I just had my second child two months ago and have felt the ups and downs of postpartum. Elation over having a new baby quickly turns into irritability over not sleeping, which turns into anxiety over how I’m gonna get through the day with a newborn and three-year old, then anger and sadness ensue over god knows what. I know this is normal since luckily postpartum moodiness (also know as the “baby blues”) and depression are something that are often spoken about nowadays.
Ever since the tragic story of Andrea Yates drowning her 5 children to “save them from hell,” postpartum depression has been a subject that has gotten a lot more attention. Brooke Shields wrote a book about her experience with this disorder in “Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression,” which provided it with more media attention as well. Since her’s is a story of successfully overcoming postpartum depression, it helped women realize that it’s something that you can get help for, conquer and continue to live a happy life. It doesn’t have to end tragically.
During and after my first pregnancy I had a lot going on. It was an unexpected pregnancy, so the only preparation we had for his arrival was the 9 months he was in utero. We weren’t married and didn’t live together. When I found out I was pregnant my lease was almost up, which was convenient. I moved in with my then boyfriend, who soon became my fiance. He had a small one bedroom condo so we put it on the market and started looking for a house. We got married in a small ceremony before the baby was born but wanted to involve more of our family and friends in our partnership, we decided to have a bigger ceremony the summer after the babies arrival. On top of preparing for baby, selling a condo in the city and buying a house in the burbs, we were trying to plan a wedding. Oh, and did I tell you I didn’t have my driver’s license!? I had always lived in the city near public transportation so never required one, consequently, I needed to learn to drive asap and got my license at the mature age of 30.
Needless to say, things were pretty crazy when my son George was born which made it more difficult to deal with the hormonal changes that come after having a child. It was about a month and a half postpartum that it really started to hit me, I was completely anxious, stressed out and just trying to get through the day-to-day. I started drinking to cope. A little at first and then it escalated into a real problem.
Many bottles of wine and a year later I finally came to my senses, with a lot of support from my family. I was having anxiety attacks and my mother came out from Illinois to Boston to help me, god bless her. It was clear that I was having trouble dealing with life. She noticed I was drinking a lot and spoke to me about it. My husband had spoken to me about it too, but it was always something I blew off as just a way of getting through this stressful time and once things settle down I won’t be drinking as much. When I was ready to get the help I needed I luckily had the love and support from family and friends to confront my problems. I had battled with depression and anxiety throughout my life and since postpartum depression was something that I had heard so much about I knew that was probably what I was going through.
I was able to quit drinking with help from others who had battled with addiction. I started seeing a therapist and to do things that really helped me feel better emotionally, not just the quick fix of having a glass of wine. Working out, meditation, yoga, self-help books and just talking to people going through similar situations helped me abundantly.
It is very difficult for women to understand why they are feeling sad after giving birth. They are after all expected to be the happiest they have ever been in their lives after having a child. We all want to be strong, capable and selfless mothers. The reality of it is that adjusting to motherhood is extremely difficult. It is the biggest responsibility you will ever have and therefore incredibly important to be self-aware and honest. You need to feel comfortable enough with yourself and your loved ones to acknowledge that you are having problems, however large or small.
“Up to 80 percent of new mothers experience the baby blues, an emotional reaction that begins a few days to a week after delivery and generally lasts no longer than two weeks. If you have the blues, you may be weepy, anxious, and unable to sleep. You may also be irritable or moody.” – Babycenter.com
These symptoms generally go away within a few weeks. If they continue for longer then two weeks and get worse please see your doctor as this may not just be a case of the blues, but full on depression.
Postpartum depression can begin any time during the first two months after you give birth. Symptoms may include:
Irritability or hypersensitivity
Anxiety and worry
Crying or tearfulness
Negative feelings such as sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, or guilt
Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
Difficulty sleeping (especially returning to sleep)
Fatigue or exhaustion
Changes in appetite or eating habits
Headaches, stomach-ache, muscle or backaches
Ways of combating the baby blues and postpartum depression:
1) Tell someone! Please communicate with someone close to you that you are having problems. Believe it or not no one expects you to be wonder woman. They will be happy to help you in whatever way you need and you will feel so much better when you get it off your chest. If you are having trouble talking to someone you know here is a hot line that you can call: (800)PPD-MOMS ; (800)773-6667
2) Take care of yourself. Make sure you are eating and sleeping properly. If you need help ask for it. If you need a nap, ask someone to watch the baby for a little while to catch up on sleep; or sleep while the baby sleeps and don’t worry if housework goes undone. Keep in mind that your top two priorities are that you and the baby are taken care of and if you are not taken care of the baby won’t be.
3) Get outside. I know it’s hard but it’s always a mood booster to get out and get some fresh air. During the winter months this may prove to be difficult, I have found that many malls have “walking hours” before the stores open. Check out your local mall and try to plan on taking the baby for a stroll at the mall in the mornings.
4) Join a mothers group. Meeting new people and talking about motherhood with those that can understand and offer advice is a great way to help your mood. Check out meetup.com or babycenter.com for mothers groups near you.
5) My personal favorite: get some exercise! You need to wait until you get the go ahead from your doctor, but please try to get into an exercise regime as soon as you can postpartum. Even if it’s just taking a short walk once a day. Exercise is the best defense against anxiety and depression. It promotes overall emotional and mental wellness.
And lastly, don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself! Remember that the health and happiness of your child depends on it.
Have you had the baby blues or postpartum depression? If so I would love to hear your story and how you were able to overcome it. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time stay strong!