Did you know that between 70 and 80% of new moms will experience the baby blues, otherwise known as postpartum depression, to some degree?
Further, the reported rate of clinical postpartum depression in new moms is between 10 to 20%. As one of those new moms, who is now on round two of postpartum depression after having my second child, I have learned a lot from experience on how to handle it, so PPD doesn’t handle me.
Every postpartum depression journey shares similar feelings and experiences, but how it’s handled can make a big difference in the outcomes.
When I had my first child four years ago, I struggled with postpartum depression silently for a whole year without doing anything about it. I was embarrassed about how dark I was feeling and it took me a long, long time to realize what I was going through.
It was left untreated and it was by some miracle that I was able to get myself out of it without any course of real action. I believe that I am very lucky to have pulled myself out of it and even luckier that I was able to learn so much about it so I wouldn’t make the same mistakes should it happen again.
Now I am 7 weeks postpartum with my second child, and for the last 5 weeks, I have been dealing with postpartum depression.
This time around it hasn’t been as huge of a struggle. Because I have gone through this before, I knew exactly how to identify what I was feeling. It allowed me to quickly take action to lessen the blows. The second I started feeling those dark thoughts and feelings enter my brain, I knew that it was happening again.
At first, I was confused as to why it was happening. My baby is happy, healthy, and very easy compared to my first. My support system is here. I don’t have any major stressors in my life. Why am I feeling so depressed?
Postpartum depression doesn’t discriminate.
Even though I had a hard time understanding why I was dealing with postpartum depression again, I remembered that postpartum depression doesn’t discriminate. It’s caused by both hormonal and chemical shifts in the body and it’s not your fault if you get it. Plus, no matter how stress-free you think your life is, bringing a new life into the world is very stressful and it’s normal to have heightened feelings. It’s a hard hurdle to get over. But once you’re able to recognize what you’re going through and accept it, you can start to work on managing it.
Three lessons to help get through postpartum depression:
There are three main things that I have learned after talking to a postpartum therapist (which I highly recommend getting if you’re struggling even in the slightest!)
1. Lower your expectations
You have a baby and you have all of these ideas on how you’re going to be the best mom ever. You will keep your baby happy at all times by following a great routine that you read about, you’ll have enough energy to breastfeed and pump, you will keep the house clean, your relationship with your partner will stay strong, and you will be able to exercise and eat healthy so your body will bounce back.
Then your baby is here and reality hits and you realize that the last time you took a shower was 4 days ago and it’s hard to do anything besides feeding your baby, change your baby, and work tirelessly to get your baby to stay happy. You find yourself more irritable and unhappy and it only escalates as the days go by.
Lowering my expectations is critical in keeping my mind in check. I have to constantly remind myself that everything I am doing is enough and not everything has to be so perfect. I have to realize that my body is not going to bounce back in a month and that my house is just not going to be pristine. Everything that I am doing is enough. I am enough.
You have all of these feelings during the postpartum stage. Those feelings can be sparked by anything from being overwhelmed by mom life to feeling guilty for taking 15 minutes to yourself. As you feel the feelings, especially ones that are negative, it’s important to communicate them. Nobody can understand what you’re feeling and nobody can help you get through it if you don’t share what’s going on.
I have been working on this and have noticed a huge difference. I know that I can’t get through this time alone, and letting my support system know what’s going on has allowed me to get the help and support that I need.
3. Recognize that self-care is not selfish
In order to get through postpartum depression, you have to care for yourself. You need to be sleeping enough, eating right, moving your body, and taking time for yourself to navigate your feelings. All of these self-care actions take time and take you away from your baby. I know for me, this came with a lot of guilt. Every time that my husband takes my new baby while I go on a walk or when he wakes up more than me at night to handle feedings so I can sleep brings me guilt. I know that this guilt is irrational, but recognizing my guilt and making sure that I understand that what I am doing is making me a better mom has been instrumental in my recovery.
If you are struggling with postpartum depression, know that you are not alone. Finding support in your inner circle and reaching out for help from moms who have gone through it or from a therapist is important.
You don’t have to go through it alone!
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