Trigger warning: mention of intrusive thoughts, mental illness and postpartum psychosis
This blog is going to focus on postpartum mood disorders, what is normal and what isn’t. 70% of new moms experience something called “baby blues” it usually comes on quickly and resolves itself 10 or so days after making its appearance. Baby blues symptoms include:
-feeling of malaise
Sounds pretty normal since we all know how much birthing takes out of us. It is reasonable to expect some level of emotional disturbance while adjusting to life as a new mom. Tracking your mood is a brilliant idea if you’re someone who has a mental illness, as this can predispose you to a higher likelihood of postpartum mood disorders. Baby blues is fairly benign and resolves itself within the first few weeks postpartum.
If it’s been more than two weeks since the onset of these issues you might be experiencing something called postpartum depression, which affects some 30% of new moms. Postpartum depression is more severe and long lasting than baby blues. Postpartum anxiety is another condition many women face after birth. PPA & PPD are both treatable, the main way to find relief is to get enough support. We all know in this day and age few moms have the “village” we are all told we need to raise children, many of us are isolated and over worked. Especially here in the US where we are not guaranteed paid maternity/parental leave. With older folks needing to continue to work to stay afloat we also don’t always have the “grandma” or “grandpa” figurehead to look after our little ones or more importantly us. Our culture looks over how transformative and traumatic giving birth and caring for children can be. I feel, personally, that if moms and parents had the proper support and education we’d be able to cope and thrive so much better than we currently can. Finding support to help with your PPD is still possible though, it can come in the form of a PPD support group or new moms support group. Simply use google or contact your local hospital to find information. The other pillar to caring for yourself and healing from PPD/PPA is self-care. If you are overworked, dehydrated, exhausted, hungry and lacking physical movements it is to be expected that you will feel shitty. I know many of us are not privileged enough to be able to take care of ourselves in the optimal way but we all can try to focus on pieces and work towards better self-care. Even carving out an early bedtime or 15 minute pre-bedtime yoga on youtube can go a long way.
There are some aspects of PPD and PPA that we don’t hear enough about. First of all as a society we need to let the fuck go of equating struggling with not being a good mom. It’s okay to be sad or anxious, that DOES NOT mean you are less than or that you don’t love your kids. Our society does a pretty piss poor job in normalizing how rough and dark parenting can be. I’m going to get a bit personal here so bear with me, I had PPD& PPA with both of my kids. With my first I had just turned 16 and knew literally nothing about postpartum mood disorders. I thought if I said I was sad or anxious or had “bad” thoughts one of two things would happen
1: I’d be labeled a bad mom
2: I’d be labeled as crazy
I did not want my mothering skills further questioned. I was already young, beyond broke and overall ill-equipped at this whole motherhood thing. I visited a therapist once after coming to terms with the fact that I needed help but walked out mid-session because I felt he was blaming my mood on my baby, which in retrospect wasn’t wrong. I was just so overly sensitive and ill-informed that I would not let the connection between my new baby and my mood be made. It is worth noting that prior to being pregnant and giving birth I struggled with anxiety and OCD. My OCD manifests (present tense because I still struggle with it) as intrusive thoughts. Usually now it’s more along the lines of “where is your wallet, it might have disappeared get up at 2am and go make sure it’s still where you left it” but during my PPD with my oldest it was “what if I put my baby in bath and walked away” “what if I jumped into the river” let me say these thoughts were NOT things I WANTED to do, I didn’t want to hurt myself or my baby. These thoughts were intrusive meaning they came when I did not want to be having them. Aside from speaking with my partner about this I’ve never really mentioned this to anyone, but it needs to be said. I never hurt my baby or myself, there is a very clear line between intrusive thoughts and thoughts of self-harm. If you are experiencing the desire to hurt yourself or someone else that is the more rare “postpartum psychosis”. PPP is dangerous and needs immediate care, if you feel any of the following get help ASAP:
-desire to hurt yourself or your baby or anyone else
-hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there
-a feeling that you or your baby are connected to god or the devil
PPP is a tragic illness that has resulted in the loss of life for moms and babies. We hear terrifying stories like that of the mom who drowned her kids in the bathtub to reunite them with angels or whatever it was. We all are so quick to assume that moms who snap like that are evil or bad when in reality they might just be mentally ill. A break from reality and time unsupervised can be all that’s needed for a tragedy to happen. I think the more we can openly discuss how normal mood disorders are the less stigma and shame they will carry. With less stigma and shame we can better ask for help and care for ourselves. If you feel crazy talk to someone it is normal darling! PPD and PPA are temporary, you will feel better one day. PPP requires immediate treatment, if you or someone you know has any of those symptoms call someone and get to the hospital IMMEDIATELY! Having support can be immeasurably helpful for mood disorders. Take care of yourselves and check back for more blogs later!
Love & light,