Maybe Postpartum Depression can’t be avoided, if you’re gonna get it, you’re gonna get it. I really don’t know. But here are 8 things I swear contributed to my PPD that I wish I had been better prepared for.
1. Your baby and your body don’t give a good shit about your “birth plan” and that’s OK. You start thinking about the immanent birth of your baby from the day you find out you’re pregnant. Maybe even long before that. People are so opinionated these days about certain methods and practices and it will get in your head despite your better judgement. You start feeling like however your child is born is paramount because it will somehow set the tone for the rest of his or her life, and other bull honkey like that.
My baby was late. 42 weeks is a looooong time to be adding details to my fantasy of gracefully plucking him out of me, ala Kortney Kardashian, and placing him on my own chest while the nurse blots the drop of sweat from my brow so we can take our first mother/son selfie.
Apparently the universe did not get the memo. My contractions were so severe they were stopping River’s heart. Not once, but twice, with machines going off all around me I got swarmed by entire staffs of nurses and doctors, frantically making me get on all fours to try to get his heart beating again. It was so terrifying that when my doctor said she was calling it, it was time for an emergency c section, I was actually relieved.
The c section itself wasn’t too bad, recovering from it sucked. Mostly because I was very out of it for next 2 days and, even though I was there nursing him and holding him, I felt so numb it was like missing it altogether.
I was seriously in mourning over our imperfect start. I felt like my body let both of us down. But honestly, one of the best things about babies it that they’re stupid little dummies! He didn’t know his ass from his elbow, quite literally. As long as he was getting everything he needed, he was happy as a clam. He didn’t know what orifice he emerged from, he didn’t know mom was stoned AF or that she was a-cah-ray-zay. He just knew he was fed and dry and loving being rocked and bounced as I sobbed my face off.
HOW they come into this world is not a huge deal. Once they’re here, they’re here! It’s one day (hopefully, maybe a little longer) out of both of your lives and there will be many, many more.
2. Angels don’t sing the first time you look at this band new, wet alien. Fireworks don’t go off, the clouds don’t part, and birds do not come to the window to sing a love song when you first lay eyes on your baby. I had such anticipation for this moment! I thought the instant I saw my him I would feel a shift in the universe and I would be a new person. False.
Maybe it was the many, MANY drugs, or the 3 epidurals, or the fact that I was completely out of it and exhausted, but I’ve felt more for random puppies on the street than I did for this sweet babe at first sight. Again, it was another thing that initially I felt I had to mourn because in my mind it was this crucial experience I had missed out on. I blame it 100% on the expectations I had about what that moment would feel like. Maybe that shit DOES happen for some moms, my guess is that these are the same women who love to announce “Oh my God, I forgot to eat today! HAHA!” and they have my permission to go kick all the rocks. They’re the reason the rest of us feel like there’s something wrong with US that a disco ball doesn’t drop from the ceiling and “Celebrate Good Times” doesn’t play as Ryan Seacrest introduces us to our new little one.
Love takes time, dammit, Mariah was right. And “love at first sight” is subjective. Yes I LOVED my baby and had an instant desire to care for him and put his needs before mine. But I didn’t feel suddenly and instantly complete and happy and all the wonderful things he now makes me feel every day. It took some time for me to get to know him, and him to know me, to really experience that intense feeling of love that only a parent can know.
Now since knowing this I always listen very closely to my new mom friends that go overboard on how “in love” they are, and I stay mindful that they may still need a supportive ear, even if their mouths are saying things are great.
If you feel less excited when you meet your offspring than you would if you met the worlds worst band The Offspring, don’t beat yourself up over it. It will come.
3. Sleep. Eat. Easier said than done, I know. But both these things are vital to your mental health and ability to cope under stress. And being a new mom is STRESSFUL. Your body needs rest and nourishment. I was so depressed I couldn’t eat. My mom had to force Ensure down my sobby gullet. (IMO the Butter Pecan flavor tasted the best mixed with snot and tears.) If you have a partner, take shifts as much as possible so you can both get some rest. If the baby is napping, nap. Put off the stuff that isn’t important until later, it can wait. If you have any money at all, a night nurse is worth her weight in gold. Trust me, this is something that is WORTH dipping into your savings for, you won’t regret it. It doesn’t have to be a regular thing, maybe just 1 or 2 nights of good solid sleep might be enough to get your strength back.
4. Sometimes PPD comes disguised as guilt. You feel guilty for everything. You think you’re doing a terrible job taking care of your baby, but you feel guilty asking anyone for help. Then you feel guilty about feeling guilty. Just cut that shit out. You’re doing a great job and people are happy to help.
5. Give it a week. If this week is hard, next week will be better. Every week they are new life forms, I swear. They change so much day to day that you might even see the transformation faster than that. But honestly, if they won’t sleep, eat, are just fussy for no reason, and you feel like you’re at your wit’s end, just remember you just have to give it a week. You can make it a week. I promise.
6. Believe it or not, formula is not made out of toxic waste! Who knew?? Some women have trouble with their breast milk supply. Some women can’t breast feed at all due to all kids of medical issues. It can be a great source for stress and depression (and sometimes even self hatred) during this time. Some people will tell those women with supply issues to get up every 2 hours to pump even while the baby is sleeping. It’s really such a shame because that kind of pressure can be detrimental to the mother’s health, and although breast milk does have some benefits, they are certainly not so crucial that it’s worth sacrificing your own mental health. I was formula fed and I’m healthy as shit! I’m a fuckin tank. Whether you are a formula mom or a bm mom or a mixure of both, feel good about yourself that you’re feeding your baby. Let it be something that brings you joy instead of stress. Pay attention to the opinions of NO ONE during this time. If you are scared about formula, just do a little research and find the best one out there for your LO! Sometimes it takes a little trial and error, but you’ll get it right. I researched a ton when I started to supplement and learned so much it was actually kind of fun! I’ll probably make a post dedicated to formula on here soon.
7. Don’t wait to get help. If you start feeling completely overwhelmed, talk to people and get some support set up for yourself. PPD is a vicious beast that needs to be attacked from every angle with every weapon you’ve got. This is why we have friends and family. Because Lord knows that most of the time they’re pains in our ass, this is their time to shine! If someone offers to come over and help, LET THEM. Ask them to make dinner or help with some of the house stuff, or just hold the baby while you SLEEP.
Some hospitals offer free postpartum support groups, I went to these several times at the hospital I gave birth at and I’m thankful I did. It was good to hear other women explaining things that I felt myself to know I wasn’t alone.
There are hotlines you can call that will link you with a mom who has been through PPD and who can offer great support and advice. Google “postpartum depression help” and you’ll find a bunch of these. Here’s one that I used. 1.800.944.4773
Talk to your doctor, this is also what they’re there for. They should be giving you a quiz and asking you about how you are coping postpartum, but if they don’t, bring it up. They see this stuff all the time and it’s their job to help you through it. They make the big bucks, help them earn it. 😉
8. Say yes to drugs. Seriously. If your doctor recommends that you go on antidepressants, that’s ok! Even if you’re nursing, Zoloft has a great deal of research backing it as safe for both pregnant and nursing mothers. Your baby will be fine and honestly so much better off having a mom that is able to cope. Postpartum Depression is not something you can just walk off or rub some dirt in or whatever. It’s chemical and it’s an illness that is effecting your brain. Part of why it’s so malicious is that it LIES to you and tells you that there is no solution to anything, even medication. I know for me, I could not have gotten better without the medication.
This list will probably grow as more things come to me! If you’ve gone through PPD and have something to add, please by all means leave it as a comment and I’ll add it! It’s important that we are all in this together.