Our modern lifestyles and career choices can sometimes take us far from our families. That may mean that we don’t live near family, or that we don’t really use our family as a support network, even if they are nearby. So when a new child is brought home, we don’t have our village. And more importantly, we often don’t have the large cadre of family members who might be available to give a new mother a much-needed break.
And sometimes, even if we have family and friends' support, we still feel wanting.
Why Untreated Post-Partum Depression Or Anxiety Can Be A Worrying Concern
It’s estimated that between 15-30% of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression or anxiety. And, if you happen to have undergone fertility treatment, that number may be even higher. Many of us suffer in silence, believing that motherhood was meant to be this hard.
But it’s not. Motherhood can become easier, and sometimes, easier means correctly addressing problems and treating concerns.
Here’s the key difference in determining if you are just having thoughts and feelings that all moms have versus post-partum depression or anxiety: the suffering is not just one bad day. It can be all day, and continues for a period of two weeks or more.
The mental anguish may be either post-partum depression or post-partum anxiety, and usually is some combination of both.
So how do you know? Do you have thoughts or feelings like the examples below, and have had them for longer than two weeks?
- Trouble sleeping, either waking very often, unable to fall asleep, or waking very soon after falling asleep.
- You feel as if you will never get the hang of motherhood.
- You are irritated and angry, constantly.
- You know something is wrong, and may sometimes feel like you are “going crazy”.
- You cry often, and feel incredible sadness.
- You wonder if your baby would be better off with a different mother. You wonder if other people would be better at taking care of your baby than you.
- You wonder if the baby is feeding off of your mood.
- You wonder if you’re an unfit mother.
- You feel like you are different from everyone else, as if no one can understand what you’re going through. You are convinced that none of your other friends had the same experience, and you wonder what is wrong with you.
- You feel like you are doing everything “right”, but you (or your baby) are somehow still “wrong”.
- It feels like you have done everything perfectly, so why does this all feel so horrible?
- You have anger at your partner or your baby for causing your life to fall apart.
- You have the urge to escape: just crawl into a hole, to run your car off of the road, or to go on a very long vacation.
If You Think Any Of These Possible Symptoms Are True For You, Take Heart: You’re Not Alone, And Help Is Available
Also helpful to know is whether your thinking has become post-partum anxiety. Post-partum anxiety is just beginning to be known, and can have many of the same symptoms. It is just as debilitating, and is characterized by a need to “do”, as well as a feeling of racing thoughts. Have you noticed a frequency of any of the below?
- A need to check on the baby, the bottles, anything, as long as you are doing something.
- Constant worry – whether the baby is getting enough milk/food, whether he/she is growing, getting enough love, getting enough “tummy time”, getting enough sleep.
- Strange, racing thoughts. You may be scared of the thoughts you are having about your baby, and your fears may be constant. Like “what if the baby doesn’t wake up? What if they stop breathing? What if I drop her?”
- Trouble sleeping or eating.
- You are afraid of reaching out for help. You think you should be able to handle it all.
Afraid To Ask For Help?
A fear of reaching out for help can be especially true for women who struggled to conceive – you might feel as if now that you’ve had the child you’ve dreamt of, then you should be content, and no one will understand that you are now struggling.
There is help available! The ray of hope here is that all of these thoughts are treatable with effective therapy or support.
A therapist with experience in postpartum depression can be especially helpful in recovering from post-partum depression or anxiety, and really help you to find joy in motherhood.
The benefit of psychotherapy is that it is one on one, and also contains no side effects for you or baby. There is a path through the darkness, and a therapist can help you to find it.
Some Helpful Tips To Get You Started On The Path To Better Days
Waving Goodbye To The Perfect Mother Idea
What do you consider a perfect mother? One who’s baby never cries? One who’s baby always eats when they are supposed to? One who does everything perfectly? Do you happen to know any of these mothers or babies?
The Perfect Mother does not exist, anywhere. We are allowed to not be perfect in child-raising, and our children will still be fine. Allow yourself the joy of not trying to get everything “right”, and knowing that there is no “perfect” baby or mother. Instead, let’s aim for the “Good Enough Mother”, one who gets it “right” most of the time, but is allowed to just enjoy life with baby.
Becoming More Present
A cognitive behavioral therapist will help you to focus on what is currently going on, rather than worrying about the past (my life was so much better before) or the future (what if this baby doesn’t turn out right?).
You may want to start by just noticing that you are having thoughts that are not focused on the immediate, and instead on some mythical past or future. In the near term, a long walk, either with or without the baby, in which you silently repeat a phrase or mantra, can help you to focus on only what is going on in the present.
Professional Help From A Compassionate, Experienced Therapist Is Just A Phone Call Or Email Away
Using the tools above, and other techniques, your therapist will guide you towards finding your happier self again. It is possible, and there is no need to struggle alone if you are suffering.
At Nassau Guidance and Counseling, we specialize in post-partum depression and anxiety. Please reach out to find the care you deserve.