Postpartum Depression

A friend of mine sent a big email out right after she had a baby, which included all of the warm, sweet, infinity-love kind of stuff that you say in an email you send right after you have a baby. Also in the email?

The best description I've ever heard of what it's like to try and breastfeed immediately after giving birth:

"{It's} like learning to play the guitar immediately after you have pushed a human out of your body and then every 2 hours you're called on again to play Hotel California with disastrous results should you mess up."

Yep, sounds about right.

Breastfeeding can be hard and beautiful and magical and exhausting, just like the FOURTEEN MILLION OTHER MOVING PARTS that being a new mom entails.

But of course, it doesn't matter, because parenting is definitely a 'whole is greater than the sum of the parts' situation.  It all feels so deeply worth it...

Except when it doesn't.

What happens when becoming a new mom is the absolute most depressing, frightening moment of your life?

For thousands upon thousands of new moms, postpartum depression sets in -- and because you're feeling the opposite of bliss, you feel guilty.

And you and I both know exactly what guilt attracts.  Like a moth to a flame...

Punishment.

And when you feel really guilty and want to unconsciously punish yourself, a classic way to do it is to lunge your mind into a bunch of incredibly toxic questions, like these:

What's wrong with me?  Why don't I feel 'the thing'? Why did I do this? Why is this so much easier for other women? Did I just make the biggest mistake of my life? Why am I so worried that something bad is going to happen?  Why can't I just focus on the positive?  I have a healthy baby, why don't I feel grateful?

And just like that, the shame storm begins and you're spiraled into a unique kind of depression.  What's unique about PPD?

It's spiked.

As in, a spike in your thyroid activity, a plummeting hormone drop so far and fast that it should have its own sound effect, the isolation that almost always comes with caring for a newborn, and the absolute body trauma of childbirth.

I'd give you a list of symptoms of PPD, but I suspect you already know them all to well.  So I'll give you a link to the symptoms and skip right to the actionable-steps part.

So how do you feel better now?

There's only one step you need to take, and lots of ways to take it.

Connect.

  • This site is one of the best resources for PPD I've ever come across. It'll instantly connect you to an online community of real-talk support, tell you how to join a mom's group of women dealing with the same issues, which psychiatric medication is safe while breastfeeding, how to find a therapist that specializes in PPD, and much more.
  • Because you're exhausted and very (read: extra, extremely) understandably out of it, this is a checklist that will find the words for you so you don't have to explain anything.  You can email or bring this list to your doctor, or tell someone else to make sure your doctor gets it because you're already doing more than enough.

If all of this is too much, I get that.  So will your partner, family member, or close friend who loves you.  Forward this post to someone you trust and write this one sentence in the email body: "I need you to help me get this stuff going today."

You're still in there somewhere, let a professional or a community of other women who have been where you are navigate you through the fog.  Getting support is never a sign of weakness, it's always a sign of strength.

And one last thing...

Babies cry.  It's one of their only jobs.  Every single day, every baby is supposed to cry.  Your baby is just showing up to work.  Your baby is doing a wonderful job of baby-ing, and you're doing a wonderful job of parenting.

p.s. do you have other mantras or any advice that helped you as a new parent?  I'd love to hear some in the comments below, and so might other new moms who are reading this post.  You never know who you're gonna help, so go ahead and share.