After having a baby, you and your body go through a ton of physical and emotional changes. Your hormones go all over the place and navigating your feelings can be very challenging.
Although many new moms find themselves going through postpartum baby blues, I found myself going through postpartum depression. Before sharing my story, I’ll by going over some information regarding postpartum depression.
What is Postpartum Baby Blues?
Postpartum baby blues begin around the first few days after delivery and can last up to two weeks. Mothers commonly deal with mood swings, anxiety, sadness, crying, irritability, and difficulty sleeping.
What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
The National Institute of Mental Health defines PPD as a “mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or for others.”
What’s the difference between Postpartum Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum Depression and baby blues may look similar in the beginning, but PPD is more intense and lasts longer. If you think you’ve been dealing with postpartum baby blues for more than a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor. Your physician can diagnose you and present you with treatment options.
What are some common symptoms of PPD?
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
For a full list of behavioral, emotional, physical, and mental symptoms, visit PospartumDepression.org.
How can I tell if I have PPD?
PPD is diagnosed by a medical professional. If you the above symptoms sound familiar, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
What are the treatment options?
- Antidepressant medication
Where can I find more information on PPD?
My experience with PPD
New Mom Emotions
Bringing our newborn baby home for the first time was pretty scary. Although my mom moved in with us to help with the baby, she was sick with eye and ear infections so she went back to her house until she was well. So there we were, two new parents with a baby and no instruction manual.
Missing out on hours of sleep, struggling with breastfeeding, and recovering from a second-degree tear are challenges that I’m sure many mothers deal with, but it really took a toll on me. Especially since my husband was a full-time student during the day and worked at night. While he did everything he could to help as much as possible, I felt like all the weight was on my shoulders.
In my mind, he had the luxury of walking in and out of rooms without knowing exactly where the baby was at all times. This may seem small and petty, but I envied his ability to move as if a life didn’t depend on his every action; whereas, I felt like I couldn’t be more than a few feet away from our baby at all times.
I was the only one that could feed our son, so I was the one waking up at all hours of the night to feed him. I had to keep an eye on him 98% of the time because no one else was around. Showers became a luxury and my daily attire consisted of a nursing tank top and a pair of sweats. I looked like those stay at home moms that got makeovers on the Maury show.
A week later, my mother returned and helped tremendously with the baby. JC was not an easy sleeper and seemed to suffer from constipation and gas so her help couldn’t have came at a better time. My mom would give me breaks to take a shower, eat, and sleep when she could. On Sundays, my in-laws would come over and make me take a nap while they spent time with their new grand baby. Anytime I heard my baby cry, I’d jump out of bed and my in-laws would rush me back to my bedroom, reminding me that they can take care of a baby.
You’d think with all this help, I’d be in mommy bliss. But I wasn’t.
Red Flags and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
As time went on, I just didn’t feel right.
When people would come to visit, I’d wish they’d go home. When no one was around, I felt lonely and afraid. I was always scared that something bad would happen while me and JC were home alone and I wouldn’t know what to do.
I was tired all of the time and was super snappy with my mom who was always doing her best to help. To add to my frustration and exhaustion, I wasn’t producing enough milk, which made me feel completely inadequate as a mother. I was crying ALL THE TIME.
When I did lay down, I’d toss and turn, unable to sleep as thoughts of to-do lists and guilt circled my mind.
I need to do the laundry.
I should be doing the dishes.
Why am I trying to nap? I should be pumping!
Remember to ask hubby to pick up xyz from the grocery store.
I should be applying to jobs.
How can I produce more milk before going back to work?
Does JC love me, or does he just see me as a food source?
Does hubby love me less?
The list of worries and concerns went on and on, unfortunately. I was an emotional wreck. I was stressed about being laid off from work, stressed that I needed a new car (my previous car was old and wasn’t safe to transport a baby in), JC wasn’t gaining weight as he was supposed to, he was waking up every 2-3 hours around the clock so I wasn’t getting much sleep, I missed my husband (he was gone so much with school and work)…it was a lot.
There were times where I would be standing in the bathroom washing my hands and I’d just break down into tears.
I never knew at the moment, why I was crying, I just knew I was sad. Anytime hubby saw me upset, he would always do his best to comfort me with encouragement and affection, and while it helped, it was just a band-aid for the moment.
I started to think, I’d never feel like myself again. Before having JC, I used to love playing in makeup, but now I dreaded the day I’d actually have to put it on. When funny moments would happen, I’d chuckle instead of bursting into laughter like I used to. If I heard good news, I’d put a smile on my face, but didn’t really feel joy like I did before. Sometimes I just felt emotionless all together.
A Breath of Fresh Air
A few weeks after JC was born, my sister came to visit and help with the baby. At least she tried to help, but I just couldn’t let her. She would try to do the dishes and I’d gently nudge her out of the way and do them myself. If she tried to fold some clothes, I’d take the basket, throw it in my bedroom and insist on getting to them later. I was trying to be hospitable but was actually self-sabotaging. No matter what she offered to do to help, I politely declined. I wanted to be Super Mom and do everything myself, even at my own expense.
I think she could tell that I was struggling. At the time of her visit, I had only left our apartment for doctor’s appointments and was getting a little stir crazy. But I was so afraid of taking JC out in the world. I didn’t want any nasty germs getting on my baby before he had a chance to build up his immune system. So I planned on keeping him safe and healthy in our little 2 bedroom apartment for the first 3 months of life.
I was tripping. Thank God, my sister was able to persuade us to take baby down to the pool for some fresh air.
This “leisure trip” downstairs to the pool was heaven sent. For the 30ish minutes that we were outside, I finally felt at peace.
We were sitting next to the pool, breathing in the fresh air, feeling the sun on our skin, soaking up the natural light, and enjoying family time with hubby, my sister, and her son. I will always remember this day as it brought light into my life during such a hard time.
If only the solution to my sadness was that easy.
One day a close friend of mine came to visit. An hour into the visit Joshua took a nap and I looked at her like, “Girl, you ain’t got to go home, but…” She took the queue and politely left. I laid in bed for the next two hours desperately trying to sleep, but I couldn’t.
I had this intense fear that something bad was going to happen to the baby while I slept in the bed, right next to his crib.
Although I knew I loved my baby more than anything or anyone in this world, I wondered if I rushed into having a baby. Postpartum gave me many irrational thoughts like this. Hubby and I were together for 7 years before having JC and my mom agreed to keep JC during the day when I returned to work, there couldn’t have been a better time to get pregnant, and yet I was still doubting my ability to be a good mother.
Hubby was constantly reassuring me that I was a great mother and that I was doing an amazing job of taking care of our son, but I couldn’t shake these lingering doubts about whether or not my baby loved me. The first two months, he only smiled at me after he was milk drunk. Where was the laughing baby that I saw other moms post on IG? Was my baby just not happy to see me? Did the sound of my voice not make him happy?
Wondering if it was just me, I put out feelers with women I knew that had children around JC’s age. I’d text them asking how motherhood was going and they seemed to be on cloud 9, loving every moment of motherhood. Then when they’d ask me, I was too embarrassed and ashamed to admit how I truly felt.
I felt alone, sad, ashamed, and depressed.
I shared a bit of what I was going through with JC’s godmothers. They were so kind and gentle with their responses, but neither of them had been in this situation or really knew what to say to help me. In an effort to lift my spirits, they treated me to an incredible facial at this really nice spa. One of them babysat JC, while the other took me to the spa and babysat me. For the first time since JC was born, I was away from him for 3 hours.
While I really appreciated the gesture, I felt so guilty on the drive home. Back to those PPD thoughts.
What kind of a mom leaves her newborn baby for 3 hours to go to the spa? How could I leave my baby for so long?
Looking back, I know that I deserved a break to enjoy some self-care time, but back then, I just couldn’t let go of the immense guilt I felt. Mom guilt only got worse when I went back to work (at a new company).
After absorbing all that I had been going through, I finally accepted that I may have PPD. The thought crossed my mind more than once, and while I tried to avoid the issue, it wasn’t going away. I heard of PPD before, but didn’t really understand much about it until I was in the middle of it.
After reading the top 10 articles I could find on postpartum depression, I knew it was time to accept it. The symptoms were all too familiar to me. Based on what I had read, due to the stress of being laid off, my previous miscarriage, and struggles with breastfeeding, I was at a high risk to suffer from PPD.
It was nice to see, I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t alone.
How I Got through PPD
Postpartum depression can take many forms. And while you may not feel the effects of it every day, it doesn’t mean that it’s gone. Throughout the first year of JC’s life, I dealt with many emotional peaks and valleys and it took months for me to feel like I was myself again. Here are the things that helped me to get through it.
Take a Long Shower or Bath
Anyone with a newborn baby knows that having alone time to shower becomes more of a treat than a daily ritual. During JC’s nap or while someone was watching him, I’d take a nice long shower. I used this time to relax. Sometimes, I’d let out my emotions and cry, other times, I’d add some candles and music so I could decompress and focus on nothing at all.
As I mentioned earlier, I was really afraid to take JC outside in fear that he’d catch some infectious disease. After my sister showed me how refreshing being outside was, I started to take JC on walks and it was super helpful for my mood. The light exercise got my blood flowing, gave me some added energy, and released pleasure hormones such as endorphins and serotonin which improved my mood and reduced my stress.
I’d strap JC into a baby carrier or put him in the stroller and we’d enjoy the fresh air. I could tell that I wasn’t the only one enjoying the walks, JC loved to look around and discover new things. And on days where he refused to nap, we’d take long walks where he’d eventually fall asleep before we returned home.
Talk It Out
This was a hard one for me. I love to listen to others and help with their problems, but talking about my own issues petrified me. The only person I felt comfortable talking about this with was my hubby. I told him when I was really sad and we’d try to come up with a plan to help.
During the time that I wasn’t allowed to drive, he’d take me and JC to the park on the weekends. He’d cook my favorite meals. He’d do the laundry and fold the clothes so I could nap instead of worrying about chores. And when my pump output wasn’t great, he’d remind me that I was doing a great job no matter how many ounces I produced.
While Hubby did everything he could to try to help me get through PPD, he was wildly unequipped to handle my PPD while going to school full time, working in the evenings, and being a new father. That was a lot to put on his plate.
If I could do it all over again, I would’ve been honest with my OBGYN and let them help me to find a therapist. I’m sure this would’ve saved me a lot of time and heartache.
Get Some Rest
We’ve all heard it, sleep when the baby sleeps. I heard it and ignored it. How could I sleep when the baby slept when there was so much to do? I had to learn the hard way, do your chores later and sleep as much as your baby will allow.
Sleep deprivation is a beast. You may have dealt with short term sleep deprivation in the past, but few things prepare you for the lack of sleep you will go through as a new parent. Waking up every 2-3 hours around the clock for months feels completely unnatural.
The days where I got the most sleep, I felt like I was on cloud 9. The days where I didn’t get much sleep, I just couldn’t shake the drowsy feeling and felt like I was just going through the motions of the day.
Sleeping was a game-changer in my mood and my outlook on this new chapter in my life.
Accept the Help
Take the help that is offered. Raising a child truly does take a village. Mom can’t do everything for everyone, all the time. Accepting the help that was offered from my hubby, mom, and in-laws helped me sooooo much! Whether it be watching the baby, doing the dishes, ironing clothes, or feeding me, all of it made my day so much easier.
At a certain point, I realized I was much happier when I accepted help, than I was when I declined it.
After you have your baby, your brain will be on baby all day and all night. It’s easy to lose yourself in this new stage called motherhood. If you’re not feeling like yourself, go back to doing things that you enjoyed before you became a mom such as a brunch with friends, movie date, paint, draw, swim, read, exercise, binge Netflix, put on makeup, go shopping, whatever makes you happy.
For me, I participated in family fun time and child-free fun time.
On Saturdays, we enjoyed going to the park as a family. With the in-laws taking care of JC on Sundays, every now and then, Hubby and I would dress up and go out on a date.
During the week while Hubby was away, if our schedules aligned, I’d catch up with my girlfriend Rachel and we’d stroll through the Target aisles with our Starbucks and baby carriers. We’d talk about our babies, spouses, milk supply, which makeup palette we were going to splurge on, basically anything that came to mind. It was nice to be able to enjoy time with a friend, while still spending time with my baby.
Speaking of things I enjoyed before becoming a mom, it wasn’t until I had JC that I realized how much “me time” I used to have and how much I enjoyed it. Now, my “me time” doesn’t happen as often and is usually scheduled. So I learned to create “me time” for myself.
When the apartment was empty and JC was nursing, I would put down my phone and sit in silence without any wi-fi enabled devices distracting me and just enjoy the quiet time. It helped me to relax and reflect on how blessed and thankful I was that God blessed me with this amazing family of mine. The quiet time for reflection really helped me to be present in the joy of motherhood.
After 9 months of carrying your baby, you deserve some pampering time. If money is tight, hop on Groupon and find a great deal! Get a massage, facial, pedicure, whatever will make you happy and feel relaxed. You deserve to dedicate time to self care. Yes you are a mom, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect yourself.
Clean Your Space
Living in clutter makes me anxious and really impacts my mood. I can’t be productive if I’m in a messy area. So if you’re struggling to sleep, or just getting your day started, take 15 minutes and pick up around the house. You’ll be surprised by what making your bed and picking the clothes up off the floor can do to improve your mood. Beyond the aesthetics of being in a clean and neat space, cleaning gives you a chance to tune out distractions, focus on a task, and complete it.
Postpartum depression is a serious mood disorder. It can get way worse than the experience I had, so if you feel like the symptoms sound familiar, talk to your doctor. Treatment is key to recover from any disorder. Don’t suffer in silence, get the help that you deserve.
Okay y’all, I hope this information was helpful. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments or via email.
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