Postpartum Depression: What To Do When Signs Emerge
The physical changes that a woman’s body undergoes while creating a human being is nothing short of miraculous. It is during this transformation that we must remember it is not only the body adapting, but a woman’s heart and mind. As a society, we push our women along in pregnancy, adamantly forcing opinions on the should-dos and don’ts of child rearing; yet when pregnancy is over, mothers perhaps feel more isolated, confused, and overwhelmed than ever.
An estimated 1 million women each year will struggle with postpartum depression (PPD) or some type of perinatal mood disorder following pregnancy. The postpartum phase in itself is beautifully messy; with sleepless nights, breastfeeding struggles, crying babies on top of recovering from the physical and emotional experience of childbirth.
Postpartum depression can exacerbate these normal experiences, making it overwhelming to bear. It can also become a place that feels infinitely dark and hopeless. As a mother, it is essential to connect to support, and with postpartum depression, professional interventions are often warranted. Seeking out help and an outlet is not a sign of weakness; quite the contrary is true.
Here are the steps you can take to help those early, challenging months:
Recognize You Deserve Help
When support is unequivocally needed the most, new mothers are often left with their babies and with little support or encouragement for the journey of motherhood they are now embarking on. In your very moments of weakness is the epitome of strength found to carry on for yourself and your child. You cannot be expected to do and be everything, nor should you be. Take the steps to give yourself what you need during this delicate time; whether connecting with a counselor or specialist, finding a support group with other mothers who may be experiencing similar situations, and having healthy outlets for effectively processing your thoughts and emotions.
Give Yourself Me-Time
During this period of metamorphosis, make a mindful effort to purposefully find ways to disconnect from the busyness of everyday life. Where do you find joy, meaning, purpose? What things spark your creativity and leave you feeling refreshed? To do what is necessary for sustaining life and growth in your own home, you must find ways to purposefully nourish your soul. This can be something as simple as having a few minutes of quiet reflection each day, journaling, taking a short walk somewhere tranquil, or expressing yourself with a creative outlet or hobby. Be adamant to take this time for yourself as a mother without guilt. Only from a place of fullness can you pour into the lives of those you love.
Be patient as you adjust to your new identity.
An unfounded fear of many new mothers is the need to shift their identity to that of a single role as a mother and caregiver. Reality sets in after pregnancy and childbirth that every aspect of life will be forever changed. Amidst the laundry piles, midnight feedings, and constant devoting ourselves to the needs of our little ones, many women believe that there is no “going back” to how things once were, and this unrealistic expectation often leaves women scrambling to pick up the fragments, trying to reconcile the pieces of who they once were with who they are now.
Give yourself self-care
Becoming a mother does not mean forgetting yourself but rather, learning how to more creatively nurture your well-being to best nourish the ones you love and care for. On the contrary, the unhinging of motherhood brings with it the deepest sense of purpose and clarity that must be founded on self-care. This is much easier said than done, and an urgent sense of proactiveness is needed to keep yourself nurtured throughout your motherhood journey, particularly in the earliest days. For a woman experiencing PPD, self-care is perhaps even more important and necessary for the well being of the entire family. Prioritizing nourishment through healthy food and emotional support is the catalyst through which families can truly flourish during times of change.
Postpartum depression is a real condition that warrants more attention and concern, and a mind-body approach to both recovery and motherhood is essential during the earliest, most vulnerable days after childbirth. As a mother, you can flourish in your newfound role by the manner in which you nurture your body and cultivate your mind and soul. Cast off the cloak of shame and guilt you may be experiencing and learn to embrace yourself in grace and gratitude; for all that you have journeyed through to bring your miracle into the world, you absolutely deserve it.
And most importantly, for mothers struggling to resolve their expectations of what they thought the early days of motherhood would be, it is important to know:
You are not alone.