We have all heard of the 'post-baby blues' but how many of us have been able to discuss the true realities of being postpartum, especially the things generally considered taboo or 'hush hush?'
The terms postpartum depression and anxiety are thrown around a lot, especially in those first few days of having a baby.
The doctors hand new mamas a pamphlet or two and tell them to seek 'help' if they find themselves experiencing said symptoms in the pamphlets over the next few weeks or months.
However, a lot of those documents don't provide much detail into the truly lived experiences of new moms.
So, let's talk about it.
One of the underlying symptoms that go with the excessive worrying of postpartum depression and anxiety is intrusive thoughts.
Sure, a lot of mamas worry if their baby is getting enough food, sleep, why they are crying, etc. but what is highly stigmatized and not mentioned often are the thoughts of baby dying, or even worse, the highly intrusive thoughts of baby dying at the hands of mom.
New mamas are left confused, worried, and enduring incredible despair as victims or prey of these thoughts. They begin to think, "I must be crazy. These thoughts aren't rational. No other mom is having them, I am probably the only one because I am probably insane." But, what if other moms are having these thoughts too?
What if we were to normalize them as a part of postpartum anxiety and depression?
In a postpartum support group I attended myself as a new mom, I learned these thoughts, are in fact, a very normal part of experiencing postpartum anxiety and depression.
It is a very similar negative thought spiral that directly correlates to your insecurities as a new mama, as well as the very things you fear happening to your new baby.
So, your brain, already sleep-deprived, confused, and feeling shameful, tells you that you are capable of these things when you know in your heart you are not.
A really helpful coping technique for this is cognitive challenging and reframing.
"This is a BS thought. This is a falsehood. I know this is not true."
Saying this out loud, and then even louder, reframing with "I am a good mom, I would never do these things, I only love and care for my baby," can be so helpful for getting you out of that negative, irrational part of your brain and into the logical, regulated part instead.
Many new mamas leave the hospital with yet another 'informative' pamphlet about safe sleep practices, the dangers of SIDS/Suffocation, etc.
So they go home, place the new baby in the bassinet away from the bed and go to sleep.
So what happens to the mamas of the babies who refuse to sleep this way?
They are left even more sleep-deprived, anxious, uncertain of what to do, feeling like a failure. What if, instead, we normalized all mama's experiences of this and weren't afraid of discussing what mamas have found to be other effective ways of ensuring both baby and mama get to sleep?
In that same postpartum group, it was revealed to be a very common behavior for newborns in those first few weeks.
A lot of mamas discussed their experiences and methods they found to be effective.
It was an incredibly validating experience for us to know we were not alone!
As new mamas are continuously inundated with various methods for infant sleep, feeding, swaddling, cry it out, don't cry it out, etc.
It is so easy to feel that they are doing it all 'wrong.'
But what if, in fact, we are all good mamas who are doing it 'right,' just in different ways?
So, let's share what works for us, support what works for other moms, and feel good about it.
We are ALL superhero mamas to our kids no matter how we do it.
Let's support each other through the discovery of these various mama methods!
As a new mama, the possibility of postpartum depression and anxiety is very real and normalizing the individual and collective experiences of new mamas is imperative for mental health.
Group therapy and support groups are absolutely amazing resources for receiving support and normalizing experiences.
So, let us all talk. Let's talk about the things that aren't in the pamphlets, let's support each other through them, and ultimately, let's be mamas, our 'right' way, however, it looks.
Here's a link for a new therapy group for postpartum mamas starting Tuesday, May 11th, at 6:00 pm.
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