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I've Had My Baby

 

Many aspects of your life change when you have a baby — possibly all aspects. Some of the areas where parents often experience major changes are:

  • Your daily schedule
  • Your household budget
  • Your sleep patterns
  • Your relationship with your partner
  • Your relationships with friends
  • Your priorities on how to spend your time, money, and energy

No matter how eager we might have been to welcome our child, there will always be a sense of loss and grief for the way things were before. All new beginnings mean something ended – this can make even positive transitions difficult.

Emotional changes

Some people feel absolute joy during the postpartum period. But … this is not universal. It is not uncommon for women to feel the following emotions after they give birth:

  • Sadness
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty contentrating
  • Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Excessive worry about your baby
  • Fearing that you can’t take care of your baby
  • Guilt or inadequacy
  • Difficulty accepting motherhood

It’s normal and okay if your feelings are less than happy during this adjustment. That doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong. In fact, it is very common.

Passing Down the Good

Becoming a parent often encourages us to reflect upon the way that we were parented. We all have had good and difficult aspects of our upbringing. It can seem overwhelming to find out how to create the life you want for you baby, especially if you have concerns about the negative things you experienced in your own childhood.

Image heart icon ACTIVITY

 

Talk to someone about these concerns — your partner, your family member, a friend or a therapist.
Identify the negative patterns you want to stop and the positive experiences you want to continue.
This will help to “pass down the good” to your child.

 

Good Mom vs. Bad Mom

Modern day society imposes a number of expectations on motherhood. According to the media and other sources, a Good Mom is one who is married, has only two kids, exclusively breastfeeds, makes her own baby food, loses her baby weight immediately after birth, has kids who sleep through the night since birth, got pregnant on her first try, has a clean house, and more! What this list demonstrates is that the concept of a Good Mom is an impossible ideal. Instead, we’d like to propose the concept of a Good Enough Mom. A Good Enough Mom takes care of her own needs so that she can better care for her baby. Keep that in mind as you navigate the postpartum period.

Balancing needs

It can be very challenging to take care of yourself when you have a baby. Our usual ways of attending to our needs are often not possible when we are feeding, changing and playing with our babies, on top of our other daily chores and obligations! It’s important to look at what is possible for you, in whatever amount of time you have. You might not be able to spend hours on yourself the way you used to, but you might be able to do it in smaller doses — and little goes a long way when you are parenting!

Image heart icon ACTIVITY

 

Write out a schedule of daily and weekly activities and identify opportunities for self-care. Update this schedule as your baby grows older.

Circle of Support

Are the people that you counted on as serving as a support to you during this time following through? Are there new people in your life who have suddenly showed up to be a support to you? Take a minute to identify your needs from your partner, family and friends and don’t be afraid to make very specific requests of them.

How To Ask For Help

"I am really, really tired.  Can you watch the baby for 3 hours so that I can nap?"

"I'm having a hard time getting dinner on the table.  Could you prepare some meals that I can stick in the freezer?"

"I thought this would be different.  I'm not feeling like myself.  Can you help me find someone I can talk to?"

The importance of sleep

Sleep is very important — especially during the postpartum period. Sleep can restore our energy and keep us healthy. We also need to be rested to cope with stress. New motherhood brings natural challenges to sleeping. It is important to be aware of how your sleep is affected, and maybe to let go of some responsibilities so that you can get the sleep you need.

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Make as much time for sleep and rest as possible

Promoting sleep and rest

Sleep and rest are challenging for parents but it is still very important to make time for it, as much as possible. Here are ways to promote your sleep and rest:

  • Make time for no activities at all.
  • Use breathing to calm yourself.
  • Don’t use screens (TV, phones, etc.) an hour before bedtime.
  • Use music when resting and reduce noise and light.
  • Don’t drink caffeine in the hours before bedtime.
  • Try to develop a regular schedule for your sleep. If you go to bed at the same time every night, your body will get used to sleeping at a regular time.
  • Avoid alcohol before bedtime.

If it’s hard to find time for sleeping, think about resting. Getting some time with your feet up is helpful, even if you aren’t sleeping. All mothers need it.

"Baby Blues" vs. postpartum depression

The “Baby Blues” are mood changes experienced during the first couple of weeks after having your baby. During this time, it is normal to experience tearfulness, irritability, sadness, sleeplessness, anxiety, and exhaustion. It usually lasts between 3 to 14 days and it goes away on its own. If these symptoms persist, it could be a sign of postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety.

Postpartum depression and anxiety

Feeling depressed can be experienced in different ways, but here are the most common symptoms:

  • Feeling irritable or angry
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed or hopeless
  • Feeling so nervous that nothing can calm you down
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling restless
  • Feeling like everything is an effort
  • Feeling so sad that nothing can cheer me up
  • Feeling worthless
  • Big changes in appetite — eating more or less than usual
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Feeling like things that I used to enjoy are no longer interesting
  • Feeling unable to look forward to anything
  • Wanting to blame myself when things go wrong
  • Feeling scared or panicky for no good reason
  • Feeling so overwhelmed
  • Feeling tired for no good reason
  • Being unable to sleep even when my baby is sleeping
  • Crying almost all the time, or not feeling able to stop crying
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

If you are feeling down, worried or on edge for most of the day nearly every day for a period of time...

If your symptoms continue even when you are doing things that used to make you feel better...

If your symptoms are impacting your life, by creating problems with your partner, your baby, your ability to care for the baby or do your job ...

If you are unable to sleep, even when the baby is sleeping...

...it is a good idea to get some help. Getting help is important for a quick recovery and a healthy future with your baby.

Take Action

If you have consistently felt any of the other symptoms on this list recently, discuss them with your healthcare provider.
Bring this checklist with you.

What does help look like?

Self-care: Making adjustments in your life to reduce stress, such as get exercise, sleep more, or make changes in your diet.

Peer Support: Talk to friends and family members who have experienced postpartum depression and anxiety. You will quickly learn that you are not alone.

Support Groups: These are groups that meet regularly and are facilitated by a licensed clinician and/or a peer. Facilitators bring topics for conversation and participants leave with more information and friendships with other people who have recently had babies.

Individual Psychotherapy: One-on-one therapy with a psychologist, clinical social worker or therapists is a safe place to share all your feelings and thoughts about postpartum depression and anxiety.

Medication: Some postpartum parents require medication to manage their depression and/or anxiety and feel like themselves again.

There is not one right way. Each birthing person has her own unique needs and circumstances. Some mothers may need all of help listed; others just a derivative of one. Ask your healthcare professional what treatment options are available and you can decide together what steps you should take. Or, call Postpartum Support International’s Warmline: 1-800-944-4773

Remember — asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or if you feel that you can see and hear things that others can't, reach out for help immediately.
Do not suffer with scary thoughts alone.

Remember ...

You are not alone. Maternal depression can affect any woman regardless of age, income, culture, or education.
It is NOT your fault. You are not a weak or bad person for feeling this. It is a common and treatable condition. There are many factors may impact how you are feeling, including your medical history, how your body processes certain hormones, the level of stress you are experiencing, and how much help you are getting. But what we do know is that this is not your fault.
With the right help, you will get better. The sooner you get treatment and support, the better. There are resources and help available.

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