I received a lot of advice before I had my baby and I forgot all of it once she arrived. I was one of those moms who got hit hard with Postpartum Depression. Adjusting to motherhood is tough for almost every new mother, but it seemed extra hard for me. I loved my little girl so much. I didn’t even know it was possible to love someone THAT much, but I could not shake the sadness and emptiness I felt inside.
Having a baby was HARD! It’s was 24/7, non-stop demand on my time with no planned breaks to shower, eat, sleep, talk to your partner, meet up with a friend, or indulge in something as simple as getting a haircut. Every hour of the day was about whatever the baby needed when the baby needed it. Projects remained undone, dishes piled up in the sink, laundry overflowed. And I needed someone to tell me that was okay. I needed to accept that it was all normal and part of the transition to motherhood.
So, Soon-to-be-Mom, there’s some advice I want to give you, and I hope you’ll remember it when your baby comes. These are the things I wish I had known to get me through the first month or so, in particular.
- Nearly every new mom experiences some type of sadness in the first few weeks after her baby is born. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. That’s normal. Ask for help!
- Sleep when your baby sleeps, even during the day, because you need sleep to feel better and there’s a good chance you’re not sleeping enough at night.
- Skip the makeup, even for company.
- Wear your pajamas or sweats all day, especially for company. They need to know that you’re recovering, NOT hosting!
- Accept that your “to do” list should only include:
- Take care of the baby
- Take care of myself
- Lower your standards on yourself for a while. It’s okay to skip the family graduation party, text a happy birthday message, let the dust bunnies accumulate in the corner.
- Find help for everyday stuff:
- Have the groceries delivered
- Pay the neighbor to walk the dog
- Order takeout for dinner
Personally, one of the reasons I felt it was so hard to adjust to life with a new baby was because I didn’t feel I had the permission to feel bad, sad, or overwhelmed after my baby was born. I had this expectation on myself that I should be happy and be able to do it all. I put pressure on myself to get back into their pre-pregnancy jeans as quickly as possible.
I know I’m not the only one who felt like that. These expectations are unattainable for and led me from Baby Blues right into the throes of Postpartum Depression.
What’s the difference between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression?
Baby Blues typically dissipate within a few weeks after birth. In those weeks, the range of feelings included exhaustion, fatigue, sadness, frustration, insomnia, unstable emotions, feeling overwhelmed, frequent crying, anxiety, and irritability.
Moms with strong support from family and friends have a better shot at leaving the Baby Blues behind than those who don’t have good inherent support. But even if you don’t have family or friends nearby who can help, you can find good support: there are mom’s groups all around the Tampa Bay area, including here at Breath of Life.
Postpartum Depression can be diagnosed at any time in the first two years after the baby’s birth. Baby Blues that lead to Postpartum Depression is no joke. It is not a sign of weakness. It’s not a sign that a mother doesn’t love her baby. It is a true medical condition that requires early detection by loved ones and caregivers who know the signs and symptoms so that Mom can get the help she needs.
For some, that immediate help might be prescription medications, but for other new moms, consistent sleep, help around the house, and laughing with friends might be all she needs to help get her back on her feet again.
How do you know if you’re starting to head down the road toward postpartum depression?
Here are some of the symptoms:
- Sleeping a lot
- Not sleeping at all
- Feeling worthless
- Guilty feelings
- Over or under eating
- Brain fog
- No interest in things you used to like to do
- Thoughts of hurting yourself
- Thoughts of hurting your baby
Some of the best ways for a mom with postpartum depression to feel better are things that she can do herself or with the encouragement and support of the people around her.
- Getting outside for a good dose of sunshine
- Eating healthy foods
- Avoiding processed foods and those that are high in fat and sugar
- Sleeping when the baby sleeps
- Increasing skin-to-skin time with baby
- Going to a therapist: a trained therapist offers moms a safe place to talk about how they’re really feeling and can help her get back on track
- If the budget allows, hire a postpartum doula, a trained professional who can help take care of mom so that she can rest and feed the baby. Postpartum doulas can work days or overnights to care for the baby so mom (and dad!) can sleep. They might also prepare meals and do some housekeeping. Consider putting this on the baby shower gift list and let guests contribute to the cost.
- Taking medications: prescription drugs are not always a bad thing! Combining medications with therapy is appropriate for women in certain situations and should be strongly considered for a mom who is experiencing severe postpartum depression.
If you’re struggling with Postpartum Depression, get help! Contact your OB/Midwife or talk to your family physician.
If you know a mom who seems to be struggling with Postpartum Depression, reach out to her and ask her what she needs and how you can help.
If you have a story of Postpartum Depression you’d like to share, connect with us on Facebook!