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Post-partum depression does not reflect on you as a mother; it is entirely natural and can be tackled if you find help and are kind on yourself.
When I had my first child, I thought I was ready for motherhood. I had read a lot of books and magazines and was very confident that I could take good care of my baby. In reality, I was ready for taking care of a baby but I had no idea that to take really good care of the baby, a mother has to first take care of herself.
Everything I read prepared me for all the tasks of caring for the baby but nothing, and no one, told me how important it was for me to take care of me as well. Everyone around me had an opinion or two about how things had to be done and I was never short of advice. But, none of that advice included suggestions like “It’s okay to want some time to yourself” or “Take care of you first”. Moreover, no one other than my parents was willing to take care of the baby for a little while so I could get some rest.
Maybe it was my cluelessness about what being a mother really entails, combined with lack of support from my in-laws and an inability to lactate which made me vulnerable to post-partum depression. Funny thing about depression of any kind is that unless you have been through it before, it is sometimes hard to recognize. It took me more than five years to figure out that I had been suffering from post-partum depression (PPD).
New mothers are already physically and emotionally vulnerable but become even more susceptible to PPD if they don’t have a good support structure around them or if there are already certain factors present in their environment that make them vulnerable to it. In my case, I was already emotionally very fragile and lost my only support when my husband moved to the US to find a job and then have me and the baby join him.
Luckily for me and my daughter, I somehow bumbled through those days without causing her or myself any harm. But since then, raising awareness for this issue has been a cause close to my heart. Here I would like to share things that helped me cope and things that I believe could have helped me overcome my depression if I’d known then what I know now.
Get your sleep, eat your food, get some physical activity and get some social interaction with your family and friends. With the whole family focusing only on the baby it may make you feel isolated. Don’t hesitate to talk to someone about it. I had a great supporter in my husband who, once he knew how I felt, went to great lengths to make sure I didn’t feel that way. Remember, the baby’s well-being depends on your health and sanity. Take care of yourself and half the work of motherhood is done.
This is the most difficult thing to do. As a mother, you feel you are supposed to do everything for your child;but even the best of mothers need help. When you start feeling overwhelmed, ask someone to take care of the baby so you can catch a break. Don’t let anyone dictate what that break should be like.
I talked to my husband about everything that bothered, worried or concerned me. It was probably a torture for the poor fellow but the conversations helped me process my feelings.I also had a few very good friends who lent me their ears and shoulders.
When I was expecting my second baby, I talked to my OBGYN about how I felt I might be more susceptible to PPD.He helped me find some resources which I could turn to for help, if I needed to. I spoke to my husband about it too, and asked him to intervene if he saw the symptoms, which brings me to the next tip.
Post-partum depression is different from the post-partum blues which include symptoms like mood swings and crying spells that usually disappear within the first few weeks. Post-partum depression is more severe and longer lasting and may interfere with your capability to care for the baby (and yourself). Symptoms include loss of appetite, insomnia, anger or irritability, overwhelming fatigue, lower libido, severe mood swings, social withdrawal, feelings of shame or guilt, constant sadness or difficulty bonding with the baby. Educate yourself about post-partum depression and be on a lookout for the symptoms.
PPD is not an indication of weakness or being a bad mother. It can be caused due to the dramatic drop in the hormone levels after delivery, lack of sleep or lack of support from one’s spouse or other loved ones. With proper diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to manage the symptoms well and enjoy motherhood.
Some mothers can function really well even while suffering from depression. This makes it difficult to recognize the symptoms and get timely help. That is why it is critical for everyone around a new mother to keep an eye on her emotional and physical health and intervene if necessary. This can happen only if we stop brushing this issue under the rug, remove the stigma associated with it and discuss it openly and honestly.
Pic credit: Eddi van W (Used under a Creative Commons license)
Cee Kay is a mother of two girls, a networking professional, a cooking enthusiast and
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