BabyCenter Guest Blogger
posted in Mom Stories
By Rachel Florence Roberts
I suffered quite badly with postpartum depression (PPD) following the birth of my first child. It went undiagnosed for almost 2 years – and during that time I missed out on a hell of a lot of precious moments, lost a couple of friends, denied myself any measure of self-respect, and carelessly blew money as if it grew underneath my bed whilst I slept.
But this isn’t a generic ‘I suffered from postnatal depression and this is how it made me feel’ post; I figure there’s enough first-hand stories out there already.
I recently gave birth to my second child – a beautiful little girl – and, rather interestingly, I did not experience an ounce of PPD. Nothing. Not even a brush of ‘baby-blues’ (and there is a difference between the two).
From the aforementioned experience, I knew life was unlikely to be a chorus of sunshine, rainbows, and sparkly unicorns on the day I gave birth. So I wrote a mental list to myself. And I would like to share it with you.
GIVING BIRTH HURTS. And it doesn’t stop when the baby pops out. Even if you have an amazingly straight-forward birth, expect to have after-pains for anything from a few days to a few weeks. I can’t believe nobody ever told me this after having my first-born, and it shocked the life out of me. Depending on what – if any – interventions you have, will impact greatly on the length and type of your recovery. Which leads me to the next point.
THE METHOD BY WHICH YOU GIVE BIRTH CAN HAVE AN IMPACT ON BONDING WITH YOUR BABY. Fact. Studies demonstrate that mothers who give birth naturally and enjoy ‘skin-to-skin’ time with their baby immediately after birth will ‘bond’ better than those who don’t. Caesarean section and instrumental-assisted deliveries have the opposite effect. I can vouch for this. My first labor was induced with Pitocin, delivered via vacuum extractor, and my baby was not handed to me until half an hour afterwards. I suffered PPD. My second birth was all natural, in the bath-tub, and I picked her up out of the water and laid her on my chest. No PPD.
HAVING YOUR MOTHER / MOTHER-IN-LAW AROUND IMMEDIATELY AFTER GIVING BIRTH IS A VERY, VERY BAD IDEA. Unless you are a better person than I am. I made this mistake shortly after my first was born, and it really seemed to impede the bonding process. Seriously, think in advance whether you want another person in your home when you and your baby are just starting to get to know one another. I didn’t bond with my son straight away, because I didn’t want to. And my mother made it easy for me not to have to. The early days are a very valuable, intense time for the both of you.
YOU MAY WANT TO KILL YOUR HUSBAND. But don’t. It’s not your mans’ fault he doesn’t know what it feels like to pass a watermelon through his bum. Don’t hold it against him. Speak to him. Be honest with him. He’s not a mind-reader. He doesn’t know if you’re feeling lonely, upset, or stressed. I completely shut my husband out the first time around and it made things worse. When he discovered half a dozen empty wine bottles hidden in the bottom of the wardrobe, he didn’t understand why they were there. He was hurt that not only was I drinking in secret, but that I was hiding my problems from him. Share everything with him: your mind, and the workload a baby inevitably brings. Men are invaluable when it comes to helping in those early days, and the father needs to bond with baby just as much as you do. Take his help. Don’t try to do it all alone. The answer is not to be found floating on the top of a white wine spritzer.
YOU MIGHT RESENT YOUR BABY . . . JUST A LITTLE. Sounds awful, but expect this! Admit it! It’s hard work to be woken up five times a night when you’re used to sleeping through, and it’s okay to feel this way. It doesn’t make you a bad mother. It simply means you are human. And like everything else in this life, it too, will pass. Usually when your baby finally gives you that cheeky grin you’ve been waiting months for . . . at 4 a.m. But if this gets to the point where you are not interested in your baby, you don’t want to pick him up, you ignore his cries, feel angry at him . . . please, seek help! I remember wanting to give my son away. That is not normal.
YOU WILL EAT YOUR OWN BODY-WEIGHT IN JUNK FOOD. Who has time to cook up a five-star roast on two hours sleep? How about some healthy lettuce leaves? You can ram your salad right up your cabbage. We new mothers need food, real food, and lots of it. Even if said ‘real’ food now consists of microwave burgers and spaghetti O’s on toast for breakfast. This is fine! But if you find you are excessively overeating, or not eating at all, that can signify a much deeper, more severe problem. I lost over two stone (22 pounds) in the first month after having my son – and I was not overweight to start off with. Symptoms of depression can manifest in your food intake.
YOU WILL HATE YOURSELF . . . A LITTLE OR A LOT. See that pregnant-belly? That does not go away as soon as you give birth. Nor in a few weeks. Or a few months. You will not look like you think you will. It takes at least 6-12 months for everything to go back to the way it was before you got pregnant. This is normal! You are not a celebrity. It is okay to resemble a half-dead sea-sponge. And your husband WILL love you all the more for being you. But if you find yourself staring into the mirror, focusing on every little thing that you see – and sometimes, things nobody else can – hating yourself, seek help. I even believed my face had changed. It hadn’t. But my perception had.
Prepare for the fact that life will be different. When I had my son, I couldn’t accept the changes he brought with him. With my daughter, I was able to ride along with the ebb and flow of my life, pick her up and bring her with me; rather than trying to swim against it, and drown.
Remind yourself that being a new mother is hard work. You can do every kind of right and still get it wrong.
It. Is. Okay.
You’re doing just fine.
And there is absolutely no shame whatsoever if you’re not.
Help can be found here.
Rachel Florence Roberts was born in Liverpool. A mother of two, she was inspired to write a novel, The Medea Complex, after suffering with postnatal depression following the birth of her son. The Medea Complex is inspired by true events that occurred towards the end of the 19th century, and is Rachel’s first novel.
Photo credits: Thinkstock and Penguin Random House