Have you had a baby in the last year? Do you find yourself becoming easily overwhelmed? Does the smallest little thing make you feel like crying? Do you feel anxious about little details? Have your lost your appetite or feel like you are overeating (not as it is related to increased hunger from breastfeeding)? Does it feel impossible to sleep even when your child isn’t keeping you awake? If the answer to these questions (or even just some of them) is yes, then it is possible you are suffering from postpartum depression (PPD). PPD is the most common complication of pregnancy, impacting nearly 20% of all women. Sadly, many moms suffer in silence.
I have found, from both being a mom myself and from talking with hundreds of new moms, that one of the hardest things about the time following the birth of a baby is knowing what “normal” looks like or should feel like. Most moms are told that having a new baby is hard work and that it can be stressful and overwhelming at times. Just how overwhelming it is to each individual mom varies greatly based on your circumstances. Maybe your baby is particularly fussy, or was born prematurely or is struggling with feeding or sleeping or tummy troubles. Or maybe your baby is actually one of those mythical “Angel babies” and is really very easy but you are struggling with the increased responsibility or changes in your independence or in your relationship with your partner. Maybe you have a happy, healthy baby but because you are not experiencing the joy and bliss that our society tells us we should feel after our baby is born, you are struck by feelings of guilt because you should feel something you don’t. Maybe all of these factors are happening for you. This can significantly color your postpartum experience and all be stressful in and of themselves. In addition, if you have a history of depression, from the time prior to when you had children, you are more susceptible to PPD. But many moms assume that to struggle with these things is part of the normal experience of being a mom of a baby.
Please know that you do not have to have diagnosed, textbook postpartum depression in order to seek help for the feelings you are having. In many cases, having a dedicated therapist to turn to and discuss these feelings can be tremendously helpful. Yes, I know that it is not easy finding the time to take an hour a week for yourself when the responsibilities of being a new parent already seem to have consumed all your time. I know that seeing a therapist requires finding someone to watch your baby (some allow you to bring your baby with). I know that, as mothers, we feel tremendously guilty for taking care of ourselves when those around us also need caring for. If you take nothing else from this article, please remember that taking care of yourself will make you a better mom.
The city of Chicago is home to many great therapists who are dedicated to working with moms in particular. Many of them accept health insurance and if you are not covered, many will work out financial arrangements with you to make accessing their care possible. One recourse I highly recommend are Aviva Cohen and Bridget Doyle of The Blossom Method. They see women with a variety of symptoms but specialize in working with women who have experienced IVF, infertility, grief and pregnancy loss, complex medical diagnoses, complicated genetic testing, premature birth and postpartum depression and anxiety. I also highly recommend Peggy Healy. Peggy is a fantastic therapist working with women coping with perinatal depression, grief and loss, birth trauma, infertility, adjustment to parenting/bonding and major life change and the emotional challenges of breastfeeding. She is also an internationally board certified lactation consultant. For many moms, the struggles that come with breastfeeding go hand in hand with feelings of self worth and emotional pain. Her combined expertise is a tremendous resource to the moms she supports. Lastly, another excellent resource for Chicagoland area moms is the Postpartum Depression Momsline through North Shore hospital. They offer support and referals to moms 24 hours a day, 7 days a well. They can be reached at 1-866-364-MOMS.
Becoming a mom is hard. Most have heard this before. However, it is often shocking our expectations of parenting differ from the reality of parenting. If these feelings are overwhelming to you or impacting your ability to function on a daily basis, please get help.