Let’s talk about postpartum depression & anxiety…
Let me just start off by stating that if you are currently experiencing either of these, or have in the past, you are not alone.
In fact the Illinois Department of Health states that 10-20% of new moms will experience a more severe form of depression – known as postpartum or perinatal depression. Of course in reality this percentage could be much higher due to societal pressures to be happy happy happy after giving birth which can cause guilt and shame if a new mother feels anything different.
When I became pregnant with my now 2 year old son, I was not expecting to be pregnant or planning for it. I was 28 years old, still living with my parents, and was fresh into my career. Needless to say, I was surprised, shocked, but eventually very excited. I had a fairly easy pregnancy, (not that smooth of a delivery which ended in a C-secction), and was so happy to finally be home with my new little family.
I am a very fortunate person who has caring friends and family who live close by who could help me through the transition of becoming a new mother, but still I felt something was wrong. My feelings of depression and anxiety began to appear about two weeks after I gave birth. I am in a much better space now, but looking back I remember feeling lonely, guilty, and overly anxious whenever someone would hold my baby for too long, or if I was away from him. These feelings persisted for a while until I finally decided it was time to see my doctor and get back into counseling.
My doctor prescribed me lexapro which helped tremendously and my therapist was a safe place for me to get my thoughts and feelings out. I now understand that what I was feeling was no cause to feel guilty or like I was a poor mother, it is something that new mothers actually have no control over.
This is a snippet of my story but everyone’s story looks and feels different. I am sharing in hopes that someone won’t feel ashamed and alienated from experiencing postpartum depression and/or anxiety.
I am not a doctor or a therapist but the list below are things that helped me through this difficult time and could possibly help you:
Take your time to get back to “normal.”: I wanted to fit back into my old clothes so badly. To go out and see all my friends. And do all the things I did pre baby. However, looking back I think fondly of the week my now husband and I spent lounging around the house in sweats with our newborn. Don’t rush this time! You cannot get it back. The time period after you come home from the hospital is for you and your baby, period. You can say no to people who want to visit. I now know that if I have another baby I will ask that we have no visitors for the first two weeks besides our parents. This is something I know will help me, but may be different for you.
Journal: Keep track of your feelings and let it all out! Journaling won’t take the place of speaking to a professional but it can help you get your thoughts out and in order. Writing everyday while I was experiencing postpartum depression helped me to realize things about myself I hadn’t known before. It also allowed me to have a record of my thoughts and feelings to share with my therapist during our first meeting. Sometimes I would write a little and sometimes a lot. Sometimes I wouldn’t know what was bothering me until I sat down and put my thoughts to paper.
Get professional help: As moms we want to feel like we can handle it all, but we just can’t, not by ourselves anyway. You do not have to suffer in silence or feel ashamed for how you are feeling. Let the people in your life know when you need a break. Seeking professional help can be intimidating but worth it in the end.
Hold the mama not the baby: This advice really isn’t for the new mom but for the people who want to support them. New baby’s are exciting and you want to celebrate their arrival and help anyway you can, but many times the first instinct for people is to hold and gush over the new baby. While this a personal choice for new parents and some certainly may enjoy the company, the mom and dad are still trying to bond with their new baby and connect as a new unit. Holding a new baby can also be anxiety inducing for new parents. To really help a new parent, hold them, not the baby. I do not mean hold them literally, unless they ask for that, but see how you can truly help them. Whether it’s dishes or bringing food, cleaning up, or running some errands, these things can make a big impact in the life of new parents. AND PLEASE, don’t kiss the baby without asking permission first.
Below are a few more resources regarding Postpartum as well as two books that really helped me. To all the new moms reading, you got this!!
Other Resources for postpartum depression and anxiety:
- Book – The Power of Now: Eckhart Tolle
- Book – The School of Life – Alain de Botton