When you are pregnant, you have 3 trimesters typically/hopefully, then you have the baby! That’s the way that it works, right? But there is a topic out there that not many women like to discuss even though it’s one of the hardest things they will go through except for may labor and delivery.
Even though it’s been happening for years and years, it’s still kind of taboo to talk about it. I’m talking about postpartum depression/anxiety. It’s a real thing and it can be absolutely debilitating to a new mom who is already struggling because of the change in her life of having a new baby. As if the feeding, burping, changing, and sleep deprivation aren’t enough, right?
Think about it for a minute. From the moment those two pink lines show up on a pregnancy test your heart is racing. Having a baby is one of the most anxiety filled experiences of a woman’s life. From the moment she finds out about it, all the way through the pregnancy, and then once the baby is born, it is a rollercoaster ride FULL of anxiety.
Having a child is a huge responsibility, a huge tax on the body, not to mention a tax on your marriage or relationship, your professional life etc. And oftentimes, depending on the circle of people in your life, they might not always tell the full truth about their experience. For some reason, not many women want to admit that they struggled after their baby was born.
I have run into this a lot. You may have heard similar things from friends of yours like, “Everything is magical and I love being a mom and the baby is amazing.” But really that is often not true. Now on top of hearing false things like that from people you know and low throw in some extreme sleep deprivation and hormonal changes and you have a potential recipe for not only depression, but also anxiety.
I had a client who suffered very badly and literally couldn’t put her baby down. She was so filled with fear about something happening to him that she just held him all of the time, never put him in a crib, and was miserable. She was so anxious that she couldn’t allow herself to relax.
Other people experience the lack of bonding with the baby as some tell in their postpartum depression stories. This means that they don’t feel anything towards the baby or they even hate the baby. When we bring these things to light and talk more about it, then it takes the shame away.
I am not a specialist in this area at all, however, there are several people out there who are and you can find them on instagram and even on podcasts. I think talking about the symptoms, what to be on the lookout for, how many women suffer from this, and what treatment options you have is just the beginning of the conversation.
Did you know there are natural ways that you can help your postpartum anxiety? You can do lots of things that are natural to help ease that anxiety including:
healthy food options-preparing ahead of time
getting help (notice I put this one in here twice)
working exercise into your daily routine once you are cleared by your doctor
connecting with other resources like a postpartum-nursing support group or other moms groups (This one is really important.)
This is just the start of ways you can help battle your postpartum anxiety. Having a baby is stressful in more ways than one. What’s important is that you realize the signs and are looking out for those signs in your own day to day life. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is nothing shameful about going through this. It doesn’t define you! If you are a reading this now and feel you might be going through postpartum anxiety or depression, PLEASE reach out to someone and get help!
Here is a story from a friend of mine who went through postpartum depression. You can find her @theplentifulcup on instagram!
I DIDN’T CHOOSE POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
I survived Postpartum Depression (PPD).
This week is Maternal Mental Health week. Not many people know this. Why? One big reason is that many people who experience maternal mental illness are too scared to talk about it for fear they will be seen as a bad mother.
My personal battle with maternal mental illness was against postpartum depression. An illness I describe as a slow-moving fog of blackness that sneaks up completely consuming you, and by the time you realize it… it’s already too late.
PPD symptoms can vary from person to person so that’s why noticing you have it is complicated.There is no one size fits all when it comes to PPD.
Having a predisposition for depression I have always tried to be very self-aware. Psychologists have been a part of my life on and off since I was young. Anytime I felt emotionally imbalanced I would go to therapy for a bit, talk about what was going on and quickly get the all clear.
Because of my predisposition, I told my OB/GYN that I feared I might experience PPD. He recommended a psychiatrist and I started my sessions before I even gave birth to our son.
I was “prepared” and PPD still caught me by surprise.
My Psychiatrist told me I was having PPD symptoms, and I still spent months thinking it was baby blues that would be gone soon. I always handled my emotional imbalances without medication, this would be no different. I didn’t need help, or medication, or even therapy at times.
When I gave birth I felt that I had to be this perfect mom and nothing was ever allowed to be wrong with me.
I thought I wasn’t supposed to feel anything except wonderful.
Denial and fear didn’t let me accept what was actually going on. I was thinking I would be considered a bad mother, bad spouse, and weak person if I admitted I had PPD.
My PPD presented itself in the form of extreme sadness followed by emotional numbness with a hefty side dish of OCD and Anxiety.
In the beginning, I cried a lot and I got angry when things didn’t go exactly as I expected. If something came up last minute, it meant canceling everything else I had to do that day. I would make any excuse if it meant staying home in my PJ’s.
Later I would swallow the lump that built up in my throat to avoid crying so I would seem ok. After so long of swallowing my feelings, my emotions just shut off.
Eventually, I was a robot going through all the motions but never truly absorbing any of the moments.
My OCD had me thinking if I didn’t rock my baby exactly 10 times before putting them down or if I didn’t sleep facing the nursery something terrible would happen. Not your “average” terrible, I mean out of the bloodiest horror movie terrible.
Anxiety would keep me up at night checking to make sure the baby was ok, even when I had a 24-hr nurse 6 days a week. The fear that something bad was going to happen wasn’t a first-time mother anxious feeling, it was anxiety that would send me into full-blown, chest constricting, hyperventilating, panic attacks.
How could I be that anxious and be emotionally numb at the same time?
One day day I was in the car with my husband and explaining to him what I was feeling. I said I was feeling like,
“There is a boulder weighing down my emotions…I can’t be as happy or even as sad as I want to be.”
I loved my baby, I just wasn’t able to push that rock off that love to outwardly express it.
That feeling that people looked at me with anger, hatred, disgust, and disappointment makes it so much worse. Like I was a monster.
Even though I had an incredible support group, that was probably almost as afraid as I was, I felt incredibly alone.
I waited. Waited the 8 weeks I was able to breastfeed, waited the 4 months past it possibly baby blues. I waited.
I spent almost 6 months locked away in my brain before I agreed to take medication.
That was whole other scary scenario. I had to take something with side effects that might be worse than the symptoms I was having and had to pray that I wasn’t part of the 2% who feel those extreme side effects.
One thing I cannot emphasize enough is…DO NOT STOP THERAPY WHILE MEDICATED! She helped adjust the medication, work out any problems I had with side effects, and once I was ready we worked together to get me off the medication. DO NOT DO THIS ALONE!
Two weeks after taking the medication I felt a literal weight lift off my shoulders.
The boulder holding down my feelings floated up like a light fluffy cloud on a sunny day. The fogginess around my brain disappeared.
When I was thinking a little clearer I found other things that would be able to support my emotional state once I went off the medication. I got into yoga, started taking vitamin D, and changed my diet among other things.
That was when I realized I had to fill my cup first.
I learned that nourishing myself was vital to my wellbeing, and vital if I wanted to be able to nourish anyone else.
Once I was better and more outspoken about my PPD I had people say things like, “I could NEVER be sad after having a baby,” or “how could you act that way when you have a baby to care for,” or even, “why would you want to feel that way.”
That’s right because I chose to feel that way. When I gave birth a magic birth fairy came to my hospital room and told me, “‘You can feel happy and great or miserable and not yourself,’ and I said ‘ You know what? I am happy enough all the time I will take the miserable thanks.’”
I was feeling better and these people said these awful things looking directly at me with no concern of how incredibly hard it was to go through. It’s hard for anyone to understand that we don’t choose to be sad or anxious.
Nobody wants to feel that way, nobody chooses to feel that way, it is not their fault.
I believe I still deal with the effects of PPD and those medications to this day. Sometimes I find myself sitting at the edge of that black hole dangling my feet and looking at shiny objects at the bottom wondering how far I can scoot down before I am not able to get back out. I know better now though than to go down there if I can help it.
PPD doesn’t define me, but it will forever be a part of me.
I try to fill my cup full whenever, and however, I can. Not just because being happy and confident is awesome, but because I know the alternative is frightening.
I am so thankful to my support system for helping me through that scary time in my life.
I still feel guilty when I think about the quality time I lost with my family because of PPD.
So how do you know what you are going through is PPD? Talk about what you are feeling. Talk to your spouse, to a therapist, your OB/GYN, to a family member, a friend.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE ASHAMED!
It happens to so many of us, and so many of us go off to cry quietly in a dark corner and it can’t get better if we don’t get help.
The faster speak about maternal mental Illness, the more others will know they are not alone, and that it’s ok to say “ I need help!”
The faster the stigma goes, the more these mothers will be able to enjoy motherhood.
Speak up for you, speak up for them!
If you think you or someone you know might be suffering from a Maternal Mental Illness here are a few helpful support links (there are a ton more…even specific ones for your state or country you can search for):
The Blue Dot Project
Postpartum Support International