This entry is part 23 of 31 in the series The Hope Toolbox

What You Need to Know About Postpartum Depression

What You Need to Know About Postpartum Depression

From Someone Who Has Been There

I’ve been through the postpartum experience 21 times. Yes, seriously! Three times I went through it after pregnancies when I gave birth to my biological children. Then, I went through it 18 more times when we fostered medically fragile newborns and babies.

Some of those postpartum times, my mental health stayed intact. While it wasn’t easy for sure, I took good care of myself and was able to make it through the newborn phase and come out stronger on the other side.

Other times I struggled greatly with postpartum depression, including compulsive overeating and binge eating, depressive seclusion, and at one of my lowest lows I had panic attacks as well.

After walking through my own valleys of postpartum depression, seeking treatment in the forms of medication and therapy, and then going through the postpartum period over and over and OVER (on purpose — feel free to question my sanity), here is what I have learned.

I’ll shoot it to you straight, new moms, because I know you are sleep deprived and baby could wake up at any moment. Hormonal changes are certainly one factor in postpartum depression. However, we need to be careful to understand this is not the only factor.

If you are struggling with depression in the postpartum period, feeling down, depressed, blah, having trouble with bouts of anger and yelling at your kids, or other forms of postpartum depression:

The straight truth is that a vital goal for you is to learn to stand up, use your voice, and express your needs. Stop waiting for your husband, your mother, or your friends to do it for you.

Don’t feel guilty for having needs.

Your baby will be just fine when you step away for awhile to take care of yourself, and you will be okay away from your baby, too.

What Makes the Postpartum Time So Tough

The postpartum period is no joke, friends. It’s really hard! Don’t fool yourself about what a tough endeavor this time period is. I don’t care if you used to run a company, a classroom full of children or whatever else, taking care of a newborn (or even more, a newborn and a toddler) will bring the best of us to our knees.

Here’s why:

Sleep deprivation

There is a reason this is used for prisoners of war. I am huge fan of getting babies and children into a routine (have some flexiblity with it, but have structure) for days and nights as soon as possible. TAKE NAPS.

All the touching

I’m a touchy-feely person. I’m a hugger. I love people.

But even still, a person can only take so much. Now that all my kids are in school, I’m realizing the years and years of non-stop someone ON ME ALL THE TIME CONSTANTLY WANTING SOMETHING NOW NOW NOW ON MY SKIN LITERALLY IN MY FACE NON STOP MOOMMMMEEEEEE drained me to an incredibly high level.

Now, during the day when my kids are in school, I do not turn on the TV. I don’t turn on music. I don’t run all over town. Often I sit, work, study, and enjoy the quiet. This is awesomesauce. I need to replenish from all the years of having someone clinging on to me.

High emotion

Maybe you fell in love with your baby at first sight. Maybe you didn’t (and secretly feel guilty about it). The phenomenally high level of emotion that goes with the postpartum period cannot be understated. To take on the responsibility of caring for another human being for the next 18 years? Overwhelming is an understatement.

You might be fine one minute, and the next find yourself sobbing while choosing between diaper creams in the aisle at Target. You want and desperately need a break, yet when you take one, cannot stop thinking about your baby and rush back home to see him. I get you.

Practical Steps to Take for Postpartum Depression

Here are some practical steps that have helped me survive though this tough time period LOTS of times:

Professional help

Get to your doctor for help. Often your husband or best friend will suggest this, and you might snap and try to bite his or her head off. You might brush them off and say you are fine. Friend, if they are suggesting it, you aren’t fine. Go. Get medication. Go to therapy. Get the help you need.

Time for yourself

You were a person before you were a mom. Your kid(s) will benefit from seeing you as a well-rounded individual, and if Mom is doing well, the whole family is doing well. The best thing I ever did for my family was lose 100 lbs and become a triathlete. Yes, it took time away from my family. Still totally worth it.  (Read my story about that here.)

Exercise

Speaking of triathlon, I have found exercise is my cure-much for sleep deprivation. It works better than caffeine! I know it sounds crazy and totally counter-intuitive, but when we were foster parents for newborn twins, I swear I could get through the day if I could 1. get in a morning workout and 2. catch a quick afternoon nap.

Eat right

Another tough one, but so important. Eat healthy, whole foods. Don’t worry about perfect. Take whatever necessary shortcuts. Eat the pre-chopped salads on paper plates. Use steamfresh frozen veggies. Frozen Kashi and Lean Cuisine meals are great for lunches. It’s super-easy to start comfort eating chocolate and potato chips, but in the end will make you feel worse.

Simple Joys

What are some small little things that bring you joy? Do something every day. Okay, you’re going to laugh at me for this next one, but I’ll share it anyway.

When we parented twin babies (we had 3 sets of foster twin babies), I had this silly thing that I liked to dress them in coordinating (not matching, but coordinating) outfits. It seemed like they all had terrible reflux so they were forever spitting up. When one spit up, I would change BOTH their clothes, especially if we were going out somewhere. Crazy, right?

Seeing the babies in their sweet outfits was a bonding activity for me, and people always oohed and aahed over them when we went out, which those babies needed. So I gave myself that simple pleasure.

You can do this, moms. Stand up and take care of YOU. The better you are, the better baby will be, and the better your whole family will be.

What has helped you through the postpartum period?

What You Need to Know about Postpartum Depression

The Hope Toolbox

hope for depression

Today’s Bible Verse:

As one whom his mother comforts,
    so I will comfort you;
    you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Isaiah 66:13

Today’s Journaling Prompt:

If you are a new mom: How are you doing? What can you do to stand up and express your needs more clearly?

If you are not a new mom: If there a new mom in your life that needs some extra love and support?

Resources

This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression by Karen Kleiman and Valerie Raskin — recommended by reader Nancy Anderson

Breaking the Patterns of Depression by Michael Yapko — recommended by reader Nancy Anderson

Lessons in the Dark: Living with PPD

The Stay-At-Home-Survival-Guide: Motherhood is Not Easy

Paradise Praises: Are You a Depressed Mom? There is Hope!

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