“I just gave life to a tiny human…why don’t I want to take care of them?”
Of the approximately 4 million births in the US per year, it is believed that up to 3 million of those mothers suffer from varying levels of postpartum depression. So whether you realize it or not, you or one of your loved ones have experienced this temporary state. While it is temporary since it is related to the hormone and emotional changes following childbirth, it is essential to take it seriously and pursue the help you need.
Mothers are prone to postpartum depression if…
- They have a family history of depression or mental illness.
- They have mixed feelings about having a baby or experienced complications during the birth.
- They do not have a strong support system.
- They experience a significant life change such as the loss of a loved one or a career change shortly after their child is born.
However, women can experience postpartum depression even if none of these factors are present.
It has been said that childbirth is like being in a car accident and then being handed an infant to care for day and night while you are still trying to recover from your own injuries. Social media and other moms make it seem like you should be able to jump right back into your normal life and be joyful every moment of the day as you care for your little angel’s every need.
So what do you do when the opposite is true? What if you feel entirely depleted, uncontrollably sad, moody and anxious, constantly overwhelmed, and unable to care for yourself, let alone a baby who relies on you every second of the day?
- Give yourself some grace.
Take a deep breath and soak in the significance of what you have just done. Regardless of your “birth story,” you just powered through one of the most physically challenging things anyone has ever done.
Realize that everyone feels lost at the beginning. Even if other people seem to have it all together, they are just figuring it out as they go along too. Don’t consume or accept the unrealistic expectations of other parents because every baby is different and every family is different.
- Talk with someone close to you about how you are feeling.
You might assume that intense mood swings, unexpected and uncontrollable emotions, hopelessness, and even sudden anger towards your baby are normal in the early days and weeks. But while high feelings and excessive tiredness are par for the course, more aggressive and potentially harmful emotions could be a symptom of postpartum depression. Talk with someone who has known you for a while – a parent, spouse, or friend – about how you are feeling. They will be able to tell you if these new emotions are out of character for you and they may recommend opening up to a therapist or doctor.
- Take care of yourself.
The amount of care that newborns and infants require is utterly exhausting. It is unlike any other requirement in the world because they literally can’t do anything for themselves (except cry). The weight of pressure and responsibility can continually push your own needs aside to the point where you can become unhealthy. In combination with postpartum depression, which can make you feel like you can’t take care of yourself, this can become harmful.
So many mothers out there have been right where you are right now. Don’t look at them and think “they wouldn’t understand – they have it all figured out,” but instead think “they’ve been where I am and they know.” Don’t be afraid to ask a friend to come by to watch your baby so you can take a long shower in peace or take a nap. Be honest about your needs, and let people in. You will be amazed how relieving it can be to know that someone else is feeding or changing your baby, making sure they are alright, and keeping them safe for a few minutes.
You can’t pour from an empty cup, so work self-care into your routine.
- Be honest with your doctor and your pediatrician.
During your postpartum OB appointments and your baby’s first several pediatric appointments, the doctors will ask you if you are experiencing any symptoms of postpartum depression or perhaps have you fill out a questionnaire. Answer honestly.
Don’t suck it up and tell yourself that “other women deal with a lot worse” or “I’ll be fine – it’s not that bad.” But think about the times when your postpartum depression comes crashing on your shore: during that 3am feeding, when you’ve tried everything to get the baby to stop crying, in the moments where you have the darkest thoughts. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and you do not have to suffer. The doctor genuinely wants to help you, not to point the finger and mention that you have done something wrong.
- Reach out for therapy.
While a doctor might prescribe you a medication to help with the symptoms, talk therapy is an excellent way to start the process of healing and getting your life back. A grief and loss therapist in Long Beach will be able to explain to you what is going on in your brain that causes your symptoms and guide you through the waves of depression therapists long beach. Talking it out makes you feel understood and accepted, which might not be anything you have felt since your baby was born. It is a breath of fresh air to know that these feelings will not last forever and that you can truly love and cherish your baby before long.
Hang in there and don’t be so hard on yourself. You have just increased the world’s population, and the future is bright for you and your little one.