There’s no denying that postpartum is not talked about as often as it should be. So many people want to come over to play with your newborn, see how they are sleeping at night, ask how they are doing, but rarely ask the very important question, “how are you doing?”
My postpartum recovery was far from easy. I spent each night in the hospital room crying because I had developed an infection that left the doctors and nurses with no answers, dumbfounded as to what was happening to my body. Just moments after giving birth, a woman’s hormones begin to change, and they can take up to 8 weeks, maybe more, depending on the woman’s body. Not knowing where my infection was coming from was the scariest thing I have ever gone through. How was I supposed to take care of my two newborns when I was becoming sick? Although this was supposed to be the happiest moment of my life, it quickly turned into something more serious.
What are the Baby Blues?
Baby Blues affects 60-80% of new mothers, and usually occurs soon after birth and can last for a couple of weeks (ppdil.org). The Baby Blues are feelings of sadness a woman may have just shortly after giving birth. If your Baby Blues do not subside after 2 weeks, discuss your concerns with your health care provider as soon as possible. Although Baby Blues are totally normal and extremely common, many women feel guilty for having these feelings as a new mother.
What are the Symptoms?
There are various symptoms involving the Baby Blues. Here are some to name a few:
- Feeling sad for most of the day
- Crying a lot
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling moody or cranky
- Having trouble sleeping or doing simple tasks
- Being overwhelmed
Why does it Happen?
There are various reasons why so many women develop the Baby Blues, and it mostly derives from physical changes to the body as well as hormonal changes to the body. Quickly after birth, your hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are very high during pregnancy, decline drastically. Due to this quick change, the body may go through extreme emotional changes and physical changes which can make you feel extremely anxious, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Because infants are so tiny and vulnerable, us mothers feel a sense of constant worry and an overwhelming amount of responsibility for our newborn child. In addition, as the woman’s body is changing back to its normal state, visitors can also consume the energy of a woman postpartum.
How I Overcame the Baby Blues
Being a new mom of twins, there was no denying that my life drastically changed in an instant. My postpartum infection was definitely a reason I struggled with the Baby Blues and PPA (Postpartum Anxiety). It was extremely difficult to not be able to 100% be able to take care of my newborns as I was healing from a c-section and an infection on top of it all. Although the Baby Blues go away on its own, there are some things I did to help with the process of feeling like myself again.
- Journal: I purchased a nice journal for each of my babies and decided to write letters to them. When I felt anxious or sad, I would write in those journals and feel a little bit better.
- Walk: Although you have to be careful walking after birth, even walking to the corner and back helped clear my head.
- Get yourself ready: Although you might not be going anywhere or doing anything, putting on a cute outfit and making yourself look presentable can help make you feel like yourself again and can help build confidence.
- Write yourself notes and set small goals: Not overdoing anything is important when it comes to your healing process. In order for myself to not feel as anxious, I would set 1 goal for each day and tell myself something positive so I really felt like I accomplished a lot by the end of the day, even if it was something little.
- Set limits for guests: Having a baby, or in my case, 2 babies, is overwhelming enough. Add a bunch of guests to the mix and trying to host is even more stressful. Setting limits is important because it allows you to take control over what goes on in your household.
- Ask for help and accept help: This is something new moms often don’t like doing. Asking for help may seem like you are not capable of doing things yourself. In reality, people want to help and people do care for your well being. These tasks you need help with may be small, and that is perfectly okay. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength because you have the courage to admit that you are struggling and need an extra hand.
- Have discussions about how you feel with your partner or family: Being able to openly discuss the struggles you’re having takes courage. But, holding those thoughts and feelings in will not help you overcome this. Be strong, know that you are doing a good job, and just talk with your partner and family.
- Don’t feel guilty: Mom guilt is a real thing. Many people make new mothers feel guilty for wanting to get out of the house. Mental health is so important. As a new mother, if you aren’t in the right state of mind, you are not going to be able to be there for your little ones. Take a break, go for a walk, go to dinner without the baby, and just take a deep breath. It will all be okay.
You’re Not Alone
For me, I felt like people were so consumed with my newborn babies that they often forgot to ask how I was doing. When people came over, I tried to hide the fact that I was seriously struggling. They didn’t know that I cried myself to sleep every night. They didn’t know my throat clenched or that my body got warm every time one of my babies cried. They didn’t know I was struggling to eat. Once I was finally able to open up to my parents about what was going on, I felt a sense of relief that someone was actually listening.
If you are a partner, a family member, or friend, please ask your loved one who just gave birth how they are doing. Just because they look okay, doesn’t mean they are actually okay. Pull them aside, give them a hug before running to the baby to pick them up and coddle them. Don’t offer advice, just listen to them when they need to be heard. Offer help and ask what you can do to make it easier. Send them positive words of affirmation so they know they are doing a good job. Trust me, your loved one needs that more than you will ever know. Just because someone doesn’t ask for help, doesn’t mean they don’t need it. Don’t ignore the warning signs, address them and ask what you can do. I know for me, I felt so alone because nobody truly understood what I was going through. Try your best to understand them, be there for them, and care about them just as much as you care for the new baby she just birthed. Mental health is so important. Be kind to those who are struggling. We need to bring more awareness to something about 60-80% of women face each and every day. Knowing the signs and knowing what you can do to help, can help prepare future women who may go through this. Do not make new mothers feel guilty for feeling this way, rather, be a voice of reason for them when they are unable to do it themselves.
If you are a woman like me who just gave birth, just know you are not alone. Do not feel guilty for feeling the way that you do. You are doing an amazing job, just look at all the amazing things your body has done in the past 9 months. Your body GREW A HUMAN BEING, nourished it and gave it love and affection for 40(ish) weeks. You gave birth to a human (or 2 humans) whether it was through a vaginal canal or through surgery. Regardless, you brought a human into this world and are not taking care of it as your body goes back to its normal state. You deserve every award in the book, so never let anyone dismiss your feelings. Do not feel guilty about asking for help. Do not feel guilty for crying, for yelling at someone. Your hCG levels (Human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone normally produced by the placenta) go from a 0 to 60,000+ (depending on when you give birth and if you had a multiples pregnancy). Due to these numbers, your hormones are all over the place and that is why you feel the way that you do. Remember, these feelings may go away after about 2 weeks, but if they don’t consult your doctor because you may be one of the 15-20% of women who suffer from PP Depression or PP Anxiety.
You are not alone.
You are not a bad mom.
You are doing a great job.
Are you at risk for Postpartum Anxiety or Depression? Take the Quiz to find out. Consult a doctor or call 911 if you feel you are in danger of hurting yourself or others.
Disclaimer: please understand that all images are raw images of my after- birth experience. These photos were taken in a vulnerable state to show awareness that motherhood can be a vulnerable yet beautiful experience. I hope that you can respect that. Thank you.