Motherhood is often imagined through the lens of happily constructed moments. Wonderment and curiosity fill the mind as one paints the picture of their bundle of joy, even before they make their appearance into the world. Our imaginations are so vast, we reconstruct a new world with them in it, sometimes planned to the most minute detail. At times, this new world is the only thing propelling women past the discomforts of pregnancy.
With such a perfectly constructed picture, it can feel heartbreaking when the idea of motherhood is shattered by a sea of expectation. One’s own thoughts can easily drift away as the opinions, judgment and advice of others come crashing to the forefront. Despite expectations that mothers “should” feel overjoyed, it’s natural to feel an array of emotions. Women often feel guilt or shame for experiencing negative emotions, making Postpartum Depression (PPD) especially isolating. Mother’s may feel like “failures,” “bad mothers”, or even “unworthy” for thinking negatively. This can make reaching out to friends, families and providers difficult.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 1 in 7 women experience Postpartum Depression. It is far reaching and affects women of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. There are several factors that may increase risk, such as changes to support systems, babies that cry often or are difficult to soothe, a history of depression/anxiety and changes in hormone levels, just to name a few.
PPD can appear days or months after delivery and often presents in the following ways:
- Loss of interests (Anhedonia)
- Increased/decreased sleep or difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or helplessness
- Increased/decreased appetite
- Anxiety that lasts most of the day
- Feeling anxious when away from baby
- Difficulty concentrating or “mind fog”
- Disinterest in baby, family or friends
- Fear of not being a good mother
- Irritability and agitation
- Thoughts of hurting oneself or child
- Grieving how life was before baby
- Postpartum psychosis
The wave of symptoms can feel murky and confusing. They may not feel as clear as one may think, especially for first time mothers, though PPD can affect mothers after any pregnancy. Many women go for extended periods of time without treatment and feel very alone in the process. It may feel as though life is out of control during a time deemed the most joyful. Know there are ways to settle the storm.
The following are recommendations to help regain control when experiencing PPD:
- Give yourself permission to acknowledge negative emotions. – Let them come and go, just as one would with positive emotions.
- Live in the moment. – It’s okay to put tasks on hold.
- Prioritize your needs. – Rest when possible, eat when hungry, take a shower and/or go for a walk.
- When feeling overwhelmed, take breaks. – Place baby in a safe place, such as a crib, and take a short breather.
- Ask for help. – You don’t have to do it all and certainly not alone. Use supports, reach out to providers and simply talk about your emotions and experiences.
- Most of all, acknowledge that you ARE enough!
Everyone’s experience with PPD is unique. It’s a deeply personal experience. If you or someone you know is battling PPD, know it is not your fault and you are not to blame. Provide yourself with grace, especially on the worst days. Allow yourself to ride the wave of motherhood, knowing you are not alone. Even when the pieces of your life plan seem to fall apart, and they will at times, rest assured there is a way to calmer water.