I'm looking right at Ivanka Trump's face and for the first time ever, I want to agree with her. My political views and distaste for the Trump family stand in stark opposition to siding with anything that woman says, but as I watch her speaking to Dr. Oz, telling him about her struggle with postpartum depression, I feel a tug of familiarity.
I too had postpartum depression and anxiety following the birth of my daughter, Claire. I had a blissful pregnancy. Morning sickness was never a factor, my hair and skin were better than ever, I relished each glimpse of my rounded belly as I ran past storefront windows. So when I found myself rocking my daughter to sleep and having a panic attack—my heart palpitating and the walls of her nursery seemingly closing in on me—I was floored. Like Ivanka says in her interview, the juxtaposition of my pregnancy and postpartum period completely rattled me. But commiserating with Ivanka Trump? That floored me even more.
I haven't made it a secret that I will stand in deep opposition of the Ivanka Trump we see every day. As I listened to her speak about her experience with PPD, I thought, "Is she fucking kidding me?" PPD is a haunting experience that affects new mothers of all socioeconomic backgrounds—including ones who would not survive it without sufficient healthcare. While I'm not here to judge the value of someone's struggle, her boo-hoos are pretty ironic.
Ivanka says she felt she failed at roles as a mother, wife and an entrepreneur. As I navigated music classes and family get togethers in the first few months of my daughter's existence, I felt like my smiling face was telling people that I was having the time of my life, while internally I was hot with shame for feeling anything but. It was true—I deeply loved my daughter. But the contrast of my affection for her and ongoing mental battle led to a constant state of guilt. Why couldn't motherhood be enough to shake me from my feelings? No matter how many times my logic told me that my mental chemistry was unchangeable by means of sheer will, the thought always found its way back in.
This is the place where my short, shared path with Ivanka Trump divides. When she tells Dr. Oz that she struggled with returning to work, I find myself thinking, "Oh really, now?" With as many as one in seven women suffering from postpartum depression, I can say with certainty that the bulk of those women will be required to go back to their jobs in the midst of their struggle.
Like me, they will take their Lexapro and go to work every morning. Those women may not have resources or a support team who drives them to the emergency room at 3 am because of a perceived life-ending condition. They may not have the health insurance for proper care, and they most likely won't have Ivanka's financial means to seek mental health services, like counseling and psychotherapy, should they choose to.
They would deeply feel the effects of the GOP's latest version of the healthcare bill, the Graham-Cassidy Bill, which will allow insurers to opt out of essential services, including emergency care, pregnancy, maternity and newborn care, and—you guessed it—mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment.
During the interview, she says she feels privileged to be given a platform to "push areas and push issues" that are aligned with her father's agenda. But if falling in line with the current administration's agenda is what she continues to do (and what she will undoubtedly do), then going public with a postpartum depression story will be for naught.
One wonders what Trump's motives are in sharing it in the first place--to appear more relatable and human to the public? If so, it's the ultimate flimsy front, given that she's clearly unwilling to act to help herself and the millions of women who are going through a similar experience.
I'm not begrudging Ivanka her fortune, support team or acknowledgement of the courage it takes to share her story. But what I am calling her bluff on is the backseat she has taken thus far to advocating for a cause that we now know has personally affected her. For someone who quite literally stands on platforms across the globe and speaks to people about relevant issues, her role in the advocacy of postpartum depression must extend beyond "Look! Me too!"
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