"Postpartum” is the period of time following childbirth. Mothers may feel something coined as “baby blues” for about 3-5 days after birth. This usually signifies feelings of sadness or emptiness, sentiments that usually fade once the mother becomes more accustomed to life with the new baby.
What are the symptoms of Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
feeling disconnected from your baby
feeling like you are not the baby’s mother
feeling like you do not care for or love the baby
restlessness, memory problems, trouble focusing
having thoughts of hurting the baby or yourself
eating/sleeping too little or too much
loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
withdrawing from friends and family
It is normal to feel overwhelmed when you come home with the new baby in tow. Feelings of unpreparedness, inadequacy, and hopelessness can creep in and leave new parents debilitated. Embarrassment and shame can swarm a new mother because you feel like you should be happy and excited about this new adventure in your life when you feel the opposite.
It doesn’t help that our society and culture expect women, in general, to constantly exude joy and happiness, regardless of past events or trauma. Oftentimes, people don’t take women’s pain seriously so they will minimize it and say it is “just the way of life” with no regard to an individual’s experience. That’s the thing about life, though. We all experience things differently with varying levels of tolerance.
What you are feeling is valid and true - and it’s okay to seek help or guidance depending on your needs. Believing day after day that you are a “bad mother” can grate on you. It’ll slowly push you into a spiral where you’ll begin to believe that you’re not good enough or you’re unable to meet your own needs, much less those of the newborn baby.
It’s important in this new experience of your life to offer yourself compassion and grace. If you offer those sentiments to other people - especially those who are mothers after having a newborn - don’t you deserve the same treatment?
You deserve the same love and care that you give to other people.
Read that again - and as many times as you need to in order to allow it to sink in.
What will help:
Contact your doctor or healthcare provider so they can rule out any hormonal factors like a thyroid imbalance. They can offer medication as well if you both decide that would be beneficial for you.
Find a healthy support system — They won’t allow you to give up and won’t encourage unhealthy or self-harming behaviors. Think of them as your constant cheering section. Fellowship or sharing common experiences can be very beneficial. There are many support groups as sharing stories can help you feel a little less alone in your struggles.
Therapy can be helpful because while family and friends mean well, they may not always have the tools to aid you in a tough situation. A therapist can offer you an unconditional level of support if that is something that appeals to you.
Do not expect too much from yourself right now. Do the best you can. Even if it doesn’t feel like it’s enough, it’s enough for now.
Set small goals each day so that you can revel in those accomplishments.
Rest when your baby naps. This doesn’t always mean to sleep when they do. Perhaps getting into a good book or putting on a face mask will help replenish you. Don’t just use this time for errands. Do what brings you rest.
Set limits with your guests. Everyone wants to come over and see you as well as the newborn, so have a specific time frame you are open to receiving guests.
Let others know what they can do to help. People want to help - I promise - and you are not burdening them by asking. Regarding your partners, it is always important to communicate with them so you can encourage each other in the newness.
Remember that all adjustments take time, and you will have both good and bad days. You can exist in both spaces simultaneously - recognizing the good with the bad - and praising yourself when you do your best.
You’re not alone! Feel free to connect with us at Mindsight if you are interested in extra support.
Caitlin Bloom, LPCA
Caitlin is a Behavioral Health Clinician who helps clients guide themselves into deeper meaning and purpose for their lives. She focuses on finding resources, techniques, and coping skills on their journey for further fulfillment.