When I first became pregnant with my son, in 2014, I was anxious about delivering him. I heard many stories about hard and hurtful it is. My friends recommended an epidural injection that numbs the pain of labor contractions. But I decided to put on my superwoman cape and deliver without it. I thought that if God gave us this ability, then we are strong enough to do it.
I was right. I did it without an epidural. My jumbled emotions between being in pain and happiness ended with powerful feelings of love, joy and excitement once I had him in my arms. It was a bittersweet memory that I don’t regret.
But what came after was something I never planned for: postpartum depression.
A Few days after we left the hospital my baby was crying a lot. He slept only for short periods in his bassinet. He didn’t like the swaddle. I wasn’t able to feed him probably so; he wasn’t gaining weight.
I remember crying excessively. I sometimes went outside of the room where he sleeps and locked myself up in another because I couldn’t take his crying anymore. When his pediatrician told me that I have to use formula, I was going insane. I felt I was an inadequate mother if I couldn’t feed my own baby and I tried every possible way to increase my milk supply.
All these stressful changes sparked one idea in my head: I am a terrible mother.
I’ve always heard about postpartum depression, but like many women, I never took it seriously. I wasn’t aware that I had it until the lactation consultant at Wooster Community Hospital explained to me what I was going through.
Around 80 percent of women in the United States of America experience at least the “baby blues,” which can develop into a severe form of postpartum depression. Approximately 20 percent of these women report clinical postpartum depression and few seek medical help.
The symptoms of baby blues start a few days after the child’s birth and in some cases in the late weeks of pregnancy. New mothers will go through mood swings that include sadness, anxiety, appetite and sleeping problems.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explains that hormones such as estrogen and progesterone drop, which creates the intense feeling of frustration. In addition, insomnia, fatigue and stressful routines can all play a major role in developing mental health issues. It is one of the most vulnerable moments in a woman’s life.
Neglecting these symptoms can result in extreme — postpartum psychosis.
In 2016, Allison Goldstein, a mother of a 4-month-old, took her life after writing a long email in which she attempted to describe how she truly felt. Although she looked like a happy mom from the outside, she was suffering in silence.
“I’m so sorry that I didn’t know how to describe this pain and seek help,” she wrote, NBC12 reported.
Postpartum psychosis can result in life-threating thoughts by the mother, to herself or even her baby. It may be rare compared to the general population, but one study identified it as the second leading cause of postpartum death for women.
There are several ways to avoid this.
Postpartum doula Marisa Mendez Marthaller suggests throwing postpartum parties as a useful way to help new parents. “What if we took all the energy, time, and money that goes into prenatal fanfare and instead put it toward helping new parents when they need it most: during the emotional and physical recovery of the first six weeks after giving birth?” she said in an interview to Huffington Post.
The emotional support that comes from loved ones can help mothers to avoid postpartum psychosis. Helping out with the baby needs like changing diapers, putting them to sleep or carrying them out so the mother can rest or take a walk will help her to have her own time.
Giving advice to a new mother is good, but it can also be bothersome. When you judge a mother because she is giving her baby formula or because she sleeps beside her baby and tell her to do otherwise, you are not helping. Many mothers in law and grandparents force their own experiences on mothers only because they believe it is the right way. But what works for one person may not work for another.
For me, I was lucky that I was able to ask for help when I felt I can’t take it all by myself. I arranged the day with my husband so I can have sometime for myself. I also read more about postpartum phase, there are tons of books that can be a great help like What to expect when you’re expecting.
The most important thing is to seek help from your beloved ones to get you through it.
Sometimes the superwoman cape is not enough.