70 – 80% of people will experience the baby blues or PPD to some extent after giving birth. And most people will go undiagnosed + untreated.
As someone who has struggled with depression her whole life, I knew that I would likely be prone to this after giving birth. However, what I didn’t know about and wasn’t expecting was debilitating postpartum anxiety.
When you give birth, you give birth to your placenta (the afterbirth) which contains SO MANY HORMONES. Suddenly, you get this massive drop in hormones. Couple that with birthing a legitimate human, lack of sleep, trying to keep a baby alive + well while maintaining a household (and possibly other children!), it’s no wonder we can feel overwhelmed, depressed and / or anxious.
I had a very traumatic delivery with our first (Parker) and some PTSD for a long time after (in short, after 3.5 hours of pushing, he got stuck, needed a vacuum and ultimately, a nurse jumping on my stomach to get him out). A day that I thought would be the happiest of my life turned into one of the worst and a lot of guilt came with that.
Initially, we had a decent breastfeeding start but then struggled and I was paranoid about feeds and whether he would prefer a bottle over my boob. Fortunately, we brought in a wonderful lactation consultant who saved my experience, but this added to my fears + anxiety.
My mamabear-ness kicked in so fast. I wanted to control everything as I felt out of control in so many ways. I didn’t get anywhere near the birth I wanted. I didn’t get to hold my new baby for an hour. I had a mess “down there” and my son had a cut on his head from the vacuum which reminded me that I couldn’t push him out without assistant (granted, this is a common thing that needs to happen but I was blaming myself for everything).
Suddenly, I was worrying about EVERYTHING. I could barely leave his side. Jordana would offer to take him and help and I would say no. But the thing is – I didn’t feel depressed, which was a feeling I was used to. I was anxious AF but since that was something I never thought I experienced, I had no idea. I thought it was normal to worry like crazy about a new baby. It probably didn’t help that one of my good friend’s who had a baby 2 days after me was super anxious as well! So I never said anything because I thought postpartum depression was only being depressed.
Turns out there’s a whole spectrum of postpartum issues – depression, anxiety, psychosis or just some mild baby blues.
Several weeks after Parker was born, I hit a wall. I was beyond exhausted. PTSD from that day kicked in and the tremendous amount of guilt I felt. I was also experiencing panic attacks for the first time. If Parker bumped his head, I would break down – to the point where Jordana would ask me to leave the room to compose myself so Parker wouldn’t see me upset. It was time for help.
I went from taking 1 placenta pill per day to 3 (and I noticed a big difference there – I did an IGTV on my placenta encapsulation experience here). I also spoke to my psychiatrist and Parker’s pediatrician and we upped my anti-depressants. My psychiatrist also gave me the assignment to leave Parker every single day for a little while – whether it was for me to go on a walk by myself, or for Jordana + I to go out to dinner – I was supposed to do something where I had to leave Parker with another person. It sounds silly, but it was hard for me. I also hired my previous life coach again to work on healing the trauma from my delivery. Finally, I was tasked with asking for help. Again, it sounds ridiculous but I struggle with asking for help because I feel as though I should be able to handle everything on my own.
With time, I was able to grow a lot from the experience. When Parker was 8 months old, Jordana and I even went away overnight for our wedding anniversary!! Of course, I Facetimed and called my parents a ton but it was really good for all of us to get away (and get a full night sleep!!).
When I got pregnant with our second, I knew that I wanted to make sure I took the best care of me mentally during and after pregnancy so that I didn’t have a repeat experience. During my pregnancy with our baby girl (Josie), I worked out as much as I could (I was realllllly sick that pregnancy) as fitness has always been my sanity saver. I also saw a therapist as I had a really rough pregnancy mentally, emotionally and physically (that’s for another post).
What did I do to prepare postpartum for baby 2:
- I immediately upped my anti-depressants. I went from 50mg to 75mg a few days before she was born (with the help of my psychiatrist).
- I had a plan with my psychiatrist that if I started to feel like I was struggling that I would immediately jump to 100mg of zoloft (with Parker, I eventually went up to 125mg after discussing with my pediatrician – and yes, I kept breastfeeding).
- I hired someone to do my placenta encapsulation again.
- I was fully prepared to ask for help when needed. In the middle of the night, I would ask Jordana to help put Josie back to bed so that I could go back to sleep after a feed. I knew I needed to be well-rested (well, as well-rested as a newborn mom could be!) to feel good and to be there for both Josie + Parker during the day.
- I asked my mom to spend a few nights with us when we got home from the hospital to help out with Parker.
Now, having a newborn at the height of a pandemic was certainly not anything we could have planned for so that definitely added an element of fear to the mix, but what I have learned as a mom is that not a whole lot is in your control and you have to make the best of every situation. I’m grateful to say that I ‘ve felt pretty good. Obviously covid didn’t help or my prolapse diagnosis but it’s been much better!!! I had such a better delivery, Josie is a very easy baby and I’m a seasoned mom.
Loves, if you are struggling – you are NOT alone. PPD is so common. Please ask for help. Talk to someone – even if it’s just another mama friend. Find yourself a good mom squad (shout out to mine!). You brought a human into this crazy world. Give yourself some grace. Look at your baby(ies) and realize how incredibly strong you are. You created a miracle. Your stomach may be squishier but your heart has grown tenfold.
Sending you all the love (and virtual hugs).