I was so busy learning to take care of a new human the first couple weeks after giving birth that I didn't have time to process the event. Between kidney issues and my postpartum complications, everything was moving fast. It's safe to say it was nearly a month after giving birth before I realized everything would change forever.
After discovering the source of my health complications, I began to feel like myself again. I wanted to resume life as normal now that I felt better, but it hadn’t set in that my usual freedom was gone. “Let's go somewhere,” I would say.
“But what about the baby?” my husband would ask. Of course, I knew my son existed - I was his main caretaker. But until my support system returned to work, I didn’t realize things would never be the same. That realization led to a short spell of hopelessness and depression. I loved my son, but I hated being stuck in the house around the clock. The resentment towards my new life caused the dreaded baby blues.
Negative feeling post birth, or baby blues, are a common occurrence postpartum. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that up to 80% of new mothers report some experience the baby blues. But while they’re common, the baby blues can be debilitating if they catch you off guard.
My sadness was the result of an isolated depressive spell. However, for many women giving birth can cause long-term feelings of chronic and pervasive sadness that can quickly become life-threatening.
These feelings happen for a multitude of reasons. For some, it's a natural part of adjusting to a new life. For others, like those who have postpartum depression, these negative feelings are related to hormonal changes and a cumulation of other factors.
According to the Center for Disease Control, you are at increased risk for postpartum depression if you lack social support, have had a baby preterm, or are under a period of considerable stress. Similarly, if you deal any of the following symptoms frequently after having a baby it is recommended that you speak to a mental health professional:
If symptoms persist, your mental help professional might suggest medication in combination with therapy to manage symptoms. In my case, my symptoms were mild enough that regularly scheduled talk therapy was sufficient. The mental health of new mom is an important yet frequently overlooked part of what’s sometimes called the “fourth trimester,” or the months just after giving birth.
Establishing a reliable network of support will help with managing both baby blues and postpartum depression. Seeking help from a mental health professional at the first sign of persistent negative feelings can help moms gain control before things get out of hand.
At my son's first checkup it was clear I should consider help. The mandatory mental health assessment our care provider gives at each appointment revealed a score that suggested I should speak with a mental health professional. I decided it would be best for all involved to follow their advice. My initial appointment affirmed that my negative feelings were rooted in struggling to balance my new role as a mother with my personal goals.
When our families change, it’s important to discuss how that can affect your family dynamic and your goals. Also, remember these feelings may be triggered by the arrival of your little one but doesn't make you any less of a good parent. Emotional changes are a natural part of adjusting to the flow of life.
Through counseling, I was able to make sense of my feelings. Prioritizing myself through practicing self-care in the form of writing and journaling was also useful when I was faced with hard times. Once I understood the cause of my emotions I was able to find effective ways to manage symptoms. Within a couple of months, I had established a new routine and was able to enjoy my new baby.