Having a baby is a HUGE deal. Whether you planned to have a baby or whether it just sort of happened, it changes your life. Sometimes for the better and sometimes…things don’t pan out the way you had hoped. Sure, we all have been fed this picture perfect storyline of how amazing having a baby is. Sometimes it ends up being that way, but sometimes it doesn’t. Then you are left wondering what in the world is wrong with you.
Often times, you have your baby and 1 of several things occur either before or after the birth that start to lead you down a dark path. Then perhaps something happens or a shift occurs and you start wondering…
Why do I feel so alone?
Why do I feel irritable and sad all of the time?
If I could just run away….
Why won’t this baby stop crying?
Am I doing something wrong?
Oh, I must not be good enough.
Maybe…something IS wrong with ME.
I want to tell you that nothing is wrong with you. Nothing. 1 in 5 new or expectant mothers experience either anxiety or depression. 1 in 5. That is 20% of women. It is the LEADING complication of pregnancy and childbirth.
Many of the symptoms of baby blues and depression can be similar. So what are some ways you can you tell whether or not you have a case of the baby blues or anxiety, postpartum depression, or any other mood disorder?
- It lasts longer than 2 weeks after you have the baby
- You feel sad, hopeless or even overwhelmed
- You resent the baby and may even regret having the baby
- You want to run away and start again
- You are afraid to be left alone with the baby
- You feel guilty
- You are afraid to leave the house
- You have trouble coping with day- to- day tasks
- You isolate yourself from friends and family
- You feel out of control
How do I know this? I am a postpartum depression survivor. After the birth of my 2nd son, on day 4, I started feeling very weepy. I didn’t pay much attention to this because it was on this day I learned my husband would be going back to work in just 3 days. 3 days!? I couldn’t care for a newborn and a 2 year old all by myself in just 3 days! I had just given birth. It didn’t feel right and I was scared. When it continued I started to wonder what was going on. I was about 2-3 weeks postpartum when I realized something wasn’t quite right. The thoughts I were having were very frightening. I decided to reach out, hesitantly because I felt like I was failing at this mom gig if I couldn’t jump right back into the way things were before I had a 2nd child.
I got help, albeit it took a month to find a counselor…which is a whole other topic within itself, and was put on medication. Over time I started to feel better and I knew I had done the right thing, but it was a long road. I felt very alone during that time. Someone once said to me something along the lines of depression is one of those things that while so many suffer from it, you still wind up feeling very alone. That’s so true to me and speaks volumes. It tells me we have a long way in educating people about it and what it truly is. It also says we need more resources for people.
I will say, as hard as it was I learned a major life lesson. What I learned was to let go of this idea that we need to be up and moving around at a pace that we once were before we had a baby in those early weeks. The truth is, pregnancy and birth are very hard on our bodies. We need time to heal, to bond and to move at a slower pace. In fact, our babies are not moving at the pace we are accustomed to. So in order to meet them where they are and to heal we must learn to slow down. Hence the reason why many cultures around the world have a “lying in” for the mother. It is imperative we follow their foot- steps as best as we can and allow ourselves to accept any and all help we can get and to slow down.
It is ok…you are not a bad mom if you let the house go and go into survival mode while you let your body heal. We owe it to ourselves. It is NOT selfish to take care of yourself. After all, we must care for ourselves so we can have the ability to care for others.
**If you or someone you know is experiencing perinatal anxiety or depression, please join us every 1st Tuesday and 3rd Thursday of every month at 7:00PM. We meet once in Stafford and then in Fredericksburg, VA. Contact Rebecca Fulcher at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.**
Leah Cabotaje is one of our regular bloggers. She owns Lean On Me Birth Services, where she works as a doula and midwife’s assistant. She leads the ICAN of Fredericksburg’s chapter and also co-runs a perinatal support group for women experiencing a mood or anxiety disorder. You can find out more about her here.