My battle with mental health issues began before I got pregnant for the first time. I have been treated for depression and anxiety in the past. I went into each of my postpartum periods knowing I was at higher risk for postpartum depression (PPD) and/or postpartum anxiety (PPA). With this in mind, I tried to be self-aware enough to recognize the signs of PPD.
Despite my experience, I’ve still struggled with getting the help I need to keep myself healthy. That’s why I feel it’s important for me to offer any support I can to new moms who haven’t experienced anything like this before.
Here are three pieces of guidance I want to share with any mom who thinks she might be experiencing postpartum depression or who is struggling in her journey with it.
Recognizing Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression might not look the way you expect it to.
I’ve experienced postpartum depression in a variety of ways. I realized I had postpartum depression when I felt completely unable to cope with the stress of having a baby, a toddler, and living in a world in absolute chaos (thanks, COVID). It wasn’t that I was in constant tears. And I didn’t resent my baby. I wasn’t struggling to get out of bed in the morning. Instead, I was living in a constant state of overwhelm. Wondering how in the world I was supposed to be enough.
Sometimes my postpartum depression gives me a shorter fuse than usual. Or it makes me apathetic. Other times I want nothing more than to go back to bed and never get up.
If you find yourself thinking surely, I don’t have to feel like this forever, it may be a sign that you need to talk to someone about postpartum depression.
Your baby needs a healthy mom
Let me tell you something important. One of the things your baby needs most is for you to be healthy.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your baby is getting help for yourself.
Maybe you need to leave your baby with a sitter so you can attend therapy uninterrupted.
Or maybe the only medication that works for your depression isn’t breastfeeding friendly and you have to make the decision to switch to formula.
Perhaps you need to set your crying baby down and take a deep breath.
These things don’t make you a bad mom. You are doing a good thing for your baby when you are taking care of their mom.
Be ready to advocate for yourself
In my experience, the systems in place don’t always make it easy for moms to get the help they need. I was screened by everyone for postpartum depression: my PCP, my OB, and my baby’s pediatrician. But when I found myself actually needing help I was faced with an OB who didn’t want to treat me long-term when I wasn’t pregnant, a PCP reluctant to treat me while I was breastfeeding, and a pediatrician who couldn’t treat me because I was an adult.
I wish the system were easier to navigate. I wish people were tripping over themselves to give postpartum moms the help they need.
Here’s the thing though: you’re going to spend the rest of your life advocating for what’s best for you, your children, and your family. You need to be determined and persistent. Never stop believing you are worthy of the help you need.
Find more resources on postpartum depression:
Lauren is a stay-at-home mom of 3 littles–Eliza (3), Nora (1), and Benjamin (2 mos.) living in Marshalltown. She spends a lot of time filling sippy cups, changing diapers, and refereeing toddler cuddle sessions turned wrestling matches. While she (usually) doesn’t mind any of those things, she truly loves crafting solo or with the toddlers, playing board games with her husband, and going on any adventure. She survives in a fairly constant state of chaos with the help of an endless amount of lists. You can find her chronicling her life and offering encouragement, survival tips, and realism on Instagram @raisinglittlecyclones.