I had heard about postpartum depression. In fact, I even expected to have it since the women in my family have a history of anxiety and depression. But I don’t think you can truly understand until you’ve been there.
The day I had my son, I was not excited to meet him. I wasn’t alarmed by this since I had experienced a fairly traumatic labor and birth. It seemed logical to me that it would take some time to get used to all this new stuff that was happening.
My time in the hospital was fine and dandy. Being doted on by the nurses and all our visitors was really nice. People were always around to help me with the baby: changing his diaper, holding him, helping with breastfeeding, giving me pain meds. It was wonderful.
The day that my husband went back to work, it had been six days since my son’s birth. They were six difficult days, but at least I had him, not to mention our entire extended families, by my side.
When he walked out the door that awful Tuesday morning, I just stared at this little creature that I was now stuck with. I remember feeling this awful dread come flooding into my gut.
“My life is over.”
I remember trying to hold it together that day. I watched some TV – trying to stay in a mental coma like I had in the hospital the week before. I kept reassuring myself that I knew what I was doing. The nurses and lactation consultants had helped me so much, and I had this whole mothering thing down!
Maybe I was just tired. We took a nap together. I snuggled my baby close.
And then he started crying.
And I don’t mean just crying. I mean high-pitched, wailing, newborn baby screaming that cannot be stopped without exactly the right solution.
So we nursed. Side to side to side. My nipples became numb. He would suck fiercely and then pop off screaming. I was convinced that I wasn’t enough and he was starving.
Finally, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Everything inside of me was too much, and I started crying too. Sobbing. My whole body was shaking from deep inside of me.
I wanted to leave my baby there on the bed, run away and never come back. I couldn’t believe I had ever wanted this. And I was stuck. I had a baby and I couldn’t do anything about it.
This was my life forever and I was trapped.
My husband came home with a bottle from the store and I fed my son some pumped breastmilk I had been working on.
Finally, he fell asleep.
And I kept crying. I felt like something inside of me was broken and would never be fixed. I asked my husband to take a shower with me.
And he just held me. I cried.
Thankfully, these feelings didn’t last forever. But they were extremely real and very scary.
Whether you are pregnant, a brand new mom, or just hoping for the future… here are ten things you really should know about postpartum depression.
- Your feelings are valid, real & you are not crazy. You know how when you conceive, you slowly start to get crazier and more emotional? Well, at least you have nine months to build those hormones up. The second you give birth, those hormones are gone. This sudden drop causes your body to basically go crazy. While your feelings and thoughts after giving birth may seem insane, I promise you aren’t crazy. This is a real thing, but once your hormones level out you will feel much, much better.
- Your thoughts during your postpartum weeks are not rational. If you want to throw your baby out the window, don’t feel guilty. Your thoughts will be ridiculous, and possibly even dangerous. Don’t beat yourself up for the random and weird things that come to your mind. Just do your best to remind yourself that this is temporary.
- Talk to another mom. Whether that is your mom, an older sister or friend, or one of the nurses at your OBGYN office, find someone to tell how you truly feel. Your husband might listen and hold you, but he has no idea what you are going through. Find a woman who has been in your shoes. Hearing from them that it will get better will help so much. Also, they may be able to help you judge whether this is just a normal case of the baby blues, or something more serious that you may need help for.
- Be aware of your thoughts & feelings. At your six-week postpartum checkup, they will ask you lots of questions to see if you have depression. But to be honest, this is far too late. If you have a serious case of postpartum depression, it will need to be dealt with sooner. Like I said above, find an experienced mom to talk to. She can help you decide whether it is just the blues, or postpartum depression.
- Oxytocin is the best fix for your crazy. Snuggling and kissing your baby, intimacy with your husband, or just squeezing a friend really tightly… all of these things release the oxytocin hormone into your body, which is one of the hormones that just made a sudden drop out of your body at birth. Take time to be with people, and make sure to do a lot of snuggling.
- If you are depressed, try to limit your alone time. As a new mom, the reality is that being alone is going to happen. And getting out of the house with a new baby isn’t always a realistic expectation. But request for others to come visit you. Try to either visit with someone every day or call a friend or family member. I promise that the encouragement and company will make everything significantly better.
- You may not feel love for your baby. This was the hardest part of postpartum depression for me. I thought that I was a failure of a mother because I didn’t want or love my baby. But you just do what you have to do, and eventually, those feelings will come. Breastfeeding was one of the things that helped me combat that, but for some women, breastfeeding escalates those feelings.
- Exercise. I know that when you are feeling depressed, the last thing you are going to want to do is exercise. But get that newborn baby in a stroller and take a walk! Get your body outside and breathing that fresh air. Light exercise is so helpful for your postpartum healing process, both inside and out.
- Sleep deprivation makes depression even worse. I know, this isn’t great to hear. Unfortunately, we new moms can’t really do anything to help with sleep deprivation. And those well-meaning people that tell us to “sleep when the baby sleeps”… well, they just don’t understand that that really isn’t an option most of the time. But REST goes a really long way when you are sleep deprived. Newborn babies sleep a lot, so take advantage of that time. Maybe limit yourself to doing household chores during ONE nap a day. During your little one’s other naps, take the time to lounge around and watch tv or read a book. If you can’t get good sleep, at least let your body be still.
- There is quite the range of postpartum depression. 80% of new mothers experience the baby blues. This is a normal thing that happens the first few weeks after the baby is born when your hormones are figuring themselves out. This is normal. 15% of mothers experience something more serious, which is what postpartum depression usually refers to. This usually requires medication, which is nothing to be ashamed of.