After all the anticipation–the 9-month pregnancy journey (which is quite the feat for most women), the pomp and circumstance of baby showers, announcements, getting the baby’s room ready, whittling down a list of baby names, and most likely voraciously reading through all the “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” books—the day finally arrives to meet your baby!
This is a joyous occasion for most. For many mothers, it’s a day to reflect upon, for years to come. For me it seemed I was in, what felt like, some kind of “love coma”, when the midwife placed my daughter upon my chest (we were heart to heart). I could feel her breathing, and the warmth of her body against me. All I could manage to say, again and again, “My baby, my baby!” The world seemed to stop. All that existed was the two of us, outside of space and time.
As I examined her body (all 9 pounds, 11 ounces of her), I was in absolute awe of this gorgeous creation that just came out of my body—another human being! I was a creator, and just perpetuated another creator.
After being released from the hospital, we headed home to another adventure awaiting us. For some, it’s to more children eager for their return, for others it’s to the unknown—both very daunting–in different ways.
My experience was the latter. I was a young married mom, in my mid-twenties, still finishing college, at the time. I remember feeling like I was in a daze, as I navigated this unchartered territory. Being so sleep deprived, didn’t make the situation any easier. My daughter would wake up every 20 minutes throughout the night. Come to find out, it was in large part because she was hungry. When I nursed, she couldn’t latch on properly because I was so engorged with milk. Nursing–yet another lesson learned through trial and error, in my early days of motherhood.
But thank goodness for a wonderful Lactation Specialist who advised me to use a breast-pump, first, before nursing. It worked like a charm! After that, I was able to get more sleep, and my baby wasn’t starving anymore.
Adjusting to this new addition in life, whether it’s a first or third baby, takes time. Plus, your body is going through some pretty massive changes: physically, mentally, and emotionally. For starters, your hormones are seeking a new equilibrium, and for some women that’s when an unexpected visitor can come strolling in, ever so slyly—a dreaded visitor known as postpartum depression.
When that happens, your once sunny, positive disposition, can suddenly take a nose- dive down into the dumps, leaving you feeling helpless without a lifeline. That black, suffocating cloud of YUCK seems to relentlessly follow you at every turn, no matter how hard you try to shake it. Then, when guilt and shame set in because you can barely take care of yourself, let alone your baby, it exacerbates the depression.
For those on the outside looking in, this can be equally challenging, as understanding how to help your loved one can be a delicate situation.
Then, still, for those who have never experienced PPD, or depression, it can be difficult to not only understand but extend compassion, while withholding judgment. It’s human nature to fear, or judge, the unknown. Some folks have even ventured to say PPD and Depression don’t exist.
I’m here to tell you they’re very real. According to the New England Journal of Medicine:
“Postpartum depression is a disabling but treatable mental disorder that represents one of the most common complications of childbearing.
1. Postpartum depression is included in the American Psychiatric Association’s
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), as a major depressive episode “with peripartum onset if onset of mood symptoms occurs
during pregnancy or within 4 weeks following delivery”
2. (Table 1). However, depression that begins later than 4 weeks after delivery or does not meet the full criteria for a major depressive episode may still cause harm and require treatment.
3. In clinical practice and in clinical research, postpartum depression (i.e., nonpsychotic puerperal depression) is variably defined as depression that occurs within 4 weeks after childbirth, or 3 months, 6 months, or up to 12 months after.”
For me, PPD set in almost a year after my daughter was born. I didn’t understand what was going on, or why I was feeling so low. I loved my daughter, and was happy to be her mother. But in reflecting back, I realized there were also some major life stressors that played a role:
“Approximately 70-80% of women will experience, at a minimum the ‘baby blues’. Of those, many will experience the more severe condition of postpartum depression or a related condition.
The reported rate of clinical postpartum depression among new mothers is between 10 to 20%.
One study found 1 in 7 women may experience PPD in the year after giving birth. With more than 4 million live births each year, in the United States, this equates to more than 600, 000 postpartum depression diagnoses.”
Then, there’s women who miscarry or have stillbirths. They may also experience postpartum depression. What’s more, studies have found men can also experience PPD.
“Approximately 10% of new fathers experience symptoms of depression during the postpartum period.
Half of men who have partners with postpartum depression will go on to develop depression themselves.” (postpartumdepression.org)
I know, just reading these statistics can be depressing. But, there’s hope, and ways to combat PPD. Of course, when you’re in that state, it can feel like it’ll never end. One dark day can seem to roll into another, like dark waves crashing down on you. For others, it may feel like sinking into quick sand, until you feel doomed to emotionally flat line.
What’s more, there are times when no matter how hard you try to emotionally tread water, by thinking positive thoughts, it doesn’t work. Then, it can become counterproductive because you feel guilty when it doesn’t work, creating a vicious cycle of shame. It can go from dark to darker—real fast.
I remember days when my baby was fussy, and I couldn’t figure out what she wanted. I’d just end up breaking down, and crying with her because I didn’t know what to do. I felt like such a horrible mom. The feelings of failure enveloped me, as the pressures mounted to “keep it together”, get back to my pre-baby weight, keep the house in order, and get my career going.
Does anyone else feel like they have to be Supermom, all the time? Please, I beg you, get rid of that expectation right now. It’s harmful. You are inherently good enough without lifting a finger. If just BEING is the only thing you put on your “to-do list”, today, then you’ve succeeded.
Meanwhile, I started my television career, behind the camera. At the time, my daughter was barely 6 months old. I was working as a News Assistant at the CBS affiliate in Albany, New York. Then, was promoted to fill-in as an Associate Producer, for the overnight shift. However, the problem was when I’d come home exhausted, at 11am, and my daughter wanted to play.
By the time she was 8 months old, I felt like I was going to have a nervous break down. Between the sleep deprivation, the pressures of being a new, nursing mom, and trying to launch my tv career to the next level, I wilted into someone I didn’t know anymore. It was all just too much. Consequently, I fell into a depression, and it was much stronger than the “baby blues”. I was diagnosed with PPD.
If I could go back in time, and give my 25 year-old-new-mom-self some advice (and some advice that may also help you), it’d be something like this:
Nourish Your Body: After having a baby, your body definitely needs a little extra TLC. So, make sure you’re getting the proper nutrition, vitamins, minerals, sleep, and exercise needed—even if it’s just a walk around the block, at first. Just take it one day at a time. Also, ensure your hormone levels are balanced. This may be a conversation, or several conversations, with your Healthcare Provider. But, as you work together, you’ll find the right balance for your body, and life will seem to flow again. It was during one of those conversations, when I went to one of my postpartum check ups, with my OB-GYN, when I let her know how overwhelmed I was feeling. Before I could even finish my sentence, I started crying.
She said, “Everything you’re describing is normal, for many women. It’s called postpartum depression, and can surface up to a year after childbirth.”
After she said that, I felt a wave of relief fall over me. I didn’t feel like I was going crazy. I felt “normal”. I didn’t feel so alone. I felt like someone just threw me a lifeline, and things would gradually get better. I was nursing at the time, so she put me on a progesterone pill, which seemed to help level out my hormones a bit.
However, these types of things are not a “one-size-fits-all”. It can be a journey of trial and error, until you and your doctor find what works best for you.
When it comes to vitamins, Bumped Up provides a robust prenatal and postnatal multivitamin with all the essentials you need before and after childbirth. They are called Prenatal Support and Postnatal Support.
Doctors recommend women stay on their prenatal vitamins even after childbirth, up until after breastfeeding. If you’re not breastfeeding, they still recommend staying on prenatal vitamins, as it can compensate for any deficiencies in your diet.
Bumped Up’s Postnatal Support offers higher doses of many essential vitamins, including Vitamin D3, which boosts physical and mental health. Research shows a deficiency in Vitamin D is linked to postpartum depression. Additionally, for breastfeeding mothers, if there’s a deficiency in D3, there’ll be a deficiency in the baby.
These Bumped Up Multivitamins provide full spectrum bioavailability, which means they absorb into the body faster. Plus, they’re GMP certified (Good Manufacturing Practices), which means the manufacturer has demonstrated a strong regulatory commitment to good International standards. You deserve the highest standards.
Additionally, they’re NSF certified, which assures suppliers, retailers, regulators and consumers that an independent organization has reviewed a product’s manufacturing process and determined the product complies with specific standards for safety, quality, sustainability or performance. This company only wants the best for you!
Next, Bumped Up offers Nursing Support for breastfeeding mothers.
“It’s loaded with 7 different staples of lactation support, this top to bottom lactation supplement is synergistically made to enhance and stimulate milk production. Milk production plays a vital role in a baby’s physical and mental development. Ensuring they are getting potent nutrient density is only half of the battle. The rate that healthy babies grow and develop can be as astounding as their appetite. During these spurts a baby’s appetite can be ravenous, leaving a mother depleted at the worst possible time. Switching to formula because of depletion can put undue stress on an already sensitive digestive system. Help protect yourself with BUMPED UP Nursing Support. It contains Fenugreek , Blessed Milk Thistle, Anise Seed, Cumin, Coriander, Lemon Grass, and Dill Seed. “
Nourish Your Mind: Invigorate your mind with empowering information that encourages you to grow in all facets of your life. There’s a plethora of platforms to gain new insights for you and your baby. There are even ways to remap your brain. From books, to podcasts, vlogs and blogs, you can find just about anything to stimulate and nourish your mind.
One of my favorite ways to relax, especially when I’m in a funk, or just need to focus, is MUSIC. Research shows music can stimulate mood and emotion through specific brain circuits.
“We also see this when parent and child connect through song. Have you ever listened to a mother singing a lullaby to her newborn baby? It is probably one of the most significant bonding experiences between people you will ever witness.”
Music can also help with the following: learning, neuroplasticity, attention, and memory. That includes, singing, chanting, and drumming.
Hertz Level: 14–40 Hz
Effect: Awake, normal alert consciousness
Example: Actively conversing or engaging in work
Hertz Level: 8–14 Hz
Effect: Calm, relaxed
Example: Meditating, reflecting, taking a break from work
Hertz Level: 4–8 Hz
Effect: Deep relaxation and meditation, mental imagery
Hertz Level: 0–4 Hz
Effect: Deep, dreamless sleep
Example: Experiencing REM sleep
“As we travel into an even deeper state of relaxation, we move into a theta brain wave state. This can occur through meditation and also through relaxation music. It is in alpha and theta states that we tap into enhanced creative frames of mind. As our bodies progress into deep sleep, we are in delta and our brain waves have fully slowed down.”
Nourish Your Soul: Begin or continue a spiritual practice (which doesn’t have to involve religion). For instance, a practice that feeds my soul is meditation (you can even find guided meditations on YouTube or download one of the many apps available). Additionally, yoga, prayer, aligning with the frequency of nature, and starting a gratitude journal are all ways to feed your soul, as well as shift your focus and mood. I suggest writing down 3-10 things you’re grateful for, every day, for at least 30 days. Consequently, you’ll see a marked difference in your mood, relationships, and life.
Let Yourself Off the Hook: Allow yourself to just BE. You are a humanBEING, not a humanDOING. Get rid of the Drill Sergeant attitude towards yourself when it comes to expectations. So many folks, especially women, feel in order to be productive they have to be DOING something, every minute of the day, while checking off a huge to-do list. However, a person can be extremely productive by resting, reading, meditating, drawing, pondering, or walking in nature—to name a few things. These activities allow one’s nervous system to actually function at its fullest capacity because it’s not in “fight or flight” mode. Whereas, buzzing around flustered all day to check off the things on a “to-do list” can leave you drained, over stimulated, as well as leave you susceptible to depression, and chronic illness. Thus, it’s not maximizing your performance or quality of life.
Ask Empowering Questions: Oftentimes when we’re feeling down in the dumps, we ask disempowering questions such as: “Why me?”; “How long is this going to last?”; “What did I do to deserve this?”, which drives us further into a “scarcity-lack-mentality”, and more likely to pull the covers over our heads.
New Thought Leader, and Founder of Agape International Spiritual Center, Michael Bernard Beckwith, says tuning into the frequency of our internal dialogue is key. We can choose to turn those questions into EMPOWERING questions, rather than disempowering questions. Here are some examples:
“What’s trying to emerge in my life?”
“What gift do I have to give?”
“How much power can flow through me?”
“If this situation lasted forever, what qualities would I need to obtain, in order to thrive–not just survive?”
Beckwith says: “Behind every problem we have, there’s a question trying to ask itself. Behind every question, there’s an answer trying to be revealed. Behind every answer, there’s an action trying to be taken. And behind every action, there’s a way of life trying to be born.”
So, getting stuck in disempowering questions keeps you small. You are powerful. Ask EMPOWERING questions when you feel stuck, or down, because I promise you, something amazing is trying to emerge.
Be Present–‘There Is A Time And A Season For All Things”: I’ve come to the conclusion that you can do almost everything you want to do in life, but not all at the same time. There’s a time and a season for all things. When it comes to being a mother, give yourself the space and time to enjoy the present moment, without becoming consumed with FOMO (fear of missing out), or anxiety about the future. At the same time, getting bogged down about the past (shoulduh, coulduh, woulduh thoughts) isn’t productive either.
The past is gone, and the future doesn’t exist. So, with only the present at hand, enjoy the precious moments with your children, without worrying about a career passing you by. The opportunity for most careers will always be there (if there’s a will there’s a way. Plus, absent being qualified, we all know, it’s who you know that most often lands you your dream job).
But when it comes to being a mom, and raising children, you can never have those precious moments back. Then, suddenly, they’re gone in a flash. Depending on what’s going on: diaper changes, feedings, laundry, put on repeat–some days can seem to last forever, although, the months, and years can fly by– like turning a page in a book.
One technique to keep you in the present is simply breathing. Slowly taking in a big inhale through your nose, holding it for three to five seconds; then exhaling out your mouth, while thinking of releasing any tension or resistance to the present moment. Do this at least three times.
Next, “naming” is a technique that shifts your focus into the present moment. I enjoy it best outside, in nature, but you can do it wherever you are. Simply, name what you are currently doing, out loud (or in your mind). For instance, I am walking to the car. I am breathing. I see a flower. I see a red car. I am looking into my baby’s eyes. This stops any disassociation from the present moment.
Life, including motherhood, is a journey. Each journey is unique and beautiful, with different twists, turns, peaks, valleys, ebbs, and flows. But there are things to assist us in our journey when the unexpected hits us, sometimes, out of nowhere. So, hopefully, this has been some helpful advice, from one mother to another, on ‘what some can expect, when they’re not expecting’.