Postpartum Depression or Just Overwhelmed Mom Life?
I want to talk about something that may be a little controversial. As a mom of 3, I feel like I've been through this deal long enough to provide a relevant opinion. Being a mom is unarguably the hardest job in the world. It has the most crazy emotions, responsibilities, and it literally never ends. There are no breaks, no vacations, and no sick days. Yes, we get mini breaks to, you know, go to the bathroom...but there's likely a kid in there with you, or five chubby fingers reaching for you under the door. My point is, it's tough. It's beautiful and life giving, but it is tough.
There are so many moments in a mother's journey when things get very overwhelming, especially in the beginning. It happens again with each new baby. You don't experience the overwhelm any less because you've been through it before, you just anticipate it this time. Regardless of it being your first baby or your fifth, the emotions of motherhood are messy and complicated.
Here's where things get twisted, in my opinion...
There are legitimate and common cases of postpartum depression, absolutely. Please note that I am not discounting that, whatsoever. What I take issue with, is every time a mom feels overwhelmed, stressed, or slightly less than thrilled with her journey as a mother, the immediate jump is postpartum depression. And I disagree with that.
Just because a new mom is grumpy and hasn't showered in 3 days or slept in 3 weeks doesn't mean she has postpartum depression. I'd venture any human under those circumstances would feel irritable and disconnected. SHE JUST PUSHED A WATERMELON OUT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. Now she's expected to feed this wrinkly thing 24/7, feed herself and any other members of her family, wear clothes, start thinking about getting her body back, implement a nighttime routine, maintain connection to other family and friends, filter and post adorable baby spam to social media.
She's losing her hair by the handful every time she showers.
She's sweating through her clothes and sheets at night.
She's trying to sleep when the baby does, but the baby will only sleep on her which makes that kind of hard.
She's lost the life-creating, awe-inspiring pregnant shape everyone doted on just a couple months ago and is left to cope with the unrecognizable, deflated puffer fish body she owns now.
She can't relate to any friends except those currently in the same stage of motherhood.
She hasn't washed her hair in 6 days or even attempted basic makeup in 2 days.
She sometimes feels like she wants space from her baby (and any human touch).
She's not "depressed". She's not disconnected. She's just a mom with a new baby.
She's in survival mode.
She's feeling the feels and sacrificing nearly everything that made her her in order to keep this mom life thing afloat. I think we've made a lot of amazing progress normalizing mental illness and issues like postpartum depression which are so real and significant. However, sometimes I wonder if we've swung the pendulum too far in the other direction?
Every time a mom wants to vent about how hard this is or how she'd at least like one friggin moment to herself to shave her armpits doesn't mean she needs to classify herself as depressed.
Mood swings because you haven't been given a moment of peace in 12 weeks doesn't necessarily equal postpartum depression. It may just mean you miss the ability to poop uninterrupted.
Irritability because you haven't slept without a sweaty baby attached to your boob in Lord knows how long, doesn't necessarily equal postpartum depression. It may just mean you miss sleeping on your stomach or your other side once in a while.
Sadness because you don't fit into anything but leggings doesn't necessarily equal postpartum depression. It may just mean you miss the nice stems you had before they turned into cottage cheese.
Crying or feeling overwhelmed because you actually don't remember what it feels like to drink hot coffee or run errands by yourself doesn't necessarily equal postpartum depression. It may just mean you miss the freer parts of your pre-mom life and that is normal.
It's important for me to say here that all of these above symptoms of postpartum depression don't always mean that's what you're dealing with...but sometimes it does. If you feel like your emotions run deeper than these basic things and you are genuinely having trouble connecting to your baby, facilitating basic self-care, or have ever thought of harming yourself or anyone else, it's critical you reach out for some judgement-free support from your doctor or Postpartum International Support.
However, feelings of mood swings, irritability, trouble sleeping, and even crying, when looked at objectively, are completely normal for a new mom. I have felt every one of these with all three children and wouldn't classify myself as having postpartum depression. There is nothing wrong with accepting and owning that, if it's the case for you. I have shared openly how I overcame severe anxiety med-free, with the help of a psychologist. I can't speak for all moms, but the emotions I've experienced in my three times postpartum, have been completely justified for the simple fact of being a human with human needs.
Having a baby is a life changing experience. You will never be the same. After things get a little bit easier (sleeping through the night, weaned, even potty-trained), pieces of you will start to come back. With consistency and time, your clothes will likely fit again, your coffee will be hot again, and your eyeliner will be on point. In the meantime, please oh please give yourself some grace. The physical changes, hormones, and environmental shift you've experienced is drastic and jarring. Yes, it's incredible and precious, which is why many of us do it again and again. That doesn't take away from its difficult parts sometimes. When it's only you and your new baby at 1:30 am and you feel isolated and confused. It's ok. It gets better. You're doing amazing. You'll shower again soon, I promise.
We got this,