I’ve waited a very long time to share this story because I was self-diagnosing and also I just needed to wrap my head around all of the emotions I was experiencing. Having a background in psychology and doing extensive research, gave me hopes that I would be well-equipped to deal with anything of this nature. It was extremely difficult to deal with these types of emotions as a first-time-mom. I first experienced heightened symptoms in the hospital right after giving birth, though I did experience some symptoms during pregnancy. I remember that day, it would be the beginning of what I would endure for many months. Specifically, there was an instance in the hospital which was a trigger for it all. Here is the background so you get a better understanding of this portion of the story. I had a cesarean delivery and with this type of birth, all of the fluids that would typically get pushed out via a vaginal delivery don’t come out until approximately three days after, according to one of the doctors at the hospital. I still had to use the suction device to remove liquids from him, days subsequent to bringing home my baby, so it was beyond three days evidently.
Back to that night…I was still heavily sedated from all of the strong medication they administered for my surgery, so when I fell to sleep, it was like an intense hibernation; just a very deep sleep which is why what I’m about to tell you is so extraordinary. This was the first night at the hospital and the initial rest after the surgery is pivotal to start the recuperation process, you know… after what the body had just done; delivered a human being!
I woke up to the sound of my baby choking and gasping for air!!! I ‘flew’ off the hospital bed and scooped him out of the bassinet next to me, and ran with him tightly gripped in my arms to the nurse’s station which thankfully was right outside of my room. I remember screaming and crying in a complete state of panic in the middle of the hallway of the hospital. Several of the nurses ran toward me and grabbed him out of my arms to quickly help.
That feeling of him choking/not being able to breath lingered in my subconscious memory for a very long time. My mom would come over to my two-bedroom apartment and help A LOT! I eventually upgraded to a three-bedroom apartment and converted one of the rooms into a nursery, and asked her to stay for a while. It was just all too much for me as a single mom, and I NEEDED her. She played a significant role in helping me throughout the entire process and I’m forever grateful.
I often think about the advice I would give to myself back then and I think I would just hug that person and tell her everything is going to get better, and recognizing postpartum anxiety/depression is a normal occurrence after giving birth which will eventually subside. It’s the simplest advice that would have the most profound influence in a positive way.
That experience in the hospital triggered postpartum anxiety which ties in with postpartum depression. They are both categorized by a host of negative feelings. A new mom should be experiencing feelings of excitement and all the joys associated with motherhood which were few and far between for me. PPA/D stole that joy from me at times. I was so afraid to take my baby out initially and I would see other moms having their picture-perfect moments, and think to myself…’why am I feeling this way and not having more of those moments’ but I would eventually learn that’s not realistic. It’s extremely important to me that I share my authentic experiences along this journey, and if one person can identify with it in one way or another, then it’s imperative that you know you are not alone, you are not weak, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed or less-than any other mother.
This is very common among moms, and even more interesting facts have surfaced indicating that other family members related to the baby can also suffer from PPD/A. The statistics are high and growing, but there are many resources to suit your needs now. Talk to someone you trust if you don’t wish to go see a therapist. Studies reveal sharing your problems with a trusted person can alleviate a significant amount of stress. Journal – this is where I began and it was extremely cathartic. Journaling has always been symbiotic and effective throughout many aspects of my life. It’s been symbiotic in the sense that I can always go back and reflect on what I wrote in those moments especially if I’m traveling and connect it to my present experiences to bridge the gap. Its also been effective in the sense that out of the numerous remedies that exist, journaling has proven to be unparalleled when it comes to releasing private thoughts.
Exercising (when I finally could) helped me A LOT. My doctoral psychology professor once recommended a book that she said changed her life. I thought it would be about an in-depth look at the structure of the brain or something to that effect but it turns out she was referring to exercise. This book opened my eyes to the power of working out. Many have wished that you could somehow bottle exercise or in some complex form compress it into a pill, but there is no such thing, at least not yet. This book, in particular, dissects the details of how exercise positively impacts not just your body but your mind also, in the most miraculous ways. After reading it, it stayed in my subconscious memory indelibly and I yearned to start again once healed but it took me a long time to feel like myself again and really feel ready to workout. I started with walking for thirty minutes a day and then graduated to the elliptical (purchased an in-home machine), and that’s really when I saw significant changes. Now, I feel so much stronger, remarkably so that I upgraded my workout regime and joined Orange Theory which has been life-changing. The walks were and still are special though, particularly because I take my baby with me.
Eating the right foods to produce breastmilk and for my mental/physical health was also a key factor. It’s true about what you’ve heard – breastfeeding helps with slimming the waistline. Worrying about losing weight was secondary to me because I was more concerned about my baby getting the nutrition he needed to grow healthily. There are many mothers that don’t wish to breastfeed for their own personal reason/s and if you’re one of them, then don’t feel pressured or guilty. Just do your research to find the right formula for your baby. I had a drop in supply at month six so I had to supplement with formula, and finding one that was wholesome and closest to breastmilk was crucial for me. When I heard about Holle, I had high hopes and would eventually learn that it would be the best decision for us. He was colicky in the first two months so I switched to their hypoallergenic version and like magic, the colic subsided. It does have to be shipped as it’s made in Germany but there is a US distributor so it’s actually quite convenient.
Finally, finding the right pediatrician proved to be of utmost importance. What I quickly learned after doctor-shopping is that if your baby’s needs/requirements along with your lifestyle needs/requirements are not met by the doctor, it will just be a longgggg frustrating process. It took some extensive research but I was finally able to find a pediatrician that met our needs/requirements – holistic and medicinal approach; the care was presented as boutique-care and not to mention my baby warmed up to her in seconds. There is also something unique and valuable about a doctor who has a selective-care practice.
Each month comes with new and varied challenges, but it gets more manageable because you gain more experience and it sure does help when your babe sleeps longer as they get older because more z’s equals a happier mama and baby. Gone are the days when I would freak out about nipping him while cutting his nails or be terrified he would slip out of his bathtub while bathing him or be worried about his wipes not being warmed to the perfect temperature at his preference among many other ‘what ifs’. I’ve learned to take each day as a gift to learn and grow, but most of all to be present in each moment because those moments can quickly become fleeting glimpses.