My third trimester was definitely the worst part of my pregnancy. This made it all way too real. I’m really about to have a baby! Everyone couldn’t help but tell me all of their horror stories from their deliveries. My anxiety was at an all-time high and this lead into a severe depression. I was terrified of giving birth and just thought I would die during delivery (dramatic I know). Then it got even worse, I started to prepare for Post Partum Depression.
I’ve dealt with depression a majority of my life. I also have Borderline Personality Order. So naturally, I’m like, “wow, okay there’s no way I’m not going to get Post-Partum Depression.” I have moments and thoughts that come and go, but I have been able to manage my emotions since having my baby.
I wanted to write this article to tell you what you can do to help yourself before you give birth and to also tell you that you are not destined to have thoughts of harming your baby or yourself. (I am not making light of this. I realize the seriousness of Post-Partum Depression, but sometimes movies and shows make it seem like every woman deals with this exact same severity of it. While some do and this is a very serious matter, not everyone does.)
1. Get Your Support Group Before Having the Baby
Whether it’s joining Facebook mom groups (which I highly recommend, they have one for everything) or going to a new mom support group hosted at your hospital. You must have a group of women who are breastfeeding or have breastfed that share similar philosophies with you. While you may have your partner’s support and can talk to him about breastfeeding struggles, talking to someone who experienced it themselves makes all the difference. If you are not breastfeeding I still encourage you to have your tribe of new or experienced moms that you can vent to.
2. Make sure you have babysitters, friends, or family who you can call when you need a break.
This is essential!! You need to have some people you can call up and schedule some time away from the baby. Whether its to take a few hours to get out of the house by yourself or just take a long nap. You need this set up so you aren’t scrambling when you are dying for a break. We all need them. Find someone you trust and don’t be worried or think you’re a bad mom for needing a break from baby. Even if you don’t have a close family, they have local mom groups on Facebook. I have personally made friends with other moms and we would switch babysitting services. I’d babysit for them for free and then they would do the same for me.
3. Talk to your doctor
Your doctor has a ton of great resources for new moms, even if they didn’t mention them right upfront. A lot of hospitals offer support groups and if not you can find them through Craigslist or Facebook in your local area. If you feel you may need therapy your doctor will be able to refer you to someone. If you need medication your doctor will also be able to help you go down that road too. There is no shame in going to therapy or going on medication if you need it. Everything is temporary.
4. Realize that you are going through a ton of adjustment. Be gracious to yourself.
Having a baby changes e v e r y t h i n g. I wish I took more time to think about this before having my son. It changes your house, your car, your schedule, your moods, your relationships. If you’re like me and need your space, this is something that may bother you sometimes. I was very independent before having my son and loved to be alone. Learn how to breathe and meditate and welcome your child into these spaces. It can make the difference of them invading your space to having a sweet memory with them. I used to love my baths with the Epsom salt and bath bombs by myself and now my son loves them just as much too. If this doesn’t make sense to you now, it will when baby comes.
5. Post-Partum depression can come at any time after pregnancy.
Post-Partum depression is unique to every woman. No one goes through the same exact thing. Some women experience a “honeymoon phase” while other women may be depressed right after having the baby. Some women get depressed because they miss their bellies and being pregnant, some face depression because they are terrified something is gonna happen to their baby, or feel like they lost themselves as an individual. You may get Post-Partum Depression at week 1 after baby is born, at 6 months, or you may not get it at all.
6. Just because Post-Partum Depression is common does not mean you are guaranteed to go through it.
I wish I could scream this at the top of my lungs. While going through my pregnancy moms not only loved to share their horror stories from their delivery but also loved to share their stories of Post-Partum Depression and how things changed for them. I’m not saying I’m judging these women or can’t be there to listen if someone needs help, but I don’t think it’s the best idea to be there for a friend who is going through Post-Partum Depression while you are expecting a baby. If you know yourself well enough, you know when depression is coming on. Do all the things you can to try to stay above water. Have that friend on speed dial, have your outlet or hobby, make sure you eat well and do light exercises. Just because it is common does not mean the moment you have your baby you while start spiraling. If you have a plan you will be just fine.
7. Post-Partum Depression may result in having some awful thoughts, but this is apart of it all. You can put an end to it.
I won’t even go into detail about some of the thoughts you may have during Post-Partum Depression. It is some pretty scary stuff. I had this recurring thought that I would take a bath with my baby one day and he would drown because I fell asleep in the tub. No matter what kind of thoughts you are having speak out on them. Your initial thought is to keep it to yourself because, “who would think something like that?” or “only a terrible person thinks these things.” Wrong. You are not an awful person for having bad thoughts associated with PPD but do not suffer in silence. Speak up immediately. Trust me, you can take control of your thoughts and put an end to it.
8. Have a plan.
Have a few friends who you can call or visit when you’re feeling low. Have a friend or babysitter lined up that you can call when you feel overwhelmed with housework or need a plan. Have a therapist set up, even if you’ve never seen one before, that way if you feel you may need a professional to talk to you won’t have to worry about having to look for one. Talk to your partner/spouse/boyfriend about how you are feeling. Take time for yourself WHEN you need it not when you are on the verge of a mental breakdown. It takes a lot of work, but I really believe Post-Partum Depression can be avoided OR handled well with the right support. And lastly, be nice to yourself. Maybe you will experience it, give your mind, body, and soul what it needs when it needs it.
9. Make time for yourself and take care of your basic needs
I don’t care if it’s for an hour or for 5 minutes. Take time out of your day to sit and breathe. Force yourself to find time to shower. Brush your teeth and put on pants (or shorts or leggings). The better you eat the better you’ll feel. I know these things may seem impossible, but if you give up one nap a day or put Netflix on hold you will be able to free up some time. The more you are getting your basic needs taken care of the better you will feel. Meal prepping will also help tremendously. It is a lot of work, but WELL worth it. I do not recommend living off of microwavable dinners or things you can quickly throw in the oven. Even just making a smoothie with fruits and vegetables once a day will make all of the difference.
10. Buy a kindle!
There is nothing that will give you FOMO (fear of missing out, for those that don’t know) like scrolling on Instagram and Facebook all day watching your friends travel and in bikinis at the beach stretch mark and kid-free. There are a lot of times where you’ll find yourself scrolling on your phone, like throughout the nightly feedings or if the baby falls asleep on you, and while you’re breastfeeding. I had a kindle and would read that in place of scrolling through social media and it made the world of a difference.
(This is an affiliate link, I only post true and honest reviews!)
11. No matter if you do or don’t go through Post-Partum Depression you can be healthy and happy after baby comes.
I had years of experience watching children and also had textbook knowledge of development. Let me tell you when you have your own child all of that goes out the window. There is nothing that can prepare you for becoming a parent (not to scare you, just want you to have real expectations for when baby comes!). You can read all the books and watch all the babies and when you have your own you will question everything you do. That’s okay! You will get through this. You may miss some birthday outings with your friends or be too tired to go back to work right away. The infancy stage lasts ONE year. Try and enjoy all the cuddles and all of the neediness. Enjoy watching all of their new developments. Before you know it they will be independent and not need you for everything and you will get back the ability to breathe and venture out on your own. Stay in the moment with your baby rather than wishing you could fast forward through everything.
12. Get educated.
Education will empower you. Go to that Lamaze class. Go to a breastfeeding class. Learn about Post-Partum Depression. Teach yourself about your baby’s stages of development and age appropriate activities. Learn what you can do to play with them even if they’re only two weeks old. Know what kind of things are normal at your baby’s age (cluster-feeding, rashes, fevers) that way you know what is to be expected and know when you should truly be worried rather than freaking out over every little thing. This will empower you. This will make you feel confident in your role as a mother. And if you don’t know the answer to everything, that is okay!
13. Men get Post-Partum Depression too.
Yes, I realize the way women and men change after birth are almost not comparable. The woman’s body goes through something so traumatic. While this is very true, that does not mean that men don’t go through Post-Partum Depression. He could feel like the baby only needs his mother. He may feel jealous that he doesn’t spend any time with his partner. And he also may feel like he’s losing his individuality. Please do not write your partner off just because he isn’t the one getting up all through out the night. His mental health is important, too. Make sure you are both taking care of each other.
You are never alone and you are not a bad mom if you do not enjoy every second of motherhood.
Most importantly, don’t lose yourself. Yes, you are now a mother, but you are also *insert name here.* Don’t put yourself on the back burner forever. Don’t forget about your hobbies, your books, your career. You may have to slow down or take a break, maybe for a few months, but don’t lose your identity. Don’t forget your name.
Take care of yourself, mama. Don’t be scared of the things that await you. And do not take advice from everyone. Remember every mother is different from you. All moms share different philosophies of life. If that mom that is telling you to prepare for Post-Partum Depression has always been a Negative Nancy, then why even give her the time of day? Stay self-aware and stay healthy. This will assure happiness for you and the rest of your family. Best of luck.
Please do not wait to seek help. If you are having any thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others please call the suicide hotline right away.
National Suicide Hotline Number 1-800-273-8255