Warm wishes, smiling visitors, balloons, flowers, swooning family members…
They say this is supposed to feel amazing, but something inside is amiss. You don’t feel right. Something doesn’t feel like it should. Gazing down at your sweet newborn, you aren’t feeling the way you thought you would. Perhaps instead of feeling energetic and wanting to hold her and wake with her to feed her, you are continually exhausted and feeling drained. Instead of wanting to hold her close and bond with her, you are feeling a strange disconnect. Maybe the prospect of sleepless nights yet to come, feeling like you will be constantly needed and unable to relax, and the demands of other family are leading you to feel overwhelmed, uncertain, and anxious. Perhaps you feel like sleeping constantly and hiding away, or on the flip side, that rest is hard to come by no matter how hard you try. You may even feel irritable, guilty, easily frustrated, rethinking and overthinking things despite trying to be calm. In the midst of all of it, you might even be having unwanted thoughts, and unsure of why you don’t feel happy like you thought you would after nine months of anticipation for this time.
For some women, these symptoms last up to two weeks and then fade. This is called the “baby blues” and happens quite commonly with hormonal shifts and the natural feelings and changes that come as part of this major life transition. For other women, symptoms linger and are part of Post Partum Depression (PPD). Post Partum Depression affects 15-25 percent of mothers. It is created by a whirlwind of hormonal changes post birth, and neurochemical changes that ensue as a result. Environmental changes and stressors can also contribute. Some women are more genetically prone to it as well.
Do not be discouraged. There is help. Here are the steps to take:
1. Realize you aren’t alone and you have done nothing wrong. Do not be hard on yourself.
This is not a reflection on you as an individual, a woman, a wife, or a mom. Take a deep breath. Allow yourself to cry. It is OK to say, “I am not OK” and “I need some help”.
2. Remember who you are to your Father in Heaven.
YOU are precious to God. He gives grace and mercy readily to us. He has grace for YOU. There is no guilt or shame in feeling overwhelmed, tired, exhausted, sad, worried, confused, or any other feeling you are having right now. Allow yourself to soak in the knowledge that God loves you as you are, right here in this moment.
3. You deserve to feel well, to enjoy your baby, and your baby deserves to enjoy you.
Treatment is readily available. You are not alone. Your obstetrician can help you, and does help many women with PPD everyday. PPD is treatable and you will recover. Call, schedule an appointment, don’t wait.
4. Be open with your spouse or the person in your life who is supporting you most.
You need all the support you can get right now, and you and your baby deserve to have it. If someone in your life has a hard time understanding PPD, point them here, to this website and the plethora of websites online about post partum depression. The more you feel understood and can be open about what you are going through, the better.
If you feel comfortable doing so, allow your spouse to be present during your appointment with your doctor, so that you feel supported and your spouse understands that this is a medical condition that can be treated.
5. Your doctor will likely present you with several options.
Often, having the support of your medical provider and loved ones and a structured plan can be markedly helpful. As part of an evaluation, your doctor may have you take a screen for depression (a piece of paper that you can fill symptoms out on). She may also run some labwork to check your hormones, thyroid, and vitamin D levels.
She also will help you come up with a plan for self-care. It can be immensely relieving to allow your spouse to help share care for the baby, so you can catch up on rest. It is important to eat well, get fresh air, and take some time for yourself. Wearing your baby can help if you are struggling with attachment. The closeness of skin to skin contact can reduce stress for you and help bonding.
Your doctor will also offer you the option of medication and talk through the pros and cons of taking a medication to help. For many women I’ve treated over the years, medicine is restorative and allows them to heal faster and to feel better, which in turn allows attachment and bonding to be healthy. Many women choose to be involved in therapy as well. Talking with a therapist can help you to process all that you are feeling and going through. Your doctor can make a referral to a therapist or psychiatrist if you’d like.
6. Have grace for yourself.
You’ve just given birth and your body has totally changed over the last nine months. Your hormones have been a mess. The transition to having a baby is one that affects all domains of your life. Everything shifts. It is okay to say, “I’m struggling”. It is okay to say “I don’t know what to do. I need help.” As a mother, the best thing you can do for your baby is to first take good care of you.
Studies show that babies have improved sleep, better cognitive outcomes, and less anxiety when mothers have treated their post partum depression. A healthier you will make for a healthier baby, and your connection and bond will be far greater when you feel well inside. Getting help takes courage. Your baby needs you to be good to YOU and in doing so, you are taking the best step for both of you.
- Link for more information: https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/help-for-moms/
- Call 1-800-944-4773 Help for Moms, Post Partum Support International for support (non-emergency). This organization also helps with post-adoption depression as well.
- If at any point, you are having thoughts of self harm or feeling unsafe, it is important to call 911, and seek out emergency care. Remember, there is always help available.
- If you are struggling and unsure of what to do, you can call 1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Hotline for confidential 24/7 help.