Happy Maternal Mental Health week!
Isn’t it awesome that we have an 7 days solely dedicated to the sanctity of motherhood? It’s so important to highlight the reality of it all. We spend so much time perfecting our feeds and wanting to show our best selves. What’s real is half the time we are barely functioning. I see you, mama. I am you.
So, in the spirit of this week, I wanted to speak on postpartum depression and anxiety. It is a fact that 1 in 5 women will be affected by some form of PPA/PPD, and it needs to be talked about. If you are the one of those “lucky” few, here are some things to keep in mind.
1. You are going to feel outside of yourself.
It may last a few months or a few years, but you are going to feel like you’ve lost your sense of self. Your identity will feel like it’s been stripped bare, and you’ve been thrown into a new, unfamiliar body; physically and emotionally. I think what’s most jarring about society’s take on women; is that you are groomed all of your life to believe that you will naturally fit into the mold of motherhood. This isn’t the case for most.
2. You aren’t what your hormones are doing to you.
This season of your life is not a direct reflection of your parenting skills. Bad days does not equal a bad mama. It’s a combination of lack of sleep, the weight of your new role, the shift in your home dynamic, and last but CERTAINLY not least; THOSE DANG HORMONES. As hard as it is to remind ourselves of this in the midst of the mental chaos; it’s vital to reaffirm what’s real, and what is being exasperated by our body’s adjustment to life postpartum.
3. Educate yourselves and your partner.
I can’t preach this enough. While I was pregnant, I knew that anxiety had always been an underlying issue for me. I made sure that my husband knew what the potential triggers were. We made a print-out of PPD/PPA signs & symptoms; and met with a social worker after I had our daughter, so that we could assess my predisposition and risk. Had we not done this, who knows how long I would have suffered in silence.
4. Reach out to moms you trust.
Both prenatal and postpartum. Join pregnancy groups on social media, familiarize yourself with other women’s experiences. I don’t mean this literally – just because one woman had a bad experience, does not automatically mean you are set up for doom and gloom. All I’m saying is, that it’s nice to hear what other moms have been through or are going through, so that you can go into motherhood with your best foot forward and feel confident. Build a tribe of moms that have ‘been there, done that’ so that they are able to rally for you when you need it most. You will thrive off of these relationships for the long-term. Surround yourself with women who empower your spirit!
5. Ask for help and lots of it.
Those that have been there before you will know every small act of kindness counts; and will be more than happy to help you whenever you need it. Gather troops to deliver meals, help you clean, watch the baby for an hour so you can nap or shower in peace; WHATEVER fills your cup. Partners are great for these things too – however, it’s fair to say that both of you will need all of the support you can get for your first month home.
6. Don’t let the breakdowns break you.
They are bound to happen. You’re going to be on day 7 of no sleep, dealing with a stage-5 boob clinger/formula hound, and you’re going to cry because they are JUST.SO.NEEDY! Sleep deprivation alone is enough to break the will of full-grown men; just keep that in mind. So the fact that you are in the midst of all of this, and still standing (even if it’s hunched over, with one eye open) is nothing short of admirable. When you find yourself ugly crying because you put your robe on backwards, and there is spit-up in your hair and down the side of your boob – just take a deep breath and know that this little human was made specifically for you to handle like a boss. You’ve got this, mama warrior.
7. Self-care is not selfish.
We cannot properly care for the people that we love with an empty cup. Take time each day to fill yours. Even if it’s to go pee and hide in the bathroom for 15 minutes. You would be absolutely shocked at the difference a 20 minute power nap and hot shower will do for the most well-seasoned mom, let alone a new one. Hand that baby off to grandma, your husband, a friend; and let Calgon take you away! You are worth it.
8. Seek out survivors.
Don’t get sucked into an excuse-driven routine. It is easy to isolate (and attempt to justify it) when you’re deep in the throes of PPD/PPA. Once you’ve been diagnosed, find others that have gotten through the worst of it. 2020mom has some really wonderful resources available to those seeking to understand more about their condition, and find like-minded women to connect with. They are out there, and there are many of them!
9. Understand the difference.
There is a condition referred to as ‘Baby Blues’ which tends to appear a few days after delivery, typically peaks in 10 days, and is over in about 2 weeks’ time. However, do not assume that because you are still depressed/weepy after day 12, that you are immediately going to have PPD/PPA. Our bodies need time to adjust and recalibrate. Still, there is no harm in asking your partner to keep an eye on you. Being self-aware is sometimes hard when you’re judgement is clouded.
10. Don’t wait until bad is worse.
Seek out help – tell someone you trust what you are experiencing; so that they can help you take the next step. Your doctor knows you best, and will determine if you require further treatment. If for some reason you feel that you aren’t getting the care and attention that you are entitled to, request another doctor, or research nearby maternal advocates. If you are given medication and feel comfortable, take it. If you are aiming for a more natural route; discuss this with your physician and see what your options are. I would like to point out that just because you are given medication, does NOT mean that you are incapable of healing, or that you’ve gone off the deep end. It is simply a means to balance you out. I can say that I take Zoloft every day and am a better mother, partner, friend, and overall human because of it.
If you do end up experiencing lingering depression, have increasing anxiety, and notice a significant change in your eating/sleeping habits, talk to your doctor. Some other signs and symptoms of PPD/PPA include, but are not limited to:
• Thoughts of hopelessness
• Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby or intrusive thoughts
• Loss of interested in usual activities, feeling worthless and unmotivated
• Excessive fatigue (more so than the usual parent tired)
• Irritability and obsessive feelings of guilt
Just remember: You are not alone in this. We have got to end the stigma attached to maternal mental health.
For more information on maternal mental health resources, visit 2020mom.
Take care of you.