There I was, 3 weeks after delivery, wondering WHY I just yelled at my baby. Yes, Yelled…at…my…newborn. Like she had any concept of why Mommy was mad?
I was as surprised as she was. The media always portrays such a rosy picture of love and cuddles right after childbirth, but I wish I had known there was no need to feel guilty for not looking like that picture. For a lot of moms post-delivery, it is completely unrealistic, considering what you’ve just been through. Here you just survived delivery, and I say survived because that’s what it is–survival, as women can still actually DIE in childbirth. You’re trying to figure out how to get your wee one “latched” on to your very tender new milk-making boobs. You’re still healing and are likely either in pain or at least uncomfortable from delivery. Your baby needs you constantly whether you’ve had any sleep in the past week or not.
You have No.Idea.What you’re doing.
Then nature decides to laugh in your face and in a cruel stroke of irony, pulls the cushy rug of hormones that you’ve been standing on during your pregnancy, right out from under you. FAST.
What does this do? Estrogen and progesterone, in the appropriate amounts, are hormones which help you “cope” and remain balanced–and also help support the production of serotonin. If you’re a lucky sufferer of PMS before your period, the effects of the hormone crash are similar, on a larger scale. Many, many women experience something called “baby blues”, often starting a few days post-partum. This doesn’t last much longer than a couple of weeks. It causes some sadness, irritability and mood swings, among other unpleasant symptoms. (This helpful resource explains the causes of post-partum mood changes more thoroughly.)
But what if it’s worse than that?
Even weeks after delivery, I feared that I was just “broken” because I wasn’t happy to have this baby and felt immediately angry with her whenever she screamed. I felt she was too much for me to handle, and the sound of her cry affected me like someone had just shocked my heart with a defibrillator. I chalked my insomnia and anxiety up to the sudden change in lifestyle. My poor hubby had to put up with random tantrums and crying jags that I couldn’t explain. And when I realized that I was actually yelling at my baby, in between a couple of bouts of daydreaming about suicide, it was time to get help.
I didn’t have the “baby blues”. I had Post-Partum Depression. I had already suffered from past depressive episodes, and chronic anxiety due to Asperger’s before pregnancy, so I was naturally more prone to PPD.
If you feel any of this sounds similar to you and the “blues” just aren’t going away, especially including any thoughts of violence toward yourself, your baby, or others, get help ASAP.
When I finally realized what I had, I tried a variety of natural treatments, starting with “*Progessence”–an essential oil blend with natural progesterone. I also used an estrogen patch, which did help but I couldn’t continue due to its $150 price tag (!). I also continued to take a prenatal vitamin, as low levels of crucial vitamins can strongly effect mood, and birth plus breastfeeding can drain you of essential nutrients. In my case it still wasn’t quite enough and my OB-GYN prescribed *Lexapro, which slowly made the difference I needed.
I had finally found something that worked, and it was like a veil had been lifted and I could breath again. And most importantly, I started having moments here and there where I felt, overwhelmingly, the love I had yearned to feel for my new baby. Sometimes just her smile could make me tear up with happiness. That hadn’t happened for the first few weeks of her life.
Certain medications can reduce your milk supply, and everyone has a different hormonal makeup and brain chemistry, so I definitely suggest asking your doctor what your options are. Call their office and they should be able to set something up with you as soon as possible.
When you talk to your doc:
• Don’t be afraid to describe your symptoms even if they scare you.
• You won’t get “hauled away” for admitting feelings of anger or suicidal thoughts. This will help you get an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor has likely heard all of it before, and is aware this is a temporary state which is treatable.
• If you are breastfeeding, there are treatments which are safe for both you and your nursing baby.
And finally, if breastfeeding is contributing to your anxiety (it did mine) or the treatment which works best for you negatively affects your milk supply, your mental health should still take priority over breastfeeding–even if this means you have to stop. I am certainly not discouraging breastfeeding, but if it comes down to that, you and your baby’s happiness is much more important than formula vs. breast milk. Again, consult your doctor if you have questions about this.
Also, please note that a lack of immediate bonding to your baby is quite common–it may not always indicate PPD, and certainly doesn’t make you a bad mother!
If you don’t treat Post-Partum Depression, it CAN get worse and it CAN last for months and months. Letting it go on could result in some serious consequences. You deserve as much support and well-being as you can get right now, because raising a newborn is hard enough without your hormones toying with your head.
If you are in need of support, here is a wonderful resource with a hotline which you can call:1-800-PPDMoms.org
Another for fathers: PPD Resources For Fathers
And I’m always happy to listen and help if I can. If you have questions or just want someone to talk to, you can reach me at:
Are you on the other side of the valley? What helped your baby blues or PPD? Feel free to comment below!
*I have not been paid to promote or advertise Progessence or Lexapro, however I did find them helpful.
Image by grietgriet on MorgueFile.com