You’ve been waiting for close to nine months to see your baby and finally she’s here! Everyone in your family is excited and happy. Everyone, that is, except you. Maybe you feel tired and exhausted – after all, giving birth to a baby is no piece of cake! Maybe you feel overwhelmed by the whole process, especially if it is your first time. Perhaps you feel weepy and emotional – who wouldn’t feel emotional the first time they see their baby! But all through this, you’re wondering…if having a baby is supposed to be such a happy occasion, why am I feeling so low?
You’re not alone. Many new mothers feel overwhelmed and exhausted after giving birth. It is normal to experience a little moodiness, anxiety and sleep disturbances for the first two weeks after a baby is born, after all, learning to take care of your cute little bundle of energy takes some getting used to. With a little sleep and a helping hand, most mothers begin to feel better after a few days. If, however, you continue feeling low during the first two months after your baby is born, you may be suffering from more than just baby blues…you may be suffering from postpartum depression.
Postpartum signs of depression
Several things may contribute to postpartum depression symptoms. Sometimes, a dramatic drop in the hormones in your body just after the baby is born may make you feel tired and depressed. When you’re sleep deprived, any little thing can seem overwhelming. You may feel anxious about your ability to take care of a new born baby and about all the lifestyle changes that you will need to make. The support or lack of support that you have from your partner and family may also contribute to a lot of the negativity.
So, how do you know that you have postpartum depression? During the first two months after your baby is born, if you consistently feel irritable or hypersensitive, find it difficult to concentrate on anything, feel anxious, worried or angry all the time and have negative feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and guilt, chances are that you may be suffering from postpartum depression. Other symptoms include a loss of interest in activities that you previously enjoyed, difficulty in sleeping, a change in your eating habits and patterns and a constant feeling of fatigue and exhaustion.
All through this, it helps to know that postpartum depression is not a character flaw or a weakness. It can be managed and treated. Once you start feeling better, you may begin to enjoy a whole new bonding experience with your baby!
Treatment for depression
Apart from seeking professional help, there are a few things that you can try at home to cope with your depression and anxiety.
Do NOT feel guilty – Many mothers feel guilty for being sad and depressed. Well-intentioned advice from relatives and friends may also make you feel like you’re not doing enough. Just remember, managing a baby 24/7 is not an easy task. Stop beating yourself up!
- Talk about your feelings – Talk to your partner or a sympathetic friend about what’s happening with you. While you’re at it, talk to other mothers as well. You may be surprised at how many women have experienced the same thing!
- Take care of yourself – It’s easy to forget yourself when you’re so busy taking care of someone else. Take time out to make sure that your own basic needs are met. Are you eating properly? Are you able to snooze when your baby is napping? Take time out for a leisurely shower. Very often, when we look good, we feel good as well. Tell yourself, “It’s okay to focus on me!”
- Lower your expectations – You may have been able to maintain a neat and tidy home up until now but that may not always be possible when you’re balancing a crying baby on one side and messy diapers, soiled clothes, feeding bottles and daily chores on the other. It’s okay! Let it be. As long as you are able to meet the baby’s basic needs as well as yours, leave all the rest for later.
- Ask for help – Part of being a good mother is to know when to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it during this difficult time. Help comes in many forms, be it a good friend who can bring over some food for you, a relative who can help you with household chores or a good counsellor who can help you through therapy. All you need to do is ask!
- Get some rest – Taking care of a new born baby can be quite taxing and exhausting. It is important to give yourself rest breaks, away from your baby, a few times a day. Whether it is reading a magazine, watching tv or going out for a short walk, it is important to take some time out during the day just for yourself.
- Go out! – Put your baby in a stroller and take her out for a walk. The fresh air and sunshine will do you both a world of good! If you’re not up to walking around right now, simply sit outside in the sunshine for a few minutes. It will help!
- Take it easy – Or at least, try to. Resist the temptation to do the laundry while your baby sleeps. Get your food home delivered – don’t exert yourself by cooking and cleaning the house. Put your phone on silent when you’re making your baby sleep or when you’re getting your much needed rest. Office work can also wait! Make “you” your top priority!
As with any kind of illness, treatment is the best course of action and depression treatment is the first step towards a better you. A counsellor or a doctor will be able to help you get through this tough time and suggest the right course for the treatment of depression. Once you start feeling better, you will find these negative feelings diminishing. You will be able to enjoy a better relationship with your baby and you will be able to cope better with all the joys and frustrations that are a part of this glorious journey of motherhood!