Inspired by her own motherhood experience, Marsha Stephanson created a mom-centric business serving mothers during the postpartum journey.
By Marsha Stephanson, Photo by Marina Wanders
I remember sitting in my favorite coffee shop in Austin, Bennu Coffee, taking in the sights and sounds of my new home. Growing up in North Texas, I took several trips with my grandparents down I-35 to visit either Austin or San Antonio, so I had become a little familiar with the area. After serving in the military, moving several places throughout the world and the country, my husband and I finally decided in 2015 that Austin would be our new home.
As I sat at Bennu, I started to reflect. Perhaps it was because my son had just turned 1 year old, but for some reason, I began thinking about my pregnancy with him and my daughter, the before and after. I spent my entire pregnancy preparing for my baby to arrive but it never occurred to me to prepare for postpartum care.
When I had my first baby, I remember leaving the hospital with a bag full of baby products and helpful resources for how to take care of my little one. We got home, got the baby settled and within a few hours, my body began to ache. I was swollen everywhere and leaking all over the place. I looked in the hospital bag to see what I should do to take care of myself. To my surprise and chagrin, the only thing I could find was a squirt bottle, adult diapers and some fishnet underwear! There were absolutely no instructions for how to care for myself, and I had absolutely no clue what to do.
Two months in to my postpartum journey, I began to experience feelings of hopelessness, guilt, anxiety and simply not feeling worthy of being a mom. I was afraid to talk to anyone for fear of being judged for thoughts I was having. It was truly through prayer and taking daily walks alone that I started to feel better and confident in being a mom. I did not realize until years later that I had suffered through postpartum depression.
Women of every culture, age, income level and race can develop perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Symptoms can appear at any time during pregnancy and within the first 12 months after childbirth. It is often one of the most challenging times for new moms, especially if it is the first baby. Strangely, it seemed to me that no one wanted to talk about it. Where was the book about What to Expect Postpartum?
That very day at Bennu Coffee, I created a survey of questions I had regarding postpartum conditions and published it on Facebook. The response I received from so many moms was overwhelming. It was then I knew I was not alone and moms needed to be made aware of the postpartum resources available to them.
It takes a village to raise a child. Motherhood is not meant to be done alone. Throughout history, mothers have typically had family and community support, both practical and emotional, while caring for their newborns and young children. Today, this is not the case for every mother; the community has diminished.
Cater to Mom is filling this need by raising awareness of perinatal mental health. We provide monthly postpartum boxes curated to support moms postpartum and beyond. But most importantly, we are ensuring postpartum resources are included in our boxes so Mom is better prepared for her postpartum recovery. I strongly believe every mother needs regular, ongoing information; mental, emotional and spiritual support; proper rest and nourishment; and, most of all, compassionate companionship and encouragement.
Postpartum has no timeline, and I am thankful for the opportunity to cater to the needs of moms, regardless of what stage of postpartum they are in.