Checking In: Dealing with Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
You don’t have to be a mother to read this post. In fact, if you are a mother reading this post, please forward this to your non-mom friends and family—yes, even the guys.
Whenever my best friend calls me, she always makes it a point to ask me how I’m doing. After I tell her that I’m fine, she always says, “Good. ‘Cause people forget to check on the mom. Now, how’s my nephew?”
I absolutely love her for that! And, she’s right! It’s not intentional but oftentimes, friends and family neglect to check in on a new mom because they’re so consumed with the new, cute, and cuddly baby. And while a new mother may seem to have it all together on the outside, she may be experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD).
The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression Aren’t Always Identifiable
There are many symptoms associated with PPD which makes it easy for them to go unnoticed, even by the mother who may be experiencing them. After a bit of research, I found that my symptoms were similar to those associated with postpartum anxiety. According to Postpartum Depression.org, “Postpartum anxiety is often underdiagnosed because it is believed that new mothers are naturally very anxious and so some symptoms of postpartum anxiety may seem ‘normal.’ The main characteristic of postpartum anxiety is that the symptoms include far more anxious behavior as opposed to primarily depressed behavior.”
For me, the anxiety didn’t happen until about a week after giving birth; after family was gone and it was just us—first-time parents—and the baby. The anxious thoughts would creep in during unpredictable times. I would be washing dishes while the baby was asleep in the rocker next to me. All of a sudden various scenarios would flash across my mind: the cabinet collapsing and all of the dishes falling on the baby or the block of knives falling and hurting the baby. When we were out in public, I was constantly on guard because I would imagine that someone was following us to harm or take the baby. I attributed these thoughts to normal things that new parents worry about but I realized that it was more serious.
It didn’t completely register until one day I let the anxiety get the best of me. Despite being shaky, jittery, and my nerves being all over the place, I decided that I needed to get out of the house. I went to the grocery store and before I could even put the first item in my cart, I’d knocked over an entire display of water bottles. I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out.
Motherhood Brings About a New Normal
Of all the advice people were throwing my way, there’s one piece that I wish I’d taken. A friend told me to not put on normal clothes too soon. And at the time I didn’t know what she meant. But after having an emotional breakdown, I realized that when I put on actual clothes instead of keeping my pajamas on all day, it appeared that I was back to my normal self. The things that I normally did were expected of me, even though I’d just went through one of the most difficult times of my life.
Once I explained to my boyfriend that I wasn’t the same, that I wasn’t back to myself, he went above and beyond to make sure I didn’t overexert myself. Family and friends also stepped in to help out as much as they could; bringing over dinner, watching the baby while I napped, whatever it took.
Thankfully, my anxiety subsided after a week or so, and it didn’t turn into something more serious, but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case for other moms. So I urge you, before you ask to see pictures and videos of the new baby, check in on the mom and make sure she’s doing fine. Ask her if there is anything you can do to help her out. If she declines your help, make a small gesture anyway. Because while mothers are strong enough to carry and bring life into the world, sometimes just being themselves gets tough.
Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash