconstruct those norms. And it was difficult. I felt, “Am I a bad wife?” So it’s like, well, just experiment. Just see what might happen. And nobody died, right, when I stopped doing his laundry? Nobody died when dinner wasn’t ready, among other things too, that I’m probably not even know that I did, because they’re just such the norm. I have a lot of time for myself today, I really do. I had to be comfortable being uncomfortable, right?
Marissa: Letting go of those limiting beliefs that say, “Well, a good wife does dinner.” Or, “A good wife,” or, “A good mom,” fill in the blank. I thought, well, may be a good mom takes time for herself and is happy. Maybe that’s what a good mom is. So, just having the courage to experiment.
Brandy: Yes. When I look at motherhood and I look at anxiety, they look very similar. So, I’m curious from your profession, and also your lived point of view, how do those two things relate? Can you have motherhood without anxiety? Can you talk a little bit about the relationship with motherhood and anxiety?
Marissa: I’m not sure I’m the right person, to be honest, because that wasn’t really, so much my struggle. I think for me honestly, it’s about relinquishing control. You said it, too, that at some point, it’s going to be their consequences. I totally get when they’re little, which my daughter still is, but yeah, you’re right, there’s an element of, “I’ve got to keep them alive.” But more and more, I’m letting go of her … she’s starting to manage her own life, honestly. In fact, this is a bit extreme, but I even allow her to eat what she wants.
Brandy: So, what is she choosing?
Marissa: She’ll often eat dessert before dinner, and it’s fine. It’s fine. What rule do we have to follow that says you have to have dinner first and then dessert?
Brandy: That’s actually a great point.
Marissa: For me, and I don’t know if this is the anxiety. Maybe it is. But I’ve eliminated some of the fight, that it has to look a certain way. Even her room. I know she’s so young, but I would clean it for her. And I don’t want to clean her room. Sometimes I just shut the door. It’s her room, it’s her room. If she wants it clean, she can clean it. And I’m probably in the minority, that she’s so young, still.
Brandy: Does she clean it? Will she eventually clean it?
Marissa: I don’t think so.
Brandy: Okay, but where is the fine line in between … And this is the rub of parenthood, which is, I love what you’re saying here, which is, give them the control. And my husband just told me about some podcast he listened to. He was like, “Whoa, this was a household where the kids just dictated everything.” It was like, everybody had autonomy. The kids could do whatever they wanted. They went to bed when they wanted, they ate when they wanted. And I’m like, “That sounds awful to me.” But anyway, we were talking about the merits of that. But there’s that middle ground, right, which is, if you allow your kids to do whatever they want in all arenas, what are we modeling for them in teaching them how to do these things that might be supportive to them later in life, such as cleaning a room? But if we are doing that for them, then they’re not learning, and they’re not in control of their space, and we are frustrated because it’s not clean. So, does that middle ground matter, or are you just, “I’m totally doubling down on the fact that I’m never going to clean her room. And if she doesn’t learn to clean a room, that’s her deal?” Which I love, but I’m curious what your thoughts are on that.
Marissa: I kind of am.
Brandy: Yeah. Dude, fuck yeah. I love that you’re like, “I don’t give a shit. Save myself here.” This is really rebel mom shit you’re talking about, here.
Marissa: It is, it is. Maybe that’s the answer. Less control equals less anxiety, I think.
Brandy: Yes. I’m curious, what else do you not do? What else have you let go of the control on, is the better way to ask that question? Where else can we ease up? Tell us, Marissa.
Marissa: She’s still so young. I think, get back to me in five years. I’ll probably have a much longer list. I honestly hope to continue to relinquish control. And not at my own detriment, either. I want to be clear.
Marissa: So, when I say I give her freedom around food, you don’t come to me at 10 PM and say, “I want a hamburger.” That’s not going to happen. But if you want a bowl of ice cream before dinner, honestly, “Sure.” I know, it’s crazy. But-
Brandy: And then, does she eat a normal dinner?
Marissa: Yeah, for the most part.
Brandy: Oh, amazing.
Marissa: But that was experimentation, what would happen if I didn’t exert so much control?
Brandy: And the feeling of, “What would dad do? How would he look out for himself, look out for number one in something like this?” There’s a dad who … This morning at my daughter’s kindergarten drop-off, there’s this dad, I think he’s a stay-at-home dad, and he drops off his child. And then he’s got these other two little ones. And they run all the way back to the car, which is down the street, and he’s chatting with other parents. And I’ve never seen a mom allow any of that to happen. And as I was walking by them today, these little kids just, I think he left the car open even, and they’re probably … They’re not old enough to be in kindergarten, so I think they are probably three. They just open the car door and jump in this car, and he’s nowhere to be seen. And so, I felt both things. On one hand, I was like, “Good for him. That guy does not have anxiety. We all need to take a page from his book.” And then also, my mind immediately went to, “Yeah, but if one of the kids strangled themselves with a seatbelt in the back and he walked in on it, he’d be like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe I was so negligent.'”
Brandy: Right? So, as always, and in my mind, maybe not for everybody else, but it’s always the both ways. And I’m always trying to find that elusive middle ground, which is, “Can some of the time, I allow and not control, and then some of the time make sure I step in so that awful things don’t happen, or so my kids learn the things they need to learn?” That part of trying to balance the two is pretty exhausting, but is parenthood.
Marissa: Yeah, I agree. I think there could be questions we ask ourselves, “What am I afraid is going to happen? Is that realistic?” And it’s funny, we talk about cleaning the room, but I look at my husband just leaving his clothes all over the floor. He’s a grown man. What went wrong in his parenting?
Brandy: So like, is the worst thing a person that doesn’t know how to clean a room? No. He still married you-
Brandy: … and he’s not some shut-in somewhere, where nobody will live with him.
Brandy: I like that idea of asking, “What’s the worst that could happen here? My kid grows up and doesn’t have the personality where they clean their room?”
Marissa: Not the end of the world. It’s her choice, it’s her choice.
Marissa: And I could be full of shit. I don’t know. I’m not a parenting expert, by any means. But when I think about the idea of anxiety, for me, it’s, “What am I trying to control that maybe, I don’t need to?”
Brandy: But gosh, isn’t this interesting that you are – even though you’re saying, “I’m not a parenting expert,” but you do seem to be a postpartum wellness expert. Isn’t it interesting that maybe those two things have to be separate?
Marissa: Oh, they do.
Brandy: So, if you were a parenting expert and you were like, “Okay, so for the best development of your child, all the research shows, and all the things that I know is”-
Marissa: Oh, gosh.
Brandy: So, if you’re coming from that place, you can’t also come from, “Here’s what you do for mental health for moms.” Because they are incongruent in the Venn diagram of what you should do as a parent, and then what you should do for maternal mental health. On the Venn diagram, where they cross over, I think is kind of small.
Brandy: That little sliver is like, there are some things in there, but mostly, they are … what is that … mutually exclusive, mutually exclusive.
Brandy: That’s what I’m talking about.
Marissa: No, it’s true.
Brandy: I like that your take is, “I’m for the moms. Parenting, that’s like an aside.” But that’s kind of what we need to hear, is we need somebody coming-
Marissa: That’s so true.
Brandy: … coming from it from that angle who’s got our fucking back, and is like, “I don’t give a shit if your kid’s room is clean, but I want YOU healthy.”
Brandy: So, I appreciate you so much.
Marissa: That is so well-said. I’m for the moms. That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s funny. I remember hearing the commercials to talk, sing, and read to your baby, something like that.
Brandy: I remember that, too.
Marissa: It was painful. “Oh, God, I’m not doing enough.” It just felt like, “I’m a horrible mom because I’m probably not reading, talking, and singing enough to my baby.”
Brandy: Exactly, like you’re in your car and for the first time ever, you put on and Erykah Badu song instead of a fucking Frozen song. And then you hear on the radio later, “Are you talking to your baby?” And you’re like, “Goddammit, I just … Just one song. Can I just … I wanted to hear Bag Lady, please.”
Marissa: Yes. I remember … This was part of what happened to me is, I fell into all the shoulds, all the shoulds that I should be doing. And so, I started playing nursery rhyme music in the car when my baby was, I don’t know, eight weeks old. And I look back on that like, “What the hell was I doing?” And so, to make this message more clear, I did not like nursery rhyme music. It was not enjoyable, just in case that wasn’t clear. And I should have been playing Lady Gaga or whatever I wanted. That’s what I should’ve been doing.
Marissa: Because I made it all about her, meanwhile, I’m miserable.
Brandy: We are just trying to get it right. So many of us, when we become moms, we want to do right by our kids, and we want to do all the things that we are “supposed” to. And we want to be engaged, and there’s this new part of our life that we’ve never done before. Listening to nursery rhymes, it’s like, “Whoa, this is new.” But what we don’t realize is, when we do that on every single angle, we lose all those pieces of ourselves. So, it’s fine to do that in a balance, and that balance is always the hard part. But in the beginning, and for maybe years, you don’t know that. It’s like you’re talking about with all these experiments, I feel like as new moms we experiment. “Okay, so I’m mom. I’m going to be all mom. I’m going to be 150% mom.”
Brandy: And it’s not until we are a shell of a person weeping on our bathroom floor, that we are like, “Maybe I should have listened to Lady Gaga instead.”
Brandy: So, we learn. I think sometimes, even though people tell us it’s going to be this, it’s going to be that, this might happen, your expectations might not be met, sometimes we have to just feel it for ourselves to understand really, “Oh, I don’t want to do that anymore.” And it depends, because some of us put up with bullshit a lot longer than others.
Brandy: So, I think that’s where people, and their timelines on that can be quite different.
Marissa: Yeah, I think it’s important just to ask ourselves, “What do I want?” Maybe I still take my daughter to the park, even though a part of me doesn’t want to. But maybe … It just depends, but maybe to give myself permission to say, “I really want to stay home,” or, “I really want to listen to Lady Gaga,” just to pause and ask myself, “What do I want?” is so powerful.
Brandy: Yeah. And it’s something that when you become a mom, just gets pushed right out of you. Because we are in South Orange County, I remember going to Disneyland with some friends and their kids. And somebody asked me, one of the parents asked me, “What’s your favorite ride to go on?” And I was like, “Excuse me? Me? Well, my favorite ride is whichever one neither of them are crying on. Whichever one both of them can go on where I don’t have to hear complaining.” And it was this moment that I just remember, where I thought, “Huh, I don’t even have an opinion anymore, because my opinion is what produces the least amount of crying and resistance.”
Brandy: And so, I love what you’re saying, which is taking back these pieces of things that are important to you and that you really love, and having a favorite ride at Disneyland that doesn’t revolve around your kids. Once again, you’re for the moms, so your point of view would be like, “Fuck them,” (not really), but, what ride do you want to go on? What gives you joy? Not, what gives your kids joy, and therefore gives you joy?
Marissa: Yeah, I’ve had Disneyland passes, and I have actually gone by myself. It was so much fun.
Brandy: Wow. And when we talk about … I’m trying to think if I’ve talked about this on this podcast before, but when we talk about doing motherhood your way, my husband … I refer to him as Disneyland Dad, because he’s super fun, and he loves Disneyland. And so, we’ve had passes with the kids. But I sort of hate Disneyland. I like it one day a year. I don’t like the crowds, and I don’t like the waiting in line, and I don’t like the melting down that used to happen, that really doesn’t anymore. And so, finally, I think it was last year, our lovely grandmas gift us with those passes. And I think it was finally this last year I said, “You guys can do that, but I’m not going to.” And it was hard, because I felt like, “Because I’m doing this, I’m not fun. I’m also pulling out of something that’s family fun, and I’m putting myself before my family.” But damn, it felt good, because it was my truth.
Brandy: And it was also, I’m very practical, and with money, it was like, for them to spend that money and have me not go or enjoy it, that just felt like robbery to me. But, gosh, it felt so good to say, “I’m not a Disneyland person. And you guys are, and that’s great. And so, we’ll go do something else with me. We’ll go rollerskating, which I freaking love.” So, some of those little things, even somebody like me, who speaks up for what I need, even sometimes for us, it’s hard to really say the thing that we want in the moment.
Brandy: Okay, so, for people who want to find you, how do we find you?
Marissa: So, my website is postpartumhappiness.com. I’m on Facebook under Postpartum Happiness, Instagram. And they can download a copy of The Twelve Taboo Postpartum Truths, What You May Need To Know, But Probably Haven’t Been Told. You’ll find my book there, as well.
Brandy: If you had one takeaway, one thing that you could tell moms, what would be the one thing that you would tell them?
Marissa: Oh, gosh, I think that if you are struggling with that transition into motherhood, it’s normal, it’s common, it’s okay. And that help is available. I don’t mean to say accept it, it’s normal. But you’re not alone, and help is available. That could be coaching, that could be therapy. If you’re experiencing something that feels taboo or scary, I promise you’re not alone.
Brandy: Also, maybe to add to that, the idea that if you are not enjoying it, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have become a mother. And it doesn’t mean that you’re broken. Those two things-
Brandy: … I think could be helpful to hear. I know a lot of people who have the regret thing, like, “I shouldn’t have done this. I wasn’t made for this. Why did I choose this?” I don’t know that we have to be set up perfectly to enjoy the whole thing to have it be worth it. I just don’t think that’s true.
Marissa: Right. And that, there is a way to enjoy it. I really do believe that, with the right changes, with the right new norms that you want to create.
Brandy: Marissa, thank you so much for coming here and talking about this, and for being so open and honest about it. I appreciate the work that you’re doing, and just even being real and vulnerable, and saying the hard things about motherhood.
Marissa: Thank you so much. I’m thrilled to share this message with the hopes of helping another mom.
Brandy: I would imagine your wheels are turning about what Marissa asked. “What would you add, change, or take away if you could?” Hopefully, you can work towards a doable version of those things to re-create motherhood your way, ideally, with some support. And I have to admit, some of Marissa’s suggestions about letting go challenged my agreements about what a “good” mother is supposed to do. But it helped remind me that each of our parenting situations and needs are different, and there is not one right way to do this thing. If your sanity hinges on allowing your child to have dessert before dinner, do it.
Brandy: Also, Marissa’s book, Postpartum Happiness: What To Do When You Love The Kids, But Hate The Job, is on sale from August 22 through August 25, and it’s just 99 cents for the ebook, and 3.49 for the paperback. Her website again, is postpartumhappiness.com, and she also does long-distance and in-person postpartum coaching.
Brandy: If you are enjoying the podcast, I would love a rating, review, or social media share to get the message out to more people who need to hear these adult conversations. Thank you. As always, thanks for listening.