With each passing day in this journey called motherhood, I find it necessary for awareness, community and understanding when it comes to parenting. Welcoming a new baby to a family brings baby smiles, coos and of course the warm-hearted visions of baby snuggles. Now let’s get real about everyone’s favorite topic to avoid and push to the side, POSTPARTUM.
Postpartum and postpartum depression are often linked together however they are different in their own. The postpartum period begins immediately after delivery and lasts roughly 6 to 8 weeks until your body heals back to its pre-pregnant self. I like to reference the term (heal) and not (return) because women are truly healing physically and emotionally. Changes in hormones can affect your skin causing dryness, irritation, pigmentation and acne. During pregnancy, hair is at its thickest, shiniest and strongest it's ever been! In postpartum, women can lose up to 1/3 of their hair due to the drop in hormones. I'm talking patches and many moments of WTF in the shower after a shampoo. Everything on women’s body can be affected including not limited to boobs, bladder, vagina, bowels, teeth and eyes. After I gave birth to Remi, for months I had the most severe itching on my legs. I had no rash to attribute the itching to and would moisturize often, of course I googled it only to believe I had a severe underlying medical issue when in fact it was just my hormones leveling off. My OB described the changes to a women's body as shedding her skin and coming into her new role as a mother. Way to place the positive spin on it, right!?
If you’re lucky, you will only experience these physical postpartum changes and not postpartum depression. Most of you readers may be aware of depression but there can be mild feelings that do not need to be medically treated, these are known as the baby blues. Baby blues are feelings of sadness that a new parent can experience within the first few days to weeks of having a baby. New moms can also experience postpartum anxiety which can trigger excessive worrying, racing thoughts and feelings of dread. According to the Cleveland Clinic 50 to 75% of new moms experience a shift in their emotions after delivery and up to 15% of these women experience a more severe depression called postpartum. Depression can affect a mothers sleep, eating habits, energy level and increase anger or sadness.
Maybe it was becoming a first time parent and entering a world of the unknown, or COVID restricting my entire support system from being with me but looking back I can absolutely say that I experienced postpartum anxiety. What exactly did I feel?...I felt very anxious and overwhelmed. Let me explain, having a child was NOT the overwhelming part. Remi was everything I never knew I needed and I am thankful for her everyday. I was very uneasy about how to do things and when something didn't work how would I mend the situation. Anxiety can be a natural response to protect and I became hyperalert and hyperaware. I turned simple decisions into larger issues in my mind and overanalyzed everything. I tried over five types of formula and six types of bottle brands. Did I swaddle too tight? Was her basinet comfortable? Did I feed her too much? Was the room temp ok? I asked way too many people for their suggestions and opinions which clouded my judgement. It's like going to a restaurant with a limited menu, much easier to pick your entrée right? Too many options can become overwhelming and you jump to make a decision without being 100% satisfied. Remi had trouble sleeping and when she did fall asleep I was checking every minute to see if she was breathing. I was in a constant state of restlessness and ill at ease.
I have found an incredible amount of comfort in talking about my feelings and experiences with other moms. There is a universal support system of understanding and empathy with zero judgement. I have learned from being open that many new moms experience the same feelings at some point. If you think you are the only one that has cried in the shower when you have five minutes to yourself, you are NOT ALONE. No reason needed, just needed to cry and then you pull yourself together and go back to being the badass mom that you are. Think about it, when you are pregnant the doctor wants to see you every month to every week and when you go home after delivery, all you get is a follow-up appointment 6 weeks after delivery to clear you for workouts and sex. HOW INSANE! The postpartum surveys given by the doctor can be daunting to answer. Nobody ever explains if you choose yes, "I feel sad and overwhelmed sometimes" what will happen.
Time passes and eventually the feelings of postpartum anxiety will fade. I truly feel like this is something I couldn't have prepared for but I had to live through. Looking back and reflecting, I have a better understanding of things I could have done differently. I've said this in numerous blog posts, with each moment, hour and day Remi and I find our groove and it truly just keeps getting better and better. I felt heavy feelings of worry and anxiety after I delivered and throughout the weeks following. It is crucial that the stigma be removed and we normalize the conversation. Often times I have found that mothers don't share their feelings in fear of the reaction and smile through the tears. You never know what personal internal battles or struggles someone is facing. It truly takes a village and if you know someone who is becoming a first time mom, show them all the love and support you can. Hormones are an absolute bitch! I have always found that a good vent session with a friend and a glass of wine can do wonders for the soul, cheers!
X0 - Katie