– and how to support the new mom in your life
By Laura Barr
I remember clearly my first thought as I entered the door to my home with my hubby carrying our beautiful, perfect new little girl that lived in my belly for nine glorious months prior (I know, you probably want to throw rotten fruit at me, but I had a good pregnancy). I was staring at our coat rack when I shuddered with fear, and thought “what have we done! We can’t possibly be responsible for another human!” Little did I know that in the months to come I would be dealing with post-partum anxiety and OCD.
There are many different labels associated with what is often called post-partum depression or PPD – so I will refer to all of them collectively as “post-partum shock” for the remainder of this article.
*Important note: This article will not discuss postpartum psychosis which is a rare, severe, and dangerous form of postpartum shock that can suddenly occur within the first 3 weeks following childbirth causing a new mother to potentially feel detached from her baby and other people and hallucinate involving smell, touch, sight, or hearing. She may have delusions or display bizarre behaviour, or have urges to kill herself and her child or children. Postpartum psychosis is considered a psychiatric emergency requiring immediate hospitalization and treatment.
What to do if you have post Partum Shock:
- Get your family and friends to read this article (family and friends – please read the list below this one). Sometimes when you are in the midst of it, its extremely hard to ask for what you need.
- See your doctor. If you aren’t happy with what they say, or they are passing it off as baby blues, seek another opinion. Continue seeking opinions until you find what works for you and makes YOU feel better. There are many options like medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, etc. that can help. A lot.
- Don’t be a hero. I was told children who are breast fed have less chance of many diseases – one being Type 1 diabetes. I had many “breast is best” people in my life, and although it added much to my stress, I did it for 11 months. Guess what? At 2.5 years old, my girl was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Bottle or breast, your baby will be JUST FINE. Do what works for you and If anyone tells you different – tune them out.
- Don’t be hard on yourself – you are not alone and due to multifactorial changes in your life (and body) the feelings you are experiencing happen to other women too. You are doing the best you can.
- Don’t be hard on your body. Pregnancy almost always results in more weight gain than expected, and there is ever-increasing pressure from media to take it all off fast. Do your best to ignore it – you just grew a human!
- Accept help. People will want to help knowing that it really will help you. Let them. Sleep. Even if you can’t sleep during that 3 hours period your spouse / friend / parent, etc. is caring for your child, lie there. Have a bath. Go for coffee. Read. Get a massage. Make that time your own. Yes, you will feel that cursed Mom guilt for the first while, but ignore it – the more you make it a habit to have you time, the better you’ll be with your new little bundle.
- Breathe. I promise you, there is a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel. One of these days it will hit you and you’ll know what I mean. Keep that hope.
What to do if you have a loved one with post partum shock:
- Stay close and in touch. Even if this person you thought you knew is grey and gloomy and no fun to be around – let them know you are there. Spouses – yes, this means if you are used to going out with friends Saturday night and your wife says, “no its ok, you work hard, you go ahead and go out with them” DO NOT GO. She needs you. Yes, it might be a year, but remember she is going through something much harder than you can ever even fathom. If you don’t believe me, please ask my husband…he decided to keep up “guys night” on Saturday nights right after our daughter was born. He ended up with a raging wife who almost left him. Resist the temptation to get out of the house and let your spouse know you are in it with her for the long haul. Trust me on this one.
- Don’t ask “what can I do to help?” just do it. Take that sweet new bundle of tears, poop and giggles and care for them for a few hours a week while Mom rests or does whatever the heck she wants. Get a few friends together and take turns throughout a week. Your friend needs this right now so she doesn’t go completely out of her mind.
- Bring dinner / coffee / lunch, whatever you can occasionally. Let mom know you don’t care what she’s wearing, what her house looks like, etc.
- Make sure your expectations of your loved one’s day-to-day abilities are realistic – remember – Mom is very unlikely to come home and do everything she normally does for quite some time. Pitch in as much as possible and consider outside help if that is an option.
- Remember that every parent and child is unique – don’t compare two people or two families.
- Understand that people who experience postpartum depression may want to spend a lot of time alone. This it isn’t about you, they are simply trying to cope with an illness.
- Help with child care (including overnight help for feedings), or help finding a child care provider. A short break or a chance to get back into interests can make a big difference in anyone’s well-being. It can also create more opportunities for sleep.
- Managing postpartum depression takes a lot of hard work – acknowledge a loved one’s efforts regardless of the outcome.
- Accompany your loved one to appointments when you can
- Take care of yourself – your loved on needs you to be healthy too.
Having a child, whether it is your first, second or fifth, is a huge life change and it is normal to have mood changes related to this. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it doesn’t make you weak, it makes you much, much stronger!
“It takes a village to raise a child.” -African proverb.
Laura Barr is the owner of bloomwellness.ca & bloomwellnessblog.com. She is a Registered Massage Therapist, Certified Personal Trainer, Holistic Nutritionist and Therapeutic Exercise Specialist. Her clinic is based in Nisku, and serves clients from Edmonton, Beaumont, Leduc, Nisku & surrounding area. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast, animal lover, type 1 diabetes mom and advocate and most importantly, she is a busy mom to her energetic young daughter! Visit her blog. Connect with Laura: Professional services website:www.bloomwellness.ca , WordPress blog: bloomwellnessblog.com , Instagram , Facebook , Twitter , Pinterest , Linkedin