As a licensed health educator and certified wellness coach, Stacy has spent over a decade teaching all aspects of health and wellness, but she specializes in reproductive education and postpartum health. She’s passionate about empowering mothers to live the lives they truly want by gaining new knowledge and implementing small lifestyle changes. She loves hosting mom meet-ups, designing curriculum, and coaching moms one-on-one. In addition to coaching, Stacy has served in Young Women, Relief Society, and Primary presidencies, but she currently serves in her dream calling as primary activity day leader. She resides in Utah with her husband and three sons. You can find Stacy at or @stacylyn_coaching on Instagram.

Enter Stacy…

With a brand-new baby in arms, Jessica starts her Sunday routine extra early. This is her first time washing her hair since last Sunday, and she’s rushing to breastfeed the baby before church to avoid doing so in public. Breastfeeding is still a challenge, therefore being in the mother’s lounge still feels overwhelming. She rifles through her closet struggling to find an outfit to wear. Her body has dramatically changed after having this baby, making her clothes feel uncomfortable and awkward. She desperately wants to look nice and feel like herself at church.

After rushing into church, she sits through sacrament meeting and feels a bit overwhelmed. The speaker is talking about everyone’s responsibility to do family history work. Jessica asks herself, “How can I do family history when I can barely feed myself and shower? I’m failing!” Every time her baby cries, she panics because everyone turns around noticing what a novice she is. She’s trying to keep herself together as she is surrounded by veteran moms with four to six kids. Jessica tells herself, “They all know what they are doing. Those moms look beautiful, put-together, and confident with their families. I can barely handle this baby. How do they have six kids? I can’t even breastfeed outside my house.”

Between meetings, a bishopric member pulls Jessica and her husband into the office for a temple recommend interview. The bishopric member asks Jessica’s husband about his work and his recent business trip. He turns to Jessica and asks, “How’s the baby?” Jessica secretly wishes he would ask about her life. She was excited about a new part-time job she just started, but the focus is on the baby. After small talk, she hesitantly answers her temple recommend questions. She gives the same answers she has in the past, but this time her answers feel hollow, lacking conviction. She can’t remember the last time she felt the Spirit. She feels unsure about her testimony.

As the second hour meeting ends, members ask Jessica how she’s doing. She answers, “Good” to every question. She’s not going to tell them how hard this transition has been as each takes their turn saying, “Aren’t babies the best?” “Oh, how I miss this stage!” “Are you getting any sleep? Just you wait, it’s worse when they’re teenagers.”

“This is going to get worse?” Jessica thinks to herself. “I can’t do more than this. Waking and feeding three times a night is stretching me to my limit.” By the time Jessica gets home she’s spiraling in overwhelm, frustration, and shame as her painfully-engorged breasts start to leak all over her uncomfortable shirt. She asks herself, “Was that even worth it? I don’t like church.”

Although Jessica is a fictional character, her story mirrors the experiences of women I have coached and/or served in my local ward.

A Dramatic Change

When women have a baby, they go through “matrescence.” It’s an unfamiliar term, but matrescence is the process of becoming a mother. Similarly to adolescence, new mothers experience many changes overnight: ·

  • Dramatic drops in hormones
  • Fluctuating body shape
  • New schedules ·
  • Additional responsibilities
  • Lack of sleep
  • Depletion of nutrients while navigating the healing process
  • Relationships evolve, including with their spouse
  • Career and/or educational goals shift
  • Identity changes

For many modern-day moms, this can be a very overwhelming process. Not only do they experience internal pressures and family expectations, but they also get the bombardment of social media telling them how to be a mother. This is the first generation of moms that have access to global information and opinions about parenting.

How can we help as leaders?

Ask the Right Questions

If you ask a postpartum woman how she is doing, nine out of 10 times you’ll be told, “Good.” They are not going to voluntarily tell you the hard. Moms don’t want to come across as ungrateful, weak, or unfit for motherhood. Try asking better questions. My favorites include:

  • “Tell me the best part of motherhood and the hardest part.”
  • “What has surprised you about postpartum?”
  • “How are you feeling physically and emotionally?”
  • “Do you have family support nearby?”
  • “Who is able to help?”

As we ask these questions, it’s crucial to let the sister answer and share HER experience. Often a new baby brings up memories of our experiences, and it’s easy to sideline the new mom as we share our birth story, newborn experiences, opinions, etc. She needs your focus and listening ear.

Empathize and Normalize

One in five new mothers experiences some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. It’s estimated that seven in 10 women hide or downplay their symptoms.

When women struggle postpartum, most think they’re broken, weak, or doing it wrong. It’s important to let women know it’s common to feel this way and help is possible. Consider using phrases such as the following:

  • “I really struggled postpartum (or my wife did), so feel free to tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
  • “The transition to motherhood is hard. It takes time to find your footing.”
  • “This is why we have each other, for these moments of hardship.”
  • “I promise you’re not broken or weak in any way. I know it feels like that, but this is a normal response for everything you have going on.”
  • “Motherhood is hard. You carry a large burden. It’s helpful to have extra supports for you because you are carrying such a heavy load.”
  • “I worked with a therapist/coach postpartum and that was really helpful for me.”
  • “I’m available at 6pm on Tuesday. What can I help you with?”

See the Woman

Mothers want to be seen as individuals. A large portion of their identity has changed since having a baby. They feel invisible as their baby becomes society’s focus. As shown in Jessica’s story, let’s make sure we talk to husbands and wives as people, not just parents. Often husbands receive interesting questions about their life and then the woman’s default question is, “How are the kids?”

Children are a huge part of our world but women, just like men, have other parts of themselves: hobbies, jobs, dreams, interests, goals. Motherhood can look a variety of ways, which is why we don’t always know the right question to ask. We don’t want to ask about her career if that woman has chosen to stay home. And maybe we don’t know interesting questions to ask about being home, so we default to asking about the kids. Try one of these:

  • “Tell me about your life.”
  • “What are the good and hard things happening in your world?”
  • “Outside of your children, tell me more about you.” “
  • What are your dreams and goals right now?”
  • “What are you working on right now?”
  • “What brings you joy in this season of life?”

Find the Right Involvement


Postpartum women often share that they feel spiritually numb during this phase. It’s hard to find a new groove with scripture study and their experience at church isn’t as peaceful as it once was. We want to keep them close to the flock, but not overwhelm them. Many of us have heard the phrase, “Information often precedes inspiration”. As a leader, I started talking to sisters personally before submitting their name to the bishop for a calling. I’ve learned that some members have a hard time saying no to the bishopric even if the calling was overwhelming or a bad fit. I would ask for their thoughts and feedback first. I was able to get real answers. We could counsel together to involve them in a way that worked for them. For example, I had a sister with severe postpartum depression who didn’t come to church but was willing to make the monthly newsletter on her home computer. Win win! When I had my babies, I appreciated leaders who asked me about my current calling. They checked-in to see if I wanted to stay or be released.

Our ward had a lot of postpartum women, which made it tricky to fulfill service needs such as providing meals for families. I wanted to give sisters an opportunity to serve without overburdening them, so we often broke up the meal between a couple of sisters. When asking I’d say, “If this isn’t a good week, it’s ok. There are many ways to love and support this family.” It’s important to be aware of the needs of the individual and the ward family as a whole.

Attending Activities

Often women feel their attendance at activities shows their righteousness or commitment level. With each activity we hosted, we told sisters they should never be burdened to attend, but that activities are there for those who want to utilize them. They’re not supposed to be an obligation to add to their to-do list. I would always say, “Stop by for two minutes or two hours.” We tried to be aware of new moms when creating activities. For example, we held daytime and evening playgroups to help working moms and moms at home.

Be Mindful of Cultural Norms and Biases

Our church has a rich history of being family centered. There can be spoken and unspoken expectations around womanhood and motherhood—social pressures about family size, spacing, work and education, etc. In my experience, men do not receive the same comments or questions regarding their family choices like mothers do. Be thoughtful in your comments and questions knowing families can look and conduct themselves in a variety of ways. We are very much aware of “The Family- A Proclamation to the World,” we know we have a

“sacred duty to rear our children in love and righteousness, [and] to provide for their physical and spiritual needs”.

This can be done in a variety of ways. If someone’s choices or parenthood journey doesn’t match yours or the norms, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. We should encourage seeking personal revelation instead of meeting a norm. For example, Elder Neil L. Andersen taught:

“When to have a child and how many children to have are private decisions to be made between a husband and wife and the Lord. These are sacred decisions—decisions that should be made with sincere prayer and acted on with great faith.”

He also added,

“We should not judge one another on this matter.”

When deciding how many children to have and how to raise them, numerous factors must be considered. These include the physical, mental, and emotional health of the parents, their financial situation, and more. Instead of sharing our opinions and preferences, encourage members to seek guidance from the Lord in their specific situation. He will help them understand what is right for their family.

The process of becoming a mother (matrescence) comes with a handful of mental, physical, and spiritual challenges. As leaders, we can better support mothers and families by asking thoughtful questions and intently listening, empathizing and normalizing the struggles, seeing and validating the woman as an individual, finding ways to get women involved without overwhelming them, being mindful of our personal and cultural biases around parenthood, and encouraging personal revelation.

How do we help leaders

Pin It on Pinterest