Did you know Depression is a silent killer that can weaken your immune system and invite diseases like cancer into your body? Did you also know that the worst form of it is Post-Partum Depression?
Well, picture this! After months of baking your bun in the oven, you are so excited that you finally get to meet your baby. Baby is here and oh what a beauty! All the oohs and ahhs about how cute your baby is send chills down your spine, and you begin to treasure every moment spent with your baby. You fall in love all over again.
Days or weeks in, and you’re so tired and exhausted, so overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done, and your dreams and aspirations hang in the balance!
You begin to think, overthink, have constant headaches, and boom, one visit to the hospital, and you’re diagnosed with depression. Post-partum Depression.
Wow! How did you get here, you may ask? You’ve been taking good care of yourself and your baby, catching up with family and friends, getting all the love from your spouse, so what went wrong?
Nothing went wrong. Your mental health just turned on you. Your mind took a dive. And just like that you are depressed.
Post-partum Depression is real. No one knows its cause, but perhaps, the name ‘post-partum’ can give us a clue into where it’s coming from.
After having a baby, your body doesn’t feel the same again. Your mind begins to pace, and odd feelings of being worthy again begin to creep up.
Nurturing a baby is no mean responsibility. Coupled with sleepless nights, it can be the most time consuming task ever. It requires you to be a keen observer, always thinking ahead and since babies can’t talk and would mostly cry, you always have to be vigilant. What could the cry mean? Is it diaper change? Is it hunger? Is it a change in room temperature? Or too much noise?
When a mother is depressed, you may not see the signs. They may act very normal but their mind is not stable. They may react or not, so it’s difficult to place a finger on what causes it.
Being a new mum, I will try to examine some of the causes of Post-Partum Depression. Hopefully, we can find solutions to some of these problems.
The first cause of Post-Partum Depression is not having help or a nanny. In the Ghanaian culture, it is standard for a new mum to move to her mother’s house after delivery or have her mother or relative move into her home. It helps to lighten the burden of housework. But that’s not typical in every home. For me, I have had to work through the struggle of home keeping and taking care of my baby. It has not been easy. My partner is very supportive, but it is not the same. Especially in the early days after my caesarean section, I was worn out. I found it hard to sit for long periods, climbing stairs was difficult, pooping was hard (the suppositories made it worse) and I had to change sleeping positions all the time. Coupled with breastfeeding, I was stressed. Though I didn’t have to do laundry, I couldn’t stand having everything flying around the house, baby stuff and all; so I had to put them in order, which led to me being tired all the time.
The second cause of Post-Partum Depression is family and friends. Family is one of the necessary evils after childbirth. We’ll pardon them. After all, they are excited to receive their newest member! But friends. Friends are a wonderful support system after delivery. But they can weigh in so much on your mental health. Personally, I had tons of people trooping in to welcome my son. It was not their frequent visits that bothered me, it was their timing. Right when my son had slept, they came knocking. I would welcome them in and exchange pleasantries and bouts of laughter. I was glad to see them, but I was also burned out perhaps because I’d been up throughout the night. Some were courteous enough to see the tired look on my face and ask to leave so I could get some rest, others will stay for hours. And I would just get so stressed. What these family and friends didn’t know was that sometimes, mums are not in the mood to talk; they want some alone time, perhaps to walk around the house naked and gather their thoughts. They didn’t like to always have to dress up for your visits. Their body didn’t feel the same, so they needed time to get back their self-confidence.
Another cause of Post-Partum Depression is unsolicited comments on how mums should manage their home. After I gave birth, everybody wanted to tell me what to do, do this, don’t do that, watch your weight, sleep when baby sleeps, etc. It was exhausting. I’d never been exhausted like this my whole life. Especially in the first few weeks when my breastmilk wasn’t coming. Damn! I had a lot of free unsolicited advice! Eat this! Rub your breast with this cream! Wow! And all these comments about my weight! Gosh, I needed a break! It was so mind-draining that I would not listen to anything anyone said, even if you said it politely.
Again, not having a job/work to go back to can really cause Post-Partum Depression. Sitting at home wondering what your life is going to look like for the next couple of months can drain the life out of you. In my case, I had written a book during my period of pregnancy and was looking forward to resuming work, but that did not take away the days when I felt lonely and depressed. On such days, I would cry and wonder what the rest of the months looked like. I was not enthused about anything. I had my goals to work towards but I never had the time. I was always so stressed. I used to wonder where I’d be if I hadn’t gotten pregnant.
So I sought solutions! What can I do to minimize all the stress I’m having from having a baby?
The first is to declutter your home. Always take things, use them and put them back in their rightful place. Make sure your home is clean at all times. Not only will that help you to be mentally stable, but it will also help you to make efficient use of your time, because you won’t now be looking for where you put what. Besides, a clean home is good for your child.
Secondly, get help. Whether it’s a nanny, a close relative, a friend or even your spouse, get help. There are some things you can do but you cannot do everything. Leave some things undone even if you have to wait till the weekend before that nanny or help comes.
Again, learn to say NO. Say NO to people who feel they can troop in and out of your house without calling. Say NO to people who spend unusually long hours in your home. Politely give them an excuse to leave. Say NO to opinionated family members and friends who think you have to go by their advice at all cost. Say NO to unhealthy comments about your weight. It is you. It is your body. It is your baby. You need to make your opinion paramount.
Lastly, get yourself busy. Get hands on with something. Write that book. Start that online business. Take up that hobby. Visit the gym (after the doctor has cleared you, of course). Go out and network with others. Make sure you make time for what is most important to you, your goals and aspirations.
In the end, all you truly have is yourself f(and your baby).To my fellow mothers, having a baby is such a big deal, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Understand that life happens, and life came out of you, so it’s okay to feel sad, tired, angry and depressed once in a while. But don’t give room for Post-Partum Depression. Always give yourself reason to bounce back, focus on that goal, help other new mums, and eventually you will start to see the clearer picture of where your life should be. So take a chill pill, and let’s toast to this bundle of joy!! Remember, every blessing comes with responsibility! Hugs.
By Brenda Lutterodt
The writer is author of ‘A Life With Purpose’