So what pulled me out of the seemingly bottomless pit of Post-Partum Depression? (read past stories here) What made life get better? Believe it or not, it was ANOTHER baby! Yep, after 8 long months of dark days and hopeless nights, my hormones got the life saving shock they needed to bring me out of PPD: I was pregnant. And although I still get a little dizzy thinking about how on earth I survived those 3 years with 3 babies (God’s grace + my Mom), I am thankful for baby #3 because her beginning is what put sunshine back in my days and hope back in my nights. It was as simple as that.
However, although a hormone upheaval was what pulled me out of PPD, I wish I had known how to take care of myself while I was going through PPD. And this is the hard part. I didn’t know how to help myself. I doubt I would have listened to anyone else had they told me I was suffering through PPD. But it was obvious that I was struggling. And if not for the support of my Mom and my husband, I probably would have driven off a cliff somewhere in true Thelma and Louise fashion. But this is where it gets serious.
I read the headlines and hear the stories of mothers who have injured their babies. Mothers who have done the unimaginable. I am heartbroken. Devastated. I cry for the sweet little life of an innocent child. In the past, before I had kids, I would have said, “How could she? How could a mother do something so terrible to her own child?” But now I understand those mothers. Don’t misunderstand me when I say that. More than likely those women didn’t have the support that I had. Those women probably didn’t know how to ask for help. They probably didn’t have anyone to ask. Those women were probably overwhelmed. And perhaps they were depressed. I remember a day when my son just wouldn’t stop. It was during my PPD, and I didn’t know what to do with him. Frustrated, I looked at him and said (probably yelled), “if I had a closet with locks, I’d put you in it.” He laughed and ran down the hall. I cried.
Now, though, my heart goes out to new moms, especially new moms who have little support. And although I’m no counselor, I try to encourage them. I tell them ridiculous stories about my children. I tell them how I thought I was going to go crazy. I tell them the ugly stuff, too. What’s encouraging about ugly stuff?? Well, when you’re a new mom and realize that other moms have ugly stuff, it makes you feel better about your ugly stuff. It makes you feel like you’re not alone.
So when you see a new mom, give her some encouragement. A few words might be all she needs to get through the day or the month. Let her know being a mom is hard work, but she’s doing a good job. Don’t tell her that one day she’ll miss “these days”. (I don’t miss those days.) Tell her to keep at it. Tell her that her babies are beautiful, sweet, and loving and that she must be a good mom. It could change her world.
Mayo Clinic offers some ideas for “lifestyle and home remedies” on their website. These are important, and if I had followed them, I sure it would have made daily life more bearable. (However, some women need medical treatment. Talk to a doctor about what treatment is best for you.)
- Make healthy lifestyle choices. Include physical activity, such as a walk with your baby, in your daily routine. Eat healthy foods, and avoid alcohol.
- Set realistic expectations. Don’t pressure yourself to do everything. Scale back your expectations for the perfect household. Do what you can and leave the rest. Ask for help when you need it.
- Make time for yourself. If you feel like the world is coming down around you, take some time for yourself. Get dressed, leave the house, and visit a friend or run an errand. Or schedule some time alone with your partner.
- Avoid isolation. Talk with your partner, family and friends about how you’re feeling. Ask other mothers about their experiences. Ask your doctor about local support groups for new moms or women who have postpartum depression.
Find support. There are many websites and blogs that contain online communities of women helping women. A basic web search will lead to several.
Sample Test – Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (an actual test to check your likelihood of PPD.)
- What’s Worse Than Mom Brain? (realjennywhite.wordpress.com)