Congratulations! You’ve just had your first baby! What are you going to do next?
The answer is likely “freak the f@ck out for a few months.”
It’s Not Just Baby Blues.
Postpartum Depression has gained quite a bit of momentum lately from celebrities like Hayden Panettiere, Adele, Chrissy Tiegen all revealing they’ve suffered. It’s important, though, to remember there’s a difference between postpartum depression and the “baby blues.”
Baby Blues are when you hear your baby cry or make a happy sound and you immediately cry because the baby isn’t a part of you anymore. They’re feeling things without you feeling them because they’re no longer inside you. Or crying for no reason. Crying for little reasons. Or crying because something was funny and you’re sad your baby isn’t inside feeling your happiness. But this is the important difference: It’s fleeting. You don’t stay in your sadness for long. It doesn’t effect your day to day life for any kind of notable period of time.
If it’s more, then it’s more. And that’s ok. Studies usually cite about 20% of new mothers suffer from this. It’s nothing new and it’s nothing that can’t be fixed. First you have to accept it and admit it to yourself. If you have some thoughts that scare you or you find yourself unable to function throughout the day; stop to think about that baby. If you think of harming yourself or that baby, it’s more than a warning flag; it’s a statement of fact. You have Postpartum Depression.
But It’s Not just Depression.
I have known several moms who’ve suffered from postpartum issues. And every single one of them actually suffered postpartum anxiety. Including me. I never thought of harming myself or my baby. I was never overwhelmed with sadness. And I never found myself unable to perform my daily tasks. What I did find was a series of panic attacks over little nothings. I found myself unable to breath when a friend said something that I thought belittled my labor experience. My friendships were irreparably damaged by my constant state of fear and being on edge. I lashed out when I shouldn’t have and I took things personally when I normally wouldn’t have. I was on constant needles thinking I was failing my baby.
My close friends suffered anxiety by being unable to allow their child to progress. They were afraid to let their 10 month old eat cheerios without breaking them into four pieces. In fear of car accidents, they wouldn’t drive their child anywhere; only going places in walking distance for months.
It’s Not Just Mamas with Babies.
It’s important to remember miscarriages and still births have these same hormones and emotions. They suffer the same problems; just differently. Because they don’t have the fear of messing up a child weighing on them; they have the fear of never having a baby to hold on them. They don’t have the guilt of not being enough for their child; instead they have the guilt of their child’s death. And there are none of those fleeting moments where they can hold a baby and be overwhelmed with love and happiness. They have only pain.
Please remember them.
It’s Not Just a Few Weeks.
You can feel the effects of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety for a lot longer than just a few weeks. It typically lasts about a year. There it is, mama. The reality. That’s just the cold hard fact. There may be periods of ebb and wane where you feel normal. Or maybe you’ve just found a few coping mechanisms that work. But some women suffer for upwards of three years. It doesn’t go away over night.
But it does go away.
Get the help, Mama.
Talk to your OB. Or the Pediatrician. Or any medical professional. Start with research on the Postpartum Support International website here. Call them at 1-800-944-4773. If you just can’t get the words out, if you just can’t get the voice to speak… Use their contact us page here. If you’ve suffered a miscarriage or infant death and are suffering, more specialized help can be found on this portion of their website.
Don’t be afraid of the treatment. Put a little lavender in your tea, if that helps. If it’s medication, that’s ok. Do not think it’s forever. Do not think it makes you crazy. There is a chemical, hormonal imbalance in your body right now. However you can fix it, you must. If you need to get back to work sooner than you thought to get away from the baby, it’s ok. Hand the baby off to your husband as soon as he gets home and go take a bubble bath, do it.
You can’t mother if you can’t breath.
You. Are. Not. Alone.
You will heal. It takes time. Some people take longer than others. There is no shame in this. You wouldn’t be ashamed if you had fear of cars after getting run over by one, would you? Don’t be ashamed if you pooped a baby out and there are physiological and mental effects that you need to heal. NO. SHAME. It’s normal. Normal is needing help. You weren’t built to do it all on your own.
You feel alone. But you aren’t.
It will get better. And you will look back at it as a scary, dark period. That is completely over. One day you will have a gorgeous child who’s grown your heart in every way. And the fear will not control you anymore.