Baby showers are fun and exciting in the preparation of your little human’s big entrance into the world. Any mother, who has experienced the “baby blues” or something worse, such as Postpartum Depression, will tell you these fun little parties are the least of their concern during preparation for motherhood. Combine the dramatic drop in hormones, depleted nutritional state, lack of sleep, fears of parenthood and you’ve got a perfect storm for Postpartum Depression. No matter how badly you wanted this baby, Postpartum Depression can happen to anyone. Obstetricians generally do a poor job preparing us for this reality because they don’t help us discern what is normal and what isn’t postpartum. In fact, they barely discuss our mental states when we leave the hospital with our little one. They merely mention that if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your child to call 911. That’s all we get? Sadly, most mothers would never reveal the horror going on in their head for fear that their baby might be taken away.
No one tells us that scary thoughts about your child are incredibly common. More mothers than not will tell you that they had terrifying thoughts about their baby. What if I drop her? What if I lose my mind and can’t handle the crying? What if I throw him on purpose? These thoughts make us feel sad and guilty resulting in us refusing to be alone with our babies or wishing to stay as far away from them as possible. Compounded with a depleted physical state and loss of sleep, pretty soon we are barely able to function and it becomes all about survival. This isn’t healthy for mom or baby. So what can we do about this relatively unstudied and terrifying temporary mental disorder?
Preparing ourselves before the birth of our child can do wonders into helping us with this major life transition. For example, working with a therapist before the birth of your child can help prepare you for what to expect and how to cope. Especially, if you’ve ever been treated for a mental disorder in the past such as: depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
There is no way to prepare for the lack of sleep in the first year postpartum. We are deliriously tired, especially during the first five months, when our babies are not yet sleeping through the night. Something you can do to ease the zombie-like state of paralysis and paranoia is to enlist help. If you can afford it, a night nanny is a godsend. Investing in a night nanny from the hours of 11pm to 6am is a great investment in your mental health. This will ensure a few nights of solid sleep per week
Most husbands will get a few weeks off for paternity leave (FMLA). You should definitely take advantage of this time and work in shifts. If he can do the 9pm to 1am shift so that you can at least sleep a solid four hours, this will give you some much needed REM sleep that can lessen the symptoms of depression you may be feeling. Aim to get one stint of four hours straight per day. Furthermore, if a mother, sister or any family member is offering to come help, let them. Let them do laundry, cook, clean, hold the baby or whatever they are willing to do that can take the load off of you.
Eating every couple hours will keep your blood sugar stable and can ease the panic and anxiety most new mothers face. Of course, the last thing we want to do when we are exhausted is prepare meals. Therefore, I suggest a meal service or preparing and freezing meals before you deliver. Spend a weekend gathering ingredients and making freezable entrees. If you can prepare two to three months of meals ahead of time, you will be in great shape and this will save you loads of money and time once baby arrives. For the moments when you need a quick bite, keep high fat and protein snacks available such as: cheese, uncured meats, trail mix and smoothie ingredients. Keeping your blood sugar stable will dramatically help your mental health.
Joining a Mommy and Me class is great for meeting others who are in the same boat as you. This is your “tribe” that you will be able to text and ask questions all hours of the night. The knowledge you will get, especially when it comes to sleep training, is exponential. You can organize outings to have lunch and a glass of wine if that’s what you need.
Get out of the house and exercise! Exercising in the sunshine is even better. Fit 4 Mom is an affordable option available in most cities. You can bring your little one and it will help you to meet more mommies with babies the same age as yours. It’s important to get out and start walking right away, even if you’ve had a C-section. Going for long walks and hikes in the sunshine (vitamin D) with your baby does wonders for the mind and soul. It replenishes our serotonin and dopamine by giving us more energy and helping our body image.
Finally, Transadental Meditation or Kundalini Yoga (for intrusive thoughts) is a worthwhile investment. Practicing meditation and mindfulness will reduce stress and allow those scary thoughts and worries to come in and pass through you. These practices allow you to stop fighting and judging your thoughts while training your neurological system. Self-love and acceptance is a big part of recovery from Postpartum Depression. The scary thoughts and fears will never go away completely as they are part of becoming a wonderful, loving and attentive parent. During this lifelong journey, practicing self-care can do miracles for your own recovery and the health of your baby.
Carrie is a full-time working mother who spent five years struggling with infertility and miscarriages. Through research and lifestyle changes, she was able to put an end to frustrating doctor’s visits and expensive pharmaceutical drugs that worsened her condition. At forty, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Although she was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression, Anxiety and OCD she continues to treat her symptoms through nutrition, exercise, CBT therapy, Yoga and meditation. She is devoted to helping women take back their health and heal their bodies on their own terms.