This post first appeared as a guest post on The Motherhood Journey blog written by me. After you read this post, do me a favor and check out Ashley’s blog. She writes about the transition into motherhood as a pospartum doula, so she is very supportive and uplifting.
So you just birthed a baby out of your own body. First of all, you’re a superhero! Second of all, forgive your body for what it is about to go through for the next couple of months. You will soon experience feelings and emotions you’ve never felt before. Why is this? The simple answer is hormones. Your body produces such an abundance of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy that the sudden decrease after giving birth sends you into an extreme whirlwind of emotions and reactions. If you think about it, you’re also experiencing a drastic decrease in sleep and a life changing shift in routine. That alone is enough to place stress on your body, but add changing hormones and it’s a miracle new mothers survive at all. So what should you expect? Hopefully you are able to give birth and adjust to this new life without any major hiccups. Unfortunately statistics say that around 90% of mothers will experience baby blues or postpartum depression or anxiety.
Baby blues is defined as the early onset symptoms of postpartum depression. The difference between the two is that baby blues will subside within a few weeks. Symptoms are less severe with baby blues. Once your hormones level out, your emotional health will go back to normal, or as normal as can be with a new child in the mix. You can speed the process along by getting more sleep (yeah right!), eating healthy and whole foods, and keeping your life as simple as possible. Tip: Take the first couple of weeks to focus on adjusting to your new addition. Tell your friends and family that you would appreciate their presence in meeting your newest family member, but not until he/she is at least two weeks old in order to easily adjust to your new lives. If they feel like they must help in some way, don’t be afraid to ask them to deliver a healthy dish on your porch and invite them to come over as soon as you feel comfortable.
Disclaimer: If you ever feel the urge to hurt yourself or your baby in the months after giving birth, please seek professional help right away. Remove yourself from your baby and call your healthcare provider at that moment. Postpartum depression has similar symptoms of baby blues, but these symptoms are amped up to an extreme and last longer. This affects around 10% of women after giving birth, so you are not alone! If you think about all the women who give birth daily you realize just how staggering this number is. There is absolutely nothing to feel ashamed about because this is out of your control. But finding help to combat PPD is not out of your control. I did not suffer from postpartum depression, but I had a close friend who did. We gave birth to our first children, both sons, a day apart. She is expecting her second son this spring. For this article, I decided that in order to give an accurate depiction of postpartum depression I would interview her on her own personal experience.
When did you know you had postpartum depression and not just baby blues?
Probably 5-6 months pp. I’m still not 100% sure if what I was going through was strictly from postpartum or a combination of being isolated in a new city where we had no family and friends. Probably a good mix of the two along with agonizing over every little detail of mothering.
What specific feelings/reactions did you struggle with the most when you had PPD?
I specifically had resentful feelings and feelings of physical violation at my worst times. I still struggle with being touched. Breastfeeding was something very complicated for me as time went on and I felt like I was stuck doing it. I still support it and believe it’s the healthiest option but it may not always be worth sacrificing the way you feel about your own body and your ability to feel well while going through the very tough learning curve of being a new mom. I also had very sudden moments of anger and crying that never got dangerous or out of control but were enough to scare me and make me accept that I was not in a good way.
What was your defining moment/situation that caused you to get help?
I don’t think I really had a defining moment, it was more of a buildup. I just remember sitting on the steps of my old duplex and telling my husband I didn’t know how to fix what I was feeling and I wanted to try going to a counselor.
How did you find help?
I went to the local Family Counseling Center and met with an OB to recommend a therapist.
What are you most afraid of with having another child?
I’m mostly concerned with adjusting back to having much less time to “fill my own cup” and having time to recharge mentally through the day. And having enough help on a daily basis.
What are you doing to safeguard against future PPD?
I don’t think we can necessarily safeguard against having postpartum struggles because there are just so many variables. How the pregnancy and delivery turn out, the living situation, the financial situation…I currently feel confident about everything surrounding me and I feel prepared as best I can to manage the big change.
Do you have any advice for new mothers?
The advice I would give is to remember that everything is a phase. Newborn phase can be isolating, toddler phase can be chaotic. Do your best to keep in mind that this is a sliver of the big picture and that you’ll work through everything and learn as you go. You’ll get nothing but stronger, more mature and more experienced. My confidence in myself has gone up exponentially since having my son, in spite of some of my personal issues I had to navigate.
We don’t talk about postpartum anxiety a lot because people assume it is the same as PPD, but the truth is that it is not. I did not have symptoms of depression after my son was born, but my anxiety was magnified. I wrote a post specifically highlighting my postpartum experience with anxiety. Long story short is that until I received professional help, I was not able to bond with my son at all. I had materialized him into this milk guzzling, emotion draining, sleep killing machine. Postpartum anxiety, like any anxiety disorder, can disrupt your daily life so much that you cannot function day-to-day. This can become dangerous to relationships, your own well-being, and the emotional growth of your new baby. If you have extreme worries about your baby, your life after your new baby, or your partner’s adjustment to your new baby, or racing thoughts that you cannot slow down you might be suffering for postpartum anxiety.
You are entitled to find help for yourself if you think you have or are susceptible to postpartum depression or anxiety. Women who have a family history of depression or anxiety disorder or themselves have a history of these illnesses are more vulnerable to postpartum anxiety or depression. Or if you have extreme PMS symptoms and mood changes you are more likely to have postpartum issues. The good news is that there are professionals available everywhere to help you. The best thing you can do for your family is to get help for yourself. Your OB/GYN or midwife will check in during your recovery to make sure you are not experiencing PPD or PPA, and if you are they can direct you to a professional in the field. There are many postpartum support resources at www.postpartum.net, including links to professionals and groups in your area. You are not alone in this journey of motherhood, so please feel free to connect with me.
- Pancakes for dinner almost every night
- Cuddling on the couch, watching American Idol
- God's faithfulness in providing when we need it the most