Postpartum Depression: A Young Mother's Personal Expression
A Poem and Some Information on Postpartum Depression (PPD)
A Little History
In the year 2002, I wrote this poem after having my second child, a beautiful daughter, hoping to get it published in The New Yorker Magazine. Looking back, I see now that I may have been suffering from postpartum depression.
Women have so much to give up as they become wives and mothers, yet what they gain is immeasurable, in a tremendous sort of way. It certainly may take young mothers a while to assimilate to the reality of such a poignant evolution in their lives.
It truly is the transition from girl to woman.
Are You Suffering from PPD?
According to Depression Among Women of Reproductive Age at the Centers for Disease Control government website, nearly 15% of women experience some feelings of postpartum depression. Symptoms can include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling a lack of bond with baby
- Having irrational or scary thoughts about your baby and his/her safety
- Worrying you might somehow hurt your baby
- Feeling like you are not capable of caring for your baby or that you are not a good mother
Help for Getting Through PPD
A Note to the Mommies
Who doesn't feel a little unfulfilled sometimes, and why is that? Don't we have it all?
Don't we have our husbands (who come with the requisite shortcomings because, in all fairness, they really just can't understand us, can they)?
Don't we have our little families with perfect little children in all their imperfection, as children should be due to their sheer inexperience and our sheer exhaustion from teaching ALL THE TIME and not ever giving enough?
Don't we have our work, whether it be work at home or work that takes us away from home and guilts us so? The work we so love and hate, the goddamn hard work and the work that bores us daily.
Where is June's lilt, the fulfillment, the (weren't we promised)... peace? Maybe it is there after all. Maybe if we dig deep or, no, if we just stop digging and look at the simple surface of our lives, we will admit with clarity that we have not only a happiness of the pervading cosmic genre, but the kind that is both biting and open-wounded.
A happiness that makes us want to sit still like frozen ovaries waiting for a day when we are (yes, now we are ready for it all!), ready to give ourselves away... until there is nothing left of that blow-dried girl with blow job lips who wore earrings and black without contempt of effort.
Perhaps it's just that being a mommy and a wife puts fear in your heart forever. Fear of losing all we love so desperately. And haven't we already lost ourselves, gladly given (o.k., sometimes not so gladly) by nature of the biological protocol ingrained on the soul of woman, sometime prisoners of hormone-induced melancholy and frenzy?
And isn't there more? What more could there be after this kind of love? After all, these are the good old days (croons Carly), girls. Can we finally choose to live in the moment amidst the buckling and unbuckling of car seats, wiping of faces, mucous, and odors, despite our undeserved/deserved guilts (really, Lord, life is such a set-up)?
Yes, let us give that to ourselves, if nothing else. Forgiveness for what we simply cannot get to, pride for our great capacity to love - however misunderstood at times, and the Moment - a bright shining gift among our many, many, many glorious gifts that shine so brightly we can't bear to look at them for more than a few glinting, fleeting moments... and thanks.
Thanks for the images (in sepia, of course) which will be written on our hearts - the ones to get lost in when we are very old and sick and when delusions of time carry us back, back, back to the filament of life that really mattered - when we were needed, when we weren't dispensable, like Glass Plus wipes (and aren't they great?).
No. I guess not (we can't give that, that is). We are Mommies. And truths aside, haply - happily so. I mean, we can give - but not to ourselves. And where's the injustice? We are already way too full, and not just in the hips.
Postpartum Depression is Real
My State of Mind
My poem was never published. But it was returned from The New Yorker with a personal note, which actually is quite rare, given they rejected my submission.
The editor responded that it was not for their audience, but that she hoped I would have luck getting it published elsewhere - and that she hoped I was feeling better soon.
I had included a submission letter that read in part:
To the Shouts and Murmers Department, New Yorker Magazine:
Please accept this submission for consideration of publication. I would like to assert that there is a growing readership in the educated, intelligent, self-made woman who is now exploring the business of motherhood. It can be confusing and disillusioning in subsequence to years of higher education, work, cultural exposure, and for lack of a better description, our own brand of healthful narcissism. This is a tongue-in-cheek lamentation of the losing of self that comes with having children. Truly, it extolls the virtues of love that only parenting can bring.
As I can see very clearly, looking back, I was not in the most "normal" frame of mind for a new mother. However, I think that what I felt certainly has reflections of honesty and truth that some women having children today may relate to.
So What Does This All Mean?
As evidenced by sources like the Centers for Disease Control, in their article Depression Among Women of Reproductive Age, being a mom is really hard! In examining my own frenzied work above, it is ever more clear to me that emotions can certainly run high after birth for many women, for a variety of reasons - some relating to change and some, chemical.
I remember writing this work, sitting on the deck of our family's summer house in Cape Cod. My husband and I were alone there for a wedding, our two young children with grandparents. These words poured out effortlessly, as tears streamed down my face. I thought I would be burning to get back home to my kids, but I asked my husband if we could please stay just one more day.
These feelings did quickly pass, but they felt very real at the time.
Video: Recognizing Postpartum Depression
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum Depression Health Center at Web MD defines postpartum depression as a temporary depression related to pregnancy and childbirth. It is a feeling of sadness after giving birth. It can range from the "baby blues" to the development of psychosis. If you are a pregnant woman, or the husband of a pregnant woman or someone who has recently delivered, understand that PPD is real and something you may have to look out for or manage.
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Tips for Feeling Better After Baby
From a mom who's been there now, I know coming home with a new baby is hard. But, there are certainly some things you can do to lift your mood after baby, so you can start feeling more like yourself. They include strategies like:
Get out. Get out of the house! See that there is a world out there and you can still be a part of it. Take your baby. Go for a walk and show him off, while breathing in the fresh air.
Eat healthy. You will want to get your pre-baby body back, but it takes time. Make healthy eating choices and the rest will fall into place. You need to be well nourished so you can be at your best.
Get some sleep. I know this is a tough one, but it is so important to try your best to sleep when the baby is sleeping, or enlist someone to watch the baby for you while you get some rest. As well as that, take turns with your husband getting up with the baby at night if you are not breastfeeding. The more sleep you have, the better you will be able to adjust to your new duties as a mom.
Ask for help. New moms need help and there is no shame in asking for it. Recruit help from family, friends and your husband, so you can feel like you have things under control.
Take a break. Make sure you take time for yourself - to see that "you" are still there! Go on a date night with your husband, or out for a little shopping time on your own - or even just give yourself a little at-home spa treatment. You will be refreshed and able to be a better mom when you return.
When to Get Help for Postpartum Depression (PPD)
If you think that you are experiencing more than a mild case of the baby blues, it is imperative that you seek medical help immediately. Start with talking to your pediatrician for some suggestions on how to improve your situation, and then see your regular doctor if the problem persists.
According to resources like Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues at HelpGuide.org, there are many medical interventions that can help including counseling, hormone therapy, and even antidepressants when appropriate.
How to Get Help for Postpartum Depression:
If you think you are experiencing the baby blues, you can get help by doing the following:
- Talk to your pediatrician.
- Talk to the people closest to you, like a good friend, parent or your spouse, and let them know how you feel.
- See your primary care doctor and if need be, get referred to a specialist.
- Call a hotline like 1-800-PPD-MOMS.
I remember my girlfriend had pulled me aside at my baby shower years before my experience with postpartum depression, into a neighboring room from the party. She confessed, "You know, no one told me before I had my baby that you can be sad after. You think you are going to be so happy and you will be wonderfully in love with the baby. But it wasn't like that for me.... I just wanted you to know it's ok if it happens to you."
I looked at her beautiful bundled-up little girl, in the car seat. My friend had such sadness in her eyes and she was determined to warn me. I nodded and felt badly for her. After my first child, I remember thinking, she couldn't have been more wrong. I am so happy....
However, after my second baby, I understood better and those words haunted my thoughts. No, I didn't get off scot-free. Not by a long shot.
Having a baby can bring with it a range of emotions. Weather it is a letting go of our former selves, or a chemical shake-up in our physicality, being a mommy can be... well, really hard and an adjustment. Is this postpartum depression? Sometimes. Maybe. But I think these feelings can be very real and certainly different for different woman, if experienced at all. But if this reality hits you and hits hard or for an enduring period, seeking help is a must. I do know that.
Products to Help:
Further Resources for Postpartum Depression:
For more information on postpartum depression online, you may find the following resources helpful:
There Are Brighter Days Ahead
What Do You Think?
Have you or anyone you have ever known experienced postpartum depression?
Products That May Make You Feel More Relaxed Postpartum:
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