Postpartum Depression and New Mothers
The issue of postpartum baby blues, depression, and anxiety are all topics that are very important to me. I have made it a point to always bring it up with friends and clients, because I want to help rid the world of the stereotype that postpartum depression is something to be ashamed of. It isn’t!
I’ve been exposed to a stigma that new moms should be constantly happy, head-over-heels in love with their baby, and excited about every little phase in Baby’s life. (“Oh, look, he pooped out of diaper and all over his onesie for the fifth time today, how sweet!”) For too long I’ve watched women in my life think that they have to be up and entertaining guests only a few days after birth, apologizing for a messy home and for their unkempt appearance.
Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. Some Moms need a little more time to recover physically or mentally from a birth that didn’t go quite right. Some Moms don’t deal well with sleep deprivation and have a hard time functioning until they’re able to sleep. Some Moms can’t stand the newborn phase but are ready and eager to love on a four-month-old. That doesn’t mean these Moms don’t take care of their babies, or that they don’t love them. But having a new baby is not always as sweet and fun as looks like in the movies, and baby blues or depression can set in anytime during the first year after having a baby.Of course, I am no doctor, and if you or a mom you know thinks they might have a serious condition that could lead to injury to themselves, the baby, or another family member, you or they should seek help immediately. If you’re concerned about a friend, please talk to her. Really give her the chance to let it out in a non-confrontational way, just be there for her. Sometimes a conversation in a dimly-lit living room late in the evening is all a mom needs to make it through a few more days. Bring her dinner without asking first, offer to hold the baby for an hour or two so Mom can catch a nap or a shower, help yourself to that stack of dirty dishes in the sink. Take her older children to the park so she can have some alone time to bond with her baby, or ask her what you can do for her, in the moment, right now. Be present to her in whatever way she needs.
If you’ve not personally dealt with postpartum depression, chances are you know someone who has. Have you reached out to help her? Could she be the one who appears to have it all together- clean house, homecooked meals, great husband- but is silently struggling on the inside? Have you given her the chance to really let her guard down?
If you are the Mom who is struggling in silence, I beg you to not be ashamed. You don’t have to hide anymore. Please find a friend, family member, pastor, or doctor, and let them listen. Please don’t let it get to the breaking point, for the sake of your baby and other family members. Let someone help you, give them the chance to help you.
If you feel you have no one to turn to, consider attending a free meeting like La Leche League, a playgroup of like-minded mommies, or consider hiring a postpartum doula to help out for awhile.
One of my favorite resources is a website called Postpartum Progress. There are incredible stories of women overcoming all issues related to having a baby, including depression during pregnancy, after a pregnancy loss, and during breastfeeding. It’s an amazing resource. This page has links by topic.
All of my clients and friends have heard me say, “Be gentle on yourself.” I don’t mean just physically! Yes, a physical recovery from birth is important too, but I mean emotionally. All moms understand those early days, weeks, months… How sometimes it’s hard to find time to shower, sometimes your brain can’t quite come up with the right words, or how you don’t want to breath for fear of making a noise to wake up a sleeping baby. Messy houses can wait! You’ll have the chance to worry about losing that baby weight later! Gestating and giving birth is hard work, take a moment to pat yourself on the back and be proud of your body! Be gentle on yourselves, Moms, and know that this is another phase in life than can- and will- be temporary. Know that you are not alone.