A {real} Post-partum Story

I have a confession.

I have been treated for post-partum depression and anxiety following each of my deliveries.  I suspected I would be at risk based on my medical history, but still, I was not prepared.

There is an abundance of information surrounding expectant moms related to pregnancy and labor.  But, often times no one talks about what happens after.  If they do, it is briefly mentioned in passing.  Ten months {yes, ten, whoever said pregnancy is nine months is a big, fat liar} of anticipation over in 12-48 hours of labor.  We have our precious bundle of joy in our arms.  Now what?

Visitors surround our new family for the first few weeks, offering welcomed meals and valuable extra hands.  Most often they want to hold the baby so we can get stuff done.  But really, we just want to hold our baby and all those extra hands get stuff done for us.  They all mean well.

The help quickly diminishes and guests become fewer and further between; often times a welcome reprieve.  After all, it is exhausting.  Most likely, our partner has returned to work.  New moms are now left with all the responsibility of newborn care, meal planning, housework and managing schedules.  Life goes on and is focused on learning to cope with sleep deprivation as well as physical and psychological changes.

The first year {maybe more, maybe less}after delivery is an emotional roller coaster.  It is filled with guilt, excitement, joy, fear and mourning.  Watching our little ones reach milestones and their little hands beginning to explore the world is awe inspiring.  First steps, first words, firsts after firsts.  We mourn the loss of the last stage as much as we anticipate and are excited by the next.

Enter guilt.

It surrounds us.  Some with a touch of baby blues and for some of us, it goes deeper.

I think that all moms can relate to some seemingly irrational fears: waking up in the middle of the night, even if our babies are not, just to watch their chests rise and fall.  There is a point where natural ‘new mom’ worries become more.  When we cannot stop the obsessive thoughts that something is going to happen and we cannot shake the fear of it coming to fruition.  These thoughts leading to compulsive behaviors just to soothe those weary thoughts; all in vain.  There are some of us with unrealistic expectations of perfection; being overly critical of our mothering abilities and finding it difficult to enjoy the things we once did; seeping into and affecting every aspect of our lives.

Should-ing on ourselves in a new way.  We should be enjoying this time.  We should be happy that our babies are healthy and reaching milestones.  But, maybe we aren’t as much as we should.  We disregard our body’s not so subtle cries for help.  A vicious cycle that overpowers the best of us.

Perhaps the most devastating aspect is the worry associated with asking for help and how that will be perceived by others.  Mothers have a selfless nature in which they view self- care as selfish rather than replenishing.  We would rather hide the fact that we are drowning than to simply ask a friend or relative for support.

Let’s end that.

Depression and anxiety {in any stage of life} is not an indication of weakness.  It does not mean that those afflicted are incapable of making rational decisions.  It also does not mean that their fears should be disregarded.  It simply means that there are either chemical imbalances, hormonal fluctuations or circumstances beyond their control that cannot be regulated without the help of therapy, support or medications.  This is not a shameful time.  It takes strength to acknowledge when we are beyond managing our stresses, our thoughts, and our sadness.

Bravo to the mothers who have the courage to ask for help.  Bravo to the mothers offering support to the ones struggling.  Bravo to the partners, family members, friends and co-workers providing the unrelinquishing support to those suffering with mental anguish.

To all of us: it will be okay.

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