The talk about Postpartum Depression and Baby Blues runs rampant the last few months of pregnancy. Everyone from the childbirth class teacher, your OB, mom-friends, and baby websites warn about moms going through the inevitable baby blues. Even right after delivery, the nurses caution you about what signs to look out for. And in those first few moments with your precious baby, the blues may be the last thing on your mind. But, here’s the deal: the baby blues will most likely strike. It’s only natural between all the hormones, and this HUGE change in your life. And it will be okay, even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time. Here’s my experience with them and a couple of tips for getting through them.
I was hyper-aware of the possibility of experiencing some PPD (Postpartum Depression) at some point, and even now at 7-weeks in, I know I’m not out of the woods yet. I don’t have a history of depression, but I do suffer from anxiety and OCD, both of which can be triggered when you’re going through major changes, such as a new baby. And what complicates things further, what I would normally do to manage my anxiety (medication, weed, wine, meditation, yoga, sex) are not compatible for a busy, breastfeeding, and still recovering mom. That being said, I tried to set aside even 2 minutes to meditate a day— even if it was while I was pumping or nursing. As my baby has gotten older and his naps and days are a little more consistent, I’ve been able to incorporate more meditation and more physical activity (like walks and yoga) into my days, which has been very helpful. But, those first couple of weeks can be rough without any of your usual coping mechanisms in place. At least, they were for me.
That first week especially was especially overwhelming. I was adjusting to life as a new mom (which meant only sleeping in 2-hour stretches, having a tiny baby to take care of, and recovering physically from childbirth), but I was also dealing with some of my own emotional baggage. First off, my baby was born smaller than expected and I felt extremely guilty for that— like it was my fault he was so small because my petite body couldn’t support his growing one. Every person who commented on how “tiny” he was (which was a perfectly normal response!) brought on a pang of guilt for me. I was also told I had distasis recti— or separating of the abs, which meant I was going to have a pregnancy belly permanently. This made going home and still not being able to fit into normal clothes horrible. In addition, my feet and legs were so swollen I could barely fit into my maternity clothes. I had just given birth, I was supposed to have lost weight! Instead I looked even worse (or that’s how I felt, at least).
Fortunately both of those issues resolved rather quickly (my baby put on weight, and my swelling eventually went down), and my initial blues resolved with it. But, it’s still quite easy to feel triggered in those first couple of weeks. If people commended themselves about doing things for my baby (like calming him), it made me feel inadequate and that I wasn’t a good enough mom (not true). This feeling of not being good enough would also be triggered if someone complimented my husband’s parenting skills, but not mine. Even the constant, “your baby looks exactly like your husband!” comments made me feel like a bad mom. None of these were intentional or meant to cause any harm, but they did. And that’s why people caution you so much about the baby blues because it’s not rational— it just happens! Blame it on the hormones, lack of sleep, and big change!
So, what can you do when the baby blues strike? Here’s a couple of things I did that were helpful:
Cry on the Floor
Seriously. After a particularly bad day when my baby forgot how to latch and spent an hour screaming into my nipple and I got emotionally triggered, I went into the bathroom and cried on the floor while my baby and husband slept. Was it dramatic? Of course. Did I feel better after? Kind of. Did it give me a moment alone to myself, which is what I really needed? Yes.
Hand off the Baby
Those first couple of weeks, mom’s are so attached to the baby between the round-the-clock feedings and paranoia that something may happen if we’re not right there to keep constant tabs, but actually a little break can do a world of good. I was very fortunate that I had my parents, in-laws, and husband all around in the first couple of weeks to give me a break to shower, take a walk around the block, and fold some laundry. It’s not easy to hand off the baby, but it’s so important.
Find a Reliable Source to Vent to
Sometimes you just need to get out your frustrations, no matter how silly or irrational they are. Sometimes this person is a spouse, best friend, or parent. It doesn’t really matter who they are, as long as you can trust them to keep the conversation between you guys and not judge. Being able to vocalize your frustrations is sometimes the biggest help of all.
Remember, the baby blues will pass and things will get easier as time goes on. If you find yourself struggling for longer than a few days, though, please reach out to your healthcare provider.