Reporting Back: 7 weeks of parenthood by Hannah Campbell Gustafson

written by Hannah Campbell Gustafson

My husband and I have been parents for almost seven weeks now, to a wonderful baby girl named Leona Joyce.  Back in April, I wrote a post about post- and peripartum depression, and the stigma I sensed and feared, as well as some scripture that gave me comfort.  

I’m only at the very beginning of parenthood, but I thought I would report back briefly.  I was so afraid of stigma around mental health after giving birth, and at least so far, have found things to be different than I feared.  (I’m aware that this is largely due to the people that I have around me, and the relationships I’ve built.)  Both my doctor and my doula were very clear with both me and my husband that in the several days after birth, I would likely have periods of being tearful and upset, due in part to hormones.  When those days occurred, it was reassuring that I had been told I might feel that way.  I’ve also had a few friends who recently had babies reach out and tell me about how they went through mentally unhealthy times in the first year of their baby’s life, with one friend talking specifically about a diagnosis of postpartum depression.  Postpartum depression has not been part of my experience so far, but I know it could still happen, and I’m grateful for friends who were willing to reach out and tell me about their experiences.

This all may seem simple, but I know that plenty of women don’t have care providers or communities who help normalize the mental health struggles that are part of the postpartum period for many.  I am grateful that these people are part of my life, and also want to make sure to offer this kind of support to other friends and loved ones in the future.  It also makes me wonder about other things that could be done differently to talk about the time after birth and to normalize the whole variety of things that women may experience.  Along with that, I wonder what role faith communities could (or do) have in supporting women in their postpartum time, particularly in connection to mental health.  
Hannah Campbell Gustafson is director of Family Promise of Grant County, a nonprofit that uses a network of volunteers and faith communities to serve families experiencing homelessness.  She teaches one class a semester at University of Wisconsin-Platteville in social work, and chairs the Lafayette County Homeless Coalition.  Hannah is treasurer of the UCC Mental Health Network board of directors, and is a Member in Discernment with the Southwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the UCC.  She lives in the beautiful Driftless region of Southwest Wisconsin with her husband (an ELCA Lutheran pastor), their young child, and their standard poodle puppy, ├ôscar Romero.