I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life. I’ve taken medications on and off, I’ve been in therapy. After years of therapy and reflection I believe that my issue is mainly anxiety, not depression. While they can go hand-in-hand, anxiety seems to be my biggest problem. I’ve had a lot of therapists over the years, and different types. I’ve gone years without therapy or medication. I know that exercise helps a LOT with the issues I have.
The most recent time I was seeing a counselor, I really liked her a lot. She’d also lost a lot of weight (like 80 pounds I think?) and for the first time I was able to work through some body issue stuff that most people, and most counselors, can’t relate to. She understood. She was great! Then she went out on maternity leave and I had the option to see someone else but decided not to. Of course, she decided not to come back so I couldn’t see her anymore anyways if she came back. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen a therapist and decided it was time to go back.
The search for someone new began.
This part sucks. Big time. Like I said, I’ve had dozens over the years. I moved, insurance changes, therapists leave, etc etc. So I am well-versed in the “find a new therapist, give them the cliffsnotes version and see if we’re a good match” routine. It still sucks. I hate starting over.
This time, I was on a mission. My focus was not going to be body issues or other issues I’ve discussed in therapy in the past. This time I had something very specific to discuss: post-partum depression (PPD).
Knowing my history with anxiety and depression, being off medications for a year and a half, not knowing what it would be like after the baby arrives, I knew it was good to find someone to talk to NOW and make sure I’m on the right track. I felt like it was better to be prepared. Know the warning signs. Learn some coping skills NOW. Try and avoid what may (or may not) happen.
I know very little about PPD. And I find that in my reading, not a lot of people talk about it. I don’t know why. It seems like it’s a common occurrence.
“Postpartum depression is depression that occurs after having a baby.
The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to symptoms for depression, but they also include:
- Trouble sleeping when your baby sleeps (more than the lack of sleep new moms usually get).
- Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby.
- Having scary or negative thoughts about the baby, like thinking someone will take your baby away or hurt your baby.
- Worrying that you will hurt the baby.
- Feeling guilty about not being a good mom, or ashamed that you cannot care for your baby.
According to a CDC survey, 8 to 19% of women reported having frequent postpartum depressive symptoms. (CDC)”
I’ve seen stats that are kind of all over the place but the general number seems to be between 11-20% of women suffer from PPD. Reading more into it, I feel like what *I* personally need to be more aware of is Post-Partum Anxiety. Considering that anxiety has been my biggest issue (far over depression), it stands to reason that this could become an issue.
Something that I’ve found disappointing with the blog world is the lack of disclosure and the sugar-coating of things. Blogs I loved to read…I ended up feeling disappointed because they’d have a baby and everything would be portrayed as rainbows and sunshine and everything was PERFECT. Then, sometimes (but not always), they’d share months later that things weren’t the perfect portrayal they presented. They struggled. Baby was tongue-tied and couldn’t breastfeed, everyone was suffering stress and exhaustion, mom suffered from PPD, etc etc.
I just wish there was more of a community, more transparency, more honesty. I feel like women are expected to be perfect, not complain about anything…when the reality might be very different and wouldn’t it be NICE to be surrounded by people that understand? And have been through it? Can relate? Can assist? Why isn’t there more of a community??
Anyways…I saw a new therapist and discussed my concerns with her. I really like the new person I’m seeing. She’s a behaviorist and with just a few sessions I already felt like I understood how to “fix” anxiety better with HER than any other therapists I’ve seen.
My post-partum plan:
Of course this is just a plan, it may or may not happen. But it’s my goal, at the very least.
- Take a shower and get dressed every day.
- When cleared by my doctor, get back to exercising when I can. I know myself and I know that physical activity helps with my anxiety. Even if it’s just taking the little boy and Bella outside for a walk every single day, I need to do something.
- Continue going to therapy and learn coping skills for my anxiety.
- Get out of the house, see friends and family, do outings! I know myself and being cooped up in the house will make me a little crazy. 🙂 I get stir-crazy after being home sick with a cold for a few days!
- Learn to ask for help, and accept help when it’s offered.
I talked to a friend recently who suffers from debilitating anxiety. I understand that my anxiety is not a panic disorder (like hers is) and that I do already have SOME coping skills that help me with my anxiety. I’m doing okay–is my anxiety conquered? Not by a long shot. But I am managing it. Anyways, my friend is in cognitive behavioral therapy and she had a fabulous suggestion that she’s being doing for her anxiety. When the panic and anxiety starts to take hold, she closes her eyes and tries to name 5 sounds she hears in that moment. She said it’s really helpful to get her to focus on something else, calm down, take the rising panic out of the anxiety and try and re-focus her energy and mental thread. I’ve tried it and it works!
I really struggle with vague “just try to refocus your thoughts” kind of advice, which is why some therapists have just not worked for me before. I don’t do abstract. Don’t just tell me to be “mindful” tell me what that MEANS. Tell me what it LOOKS like to be “mindful.” So I tried my friend’s advice and I liked it. Trying to name 5 sounds I hear in the moment of anxiety is a good distraction.
Self-care is kind of a popular buzzword these days but it really is important. In the past self-care for me looked like this: spending time with friends, working out, treating myself to a pedicure, getting regular massages (thank you insurance!), having downtime to read and watch Netflix, cuddling with my fur-babies.
I’ve started keeping a list of things I want to do. Here are some ideas I found on self-care.
Seven Types of Self-Care Activities for Coping with Stress
134 Activities to Add to Your Self-Care Plan
I’m so excited about the baby’s arrival! I want to BE PREPARED the best I can so I can enjoy every second of this amazing journey we are about to go on.
Do you have any advice or can you relate to this? What helped you?
Taking a walk every single day, even if it was just the slowest walk ever while my pelvic floor healed, even if it was just to the mailbox and even if it was just to get my daughter to take. a. gosh. darn. nap. was the absolute best thing that I did for myself during those early months. It saved my sanity.
I tried to take daily showers but the reality of the situation, at least for me and only because Cecilia is a high needs baby who wouldn’t nap ANYWHERE but on me or her daddy until she was out of her 4th trimester period, was that I couldn’t swing it without listening to her scream the entire time I was in the shower. I settled on twice daily sitz baths to help my stitches heal. 🙂
I hope walking helps. I think if the weather is tolerable it will be a good thing going for daily walks. For me, baby and Bella. Just getting fresh air and being outside can make a world of difference.
Did things get better for you guys?
I’m hopeful the weather will be good for you guys because I think you’re due right around the same time I had Cecilia last year and I know that by the time I was able to really get out and walk (i.e. 6 weeks v. delivery recovery) it was mid-April and beautiful out. The sunlight and fresh air were the best.
It did get better eventually. The thing that threw me for a loop was that I had no idea that high needs babies existed until I had Cecilia. I’ve basically just done what she wants until she decides she doesn’t want it anymore with regard to sleep. I could write you a book about it, but perhaps it might be better as a blog post for me since I really could go on (and on) about what we did.
And I’m sure it’s different for everyone. Every baby is different and I bet that makes a big difference. Not knowing what to expect is hard, too. You really can’t plan for any of this stuff.
Exactly! It was hard for me to let go of that part of my personality too. I’m very, very much a Type-A planner.
Yes, this is one of those areas where I think the internet is more hurtful than helpful. Too many women want to show the perfect lives, even if they aren’t experiencing it, which gives other women a feeling of inadequacy. I think you are smart to find someone now and have a plan in place.
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There’s no such thing as perfect and it’s really refreshing to read something real and honest. Makes them more relatable when they are honest. In my opinion. It happens with everything–not just babies and marriages and stuff, but even losing weight. Blogs portray it as easy or they lost the baby weight in JUST WEEKS without EVEN TRYING. Sure, ok, make your readers feel like crap because it wasn’t easy for them…no thank you! Share your struggles too!
I would definitely suggest to take the advice of sleeping when the baby sleeps! I had no idea the level of exhaustion I would have for months on end. The house will get cleaned later and the thank you notes and bills will get done — but my experience was there was very little overnight sleeping those first few months.
Great for you that you’re having a spring baby — I had a January baby but still tried to get out to walk around the mall for awhile — just to see some other humans.
My doctor said the same thing. She asked if I was taking naps currently and I said I wasn’t a napper. She said I needed to practice and do it when the baby is here!
I was very worried about PPD and discussed it a lot with my midwives before giving birth, they urged me to make a plan of action. I made sure my husband knew all the signs so that if he noticed something, he would take it seriously and get me help right away. I know how extremely important exercise and being outside is for me, so my plan was to walk every day, rain or shine. Our first walk was when Nora was 3 days old and we only walked for half a mile or something because I didn’t want to push it, but it was so nice to get outside! I kept going throughout that autumn, even when Nora was colicky and just screamed for miles on end. So yeah, exercise, make sure your husband/friends/family know the danger signs, and remember to not compare yourself to anyone else – like you said yourself, all those people who seem to have it together come out with the real truth later, so don’t trust anything you read. 🙂
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All of that is good advice! Thank you! 🙂
And also good advice–not comparing myself to other people!
I remember speaking with my friends after I had my first baby, and I was SO ANGRY. They had not told me how difficult having a newborn was. I felt like my body didn’t belong to me anymore, and that my body rights were being taken away. Obviously I loved my child and wanted the best for him, but I was not prepared for how difficult that would be for me to do. For me, the first 6-8 weeks were kind of a bit of hell. The lack of sleep was a bit soul crushing. I couldn’t believe no one had warned me. After the 2-3 month range, it turned into total heaven for me, but those first weeks I was wondering what in the hell I had done to myself. And I DIDN’T have post partum depression, so I think it’s great that you have looked in that and prepared for it. My sister and best friend had it, and it is no joke.
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I’ve definitely already come to terms with the “my body is no longer mine” thing throughout this whole pregnancy. It was a huge adjustment and one I don’t know that I handled well in the beginning but now I’m kind of used to it no longer being “my” body and something in my control.
I feel like EVERYONE with kids has told me “you’re never going to sleep again” but I don’t know that you really get it until you live it. LOL
Becky I agree with you I felt like no one warned me — I mean yes you know it’s hard — but it’s completely inconceivable really what that lack of sleep does to you. And I had a preemie (34 weeks) so the sleeping thing didn’t catch on until the 4-6 month timeframe. I would look at my husband leaving for work with tears — like you’re really truly walking out the door right now?
I think it’s also hard because you really have NO IDEA what to expect. Every baby is different. Every mom is different. There’s just no way to plan for it!
Just wanted to chime in and say Becky, yes, I felt the exact same way. I felt betrayed by all the people who were like “oh, having a newborn is so easy, all they do is sleep!”
I do think that there are a lot of unrealistic and “sugarcoated” stories about life with a new baby out there. I think sometimes when things get overwhelming, it’s really hard to share them. Maybe that’s why many don’t share until a lot later (if at all). I guess in the end it’s important to remember that many/most only share the pretty & happy moments and not the struggles…
I also have dealt with anxiety throughout my life, and I tried to have strategies in place to deal with it (especially during my second pregnancy nine years ago). I think being aware that there could be a problem is very beneficial.
Taking a shower, getting dressed (and wearing something pretty that makes you feel good; could be a necklace, scarf, anything), and leaving the house every day (even if just for a walk around the block) was really important for me and made a huge difference. I ended up getting in a little routine where I took a shower before my husband went to work and then went for a walk in the morning. After getting out of the house once, I usually ended up getting out again, but even if I didn’t I felt so much better than the few days we stayed in all day…
I also decided to say “no” whenever I felt it was necessary. I’m still often a “yes” person (but am working on it), but it was really important to make my family a priority. And when we hadn’t had a lot of sleep, visitors were just not going to help the situation. I remember when I had my older son almost 25 years ago, a friend of mine visited one afternoon for 7!!!! hours (and I just couldn’t bring myself to tell her that I desperately needed a nap). The baby slept for almost the entire time, but that ended up his only sleep, and he was up for most of the night. I was exhausted, and I still remember that night…
Wishing you all the best! Having a new baby is an exhausting time but also a truly wonderful, magical and never-forgotten time in your life! Enjoy it!!!!
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I really appreciate your comment and stories! I think you are right and having a routine helps. Right now my life is SO routine–go to work, go to the gym, do errands, see friends, etc. And I think it will be really weird to suddenly not have a daily schedule like that and your life is now run by a newborn that either sleeps or doesn’t. LOL Having a routine will probably be crucial for that.
I hear you on the visitors, too. I have a hard time saying no to people because I want to make people happy and I don’t necessarily know that a newborn is the time to try and please everyone, you know?
Thanks again for the comment! I really appreciate it!
Hi. The best advice I got I didn’t listen to, and regretted it. That is: sleep when the baby sleeps. When my son slept I was running around cleaning the house and catching up on laundry. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Please, seriously. As my sister told me later, “they use sleep deprivation to torture prisoners.” ‘nuf said. Another piece of advice, “do what only you can do,” that is delegate as many tasks as possible so you can focus on the baby, and taking care of your health. Is it possible to get someone to come in a couple days of week to clean the house and do the laundry? (Just for the first month or two.) Or is there a laundry service in your area that picks up and delivers? Think about a meal delivery service, too, if you can swing it. These services, while expensive, should not be considered a luxury — they will help you stay rested and sane. What kind of price can you put on that? I loved taking my son out for walks but he usually slept, so when we got home he was wide awake and well-rested and I needed a nap. Sleep when the baby sleeps. And if the baby doesn’t want to sleep, we found a great way to get our son to nod off: we put him in his stroller and parked him in front of the dishwasher. Something about the rhythmic sound of water always put him to sleep. Best of luck to you on this wonderful adventure!
Oh I love the dishwasher trick! What a good idea! I will have to remember that one.
This is one tip I’ve heard before and I know I will have a hard time following but I am DETERMINED to follow it. I know sleep deprivation will be a contributing factor to how I feel physically and emotionally. Thank you for the reminder. 🙂 I might need to write a sticky note and put it on my bathroom mirror. In all caps. With underlining and exclamation points! SLEEP!
Your baby will come out and you will be okay. Maybe with some stories to tell, It is what is was. Colic, vomiting, GI problems, ear and tooth pain. Poor kid. Poor me. It’s done. Over.
Find a mom who has kids that are 10 years older than yours, find several moms with newborns, talk and make connections. You’ll be okay. Hang in there. Sleep. All you can. Several times I turned my kid over to the neighbor so I could shower and sleep and cry myself. There was no blogging about it or reflection, no time. Just survival tactics.. The moms, they all understood. If we were honest about it, the human population would come to a screeching halt!!!! LOL 😉
Baby came out. I was eventually okay. 🙂 We are all eventually okay. Good luck and it will be okay.
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I think it’s good advice to find other moms with kids. Sadly, most of my friends do not have kids but a bunch of my hubby’s friends do, so that’s nice. I’m also looking forward to finding some mom and baby groups in the area. And I’m sure once we start doing daycare and stuff we’ll meet other families.
I think showering every day is one of the best goals you can set for yourself. Because I will tell you that there were days that I didn’t shower. I’d have spit up stains, breastmilk stains, my hair looked awful, I most definitely smelled and who knows when the last time I changed my clothes happened and it took every ounce of my being to just function. I definitely suffered from the baby blues. I don’t know if it was full-blown PPD, but it was close. I went to the doc who felt my feelings were more from exhaustion than actual depression. I had a colicky, acid-refulx baby who never stopped crying and I felt like a failure all day long. Having a January baby in the dead of a freezing Canadian winter didn’t help because I couldn’t get out, strollers don’t move in 10 inches of snow, so we were for the most part, shut in.
The best advice. Cut yourself some slack. Give yourself some grace. Be kind to yourself. You may be fortunate and have the baby that is calm and hardly cries and settles easy and falls into a nice routine or you might, like many of us, have a devil baby who never settles, never stops crying and is only happy with a bottle or boob in its mouth.
An electric toothbrush was our saviour. We had our son in a craddle in our room and I would turn on the electric toothbrush and that annoying sound would lull him to sleep. (You need the ones that stay on all the time). There were days where that would be my only 1hr of peace. But that noise was a godsend. (Noise machines are a good buy as well!)
Share your experiences. Talk about them. Don’t leave them bottled up. Prepare yourself to be an emotional (and often defensive mess!) Every time my mom “suggested something” or shared with me what she did when I was a baby made me feel like it was an attack on my motherhood and friends have said they’ve felt the same. It’s part of the new-mom club. Trust your gut. And when friendly family members or inlaws give their advice, you can always do what I eventually did…say “that’s great mom/dad, if you have more kids, you should really do that”.
I love this comment so much! And thanks for the laugh, too. 😉
I like that you could determine that exhaustion was probably the issue moreso than PPD. I think that can be the case often! Just doing minimal self-care, like showering and getting dressed, can do wonders for a mood! Having a routine of some sort, even if it’s just getting out of the house with the baby to go to the store or the doctor or whatever.
Interesting about the electric toothbrush. I think we registered for a white noise machine but didn’t get one and I was like “I don’t know that we will need that…” but maybe I should rethink that!
I worked in public health for a long time before my current profession, and I worked with some of the most underserved, abused, at risk women and children you can imagine. PPD is a real issue that you are right, isn’t talked about enough.
A really lovely group (nonprofit) that I referred a lot of people to in the Portland area is Baby Blues Connection. They are free support and they aim to just listen. Because sometimes that’s all people need.
Great, very insightful post.
Thank you so much for the tip! I will take note just in case. It’s nice to hear there are groups out there for that. I think support can help a lot with this stuff. Like you said, sometimes just someone who listens and can relate can help.
@Becky – I worry sometimes that I’m a little TOO alarmist with people. A friend of mine warned me how difficult it would be and hard on your relationship, too. If she hadn’t, I would’ve felt like you. I now feel like I need to pay these warnings forward. But I worry that I’m harshing people’s buzz or causing unnecessary anxiety about how those first few months are. Some people do great the first few months, and then it hits them later. I agree with you that it’s upsetting that people don’t really prepare you for the fact that it’s not sunshine and roses all the time. I started going to a Mommy ‘n’ Me group and that was hugely helpful. Just to realize that it’s hard for all of us.
We heard all the horror stories from people about how hard it is on relationships too…friends who said it ruined their marriage, etc. I think it has made us more diligent (or at least trying to be) about being a team first.