Easy Playground Advocacy: Talk to the Mom With the Newborn

I was at a busy playground this morning with Julian and spotted a mom with a newborn in a carrier. Our toddlers were playing on the same equipment, so I struck up a conversation.

Me: I don’t miss having a newborn at all.

Then, there was The Pause while the mom formulated her response, which would either encourage or discourage further conversation.

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I used to avoid talking to strange moms for fear of rejection – what if she doesn’t want to talk to me? what if there’s a booger hanging out of my nose and I humiliate myself? what if she thinks I’m an idiot? But when I was recovering from postpartum depression, I did cognitive behavioral therapy, and  learned some tricks to manage my anxiety. When faced with an anxiety inducing situation, I ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” In the case of talking to a mom at the park, the worst case scenario is that the mom will I’m lame. After thinking through my fear of rejection a dozen or so times, I realized: so what? If a mom thinks I’m lame or boring or weird, that’s her problem, not mine. My recovery from PPD actually helped me become less shy, and for that, I’m hugely grateful.

End tangent. Back to our conversation in progress–

Me: I don’t miss having a newborn at all.

Mom at the Park: I will be glad when this stage is over.

From there, we chatted about the difficulties of sleep deprivation and the boredom of newborns. As we talked about the difficulty of newborns, I mentioned that I had severe postpartum depression after the birth of my first child.

I don’t always tell moms that I just met at the playground that I had postpartum depression. I only bring it up if (a) the mom seems like it’s the sort of thing she needs to hear, and (b) if there is a way to bring up the subject naturally in the conversation. I don’t promenade around playgrounds with a megaphone announcing that I had PPD, like some nut job on a street corner shouting about the End of the World. But since I’m an advocate for maternal mental health, and I’m used to bringing up the subject, I have gotten pretty good at knowing when I should bring up the postpartum pink elephant.

After we had talked for about ten minutes, I mentioned that I love my kids but I don’t like babies. The mom looked so relieved to hear me say this and said, “I’m not a baby person either!”

Me: I run a postpartum support group. I try to remember to tell all the new moms that I’m just not a baby person.

Mom at the Park: Is that the support group at the Family Room?

Me: Why yes it is.

Mom at the Park: I found your group online and was thinking about going. I had a lot of anxiety…

We talked some more, and then I had to wave goodbye and chase after Julian. It felt good to connect with a tired mom for ten minutes. She might not ever make it to my support group, but at least she got to feel human during our conversation.

Advocacy does not have to be a major production. Maybe you want to do something big, like start a blog or organize an event. But playground advocacy makes a big difference, too.

p.s. If you are ever in the Pasadena area, I’d love to have you attend my weekly support group! We meet Thursdays from 1-2:30 at the Family Room in San Marino.

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