|Avoiding Postpartum Depression
by Kiren Rasul
In the emotional life of a new mother, life before baby and after baby can be worlds apart. This can contribute to a woman not feeling like herselfbecause she is, in fact, no longer the same. The changes are physical and mental as well as emotional, and although new moms have different experiences and react uniquely, they all suffer from exhaustion, a contributing factor to the baby blues, or worsefull-blown postpartum depression, which can be dangerous to mother and child. But there are some things you can do to ease the common problems of transitioning into motherhood.
Expecting too much from yourself too soon.
So youre not fitting into your favorite pre-pregnancy jeans. So you have dark circles under your eyes and stretch marks on your belly! Hey, having a baby is a life-changing experience, and no matter how difficult it may be, try enjoying it. As far as work is concerned, many women feel guilty delegating. They feel inadequate in some way if they ask a friend to watch their baby for a while or if someone cooks them a meal or two.
Dont be so self-critical.
Be as realistic as possible. Most women wear their maternity clothes for several weeks after delivering their baby. Dont push yourself to expect anything different. Most moms are discharged from the hospital in less than two days and before you know it, they are back to tackling dirty dishes and piled up laundry! But it is perfectly alright not being able to do everything yourself. Its fine to allow friends and family to run errands for you or keep an eye on the baby for a while.
Expecting too much from everyone around you.
So your husband doesnt take turns changing the baby at night or your mother-in-law, who lives a block away, doesnt drop off home cooked meals. Hello? Did you really expect they would?
Communicate your wishes to your loved ones.
Many a time, your loved ones do not even know what would make you happy. So tell them that an afternoon nap is something youre longing for as youve been up all night, and theyll baby-sit your little one for a few hours. However, if its not such smooth sailing, keep your expectations low, so that even if someone does something small for you, its a pleasant surprise. If your husband is not very helpful around the house in the first place, dont expect him to transform overnight.
Wanting the perfect baby, perfect home and perfect life.
Pregnant moms are swamped with baby magazines and books. They see picture-perfect children with picture-perfect moms in picture-perfect surroundings. That sets unrealistically high standards. New moms want the same with their baby and do not realize that the children on magazine covers have their hair styled by professionals, air-brushed by photographers, sit under the best lighting on magnificent designer sets. In real family portraits expect to have a cranky baby with spit up on her new clothes, some gunk stuck to her hair and socks that dont match.
Dont try to be a perfectionist.
Some things are best learned the hard way! My favorite refrigerator magnet says Dull women have immaculate houses. I couldnt agree more. If someone was coming to see the baby, I wanted to have a sparkling clean home, something home-made to serve them and a neat and clean baby to show off. Even if I sometimes managed to pull all this off, I was so exhausted that I couldnt enjoy the company I was having. People are coming to meet you, not to see if your microwave is clean from the inside or if you have swept stuff under the rug! Relax; theyll understand and if they dont, it wasnt worth making the effort for them in the first place.
Receiving conflicting adviceand a lot of it too!
If theres one thing everyone loves giving in abundance, its advice. Its free and youre getting it whether you like it or not. Whether its advice on how to burp your baby, what to feed him, when to bathe him or even what to name him, youll get opinions from every direction, and quite often theyll be poles apart. Your mother says lay your baby on his stomach and hell sleep longer. Your doctor insists that sleeping on his back is the safest way, whereas your sister-in-law says that only on his side will a baby be comfortable! Such conflicting advice can be very stressful, especially for first time mothers.
Listen to everyone, but do what you feel is right.
Go with your gut feeling, even if you are not a pro. Youll do just fine. After all its your baby and he will be spending the most amount of time with youso do what suits you.
Not enough Me time.
One of the main reasons women go into postpartum depression is because they miss their old selves. They become so entangled in the web of sleep deprivation and fatigue that they lose themselves in their new baby. Even though all the books recommend sleep when the baby sleeps few moms actually do so!
Dont neglect yourself.
We deserve some time for ourselves, even if its as trivial as gong to the bathroom in peace! So, chalk out some me time and do something you enjoy and havent had the time to do so lately. Go for a walk, soak in a tub, read a magazine or go have lunch with a friend.
Disconnecting with your spouse.
Youre not the only one whose life has life has taken a dramatic turn. Your husband is also going through a lot of changes. Even though most men dont express their emotions as easily as we do, they need some attention too.
Rekindle your relationshipwith and without the baby.
Take out time to do stuff you used to before the baby. Go to your favorite restaurant or to watch a movie. Also, spend time bonding with the baby together as a family. That can be one of the most rewarding and therapeutic activities of your entire day.
However, if despite all these preventive solutions, you still find yourself or a loved one crying inconsolably for long periods of time for several weeks after the babys birth, seek medical attention. Or worse still, if you, or someone you know, has ever contemplated hurting themselves or their baby, dont waste a moment to speak to your doctor. Postpartum depression is a treatable condition. Seeking help is the most difficult step. For the most part, a little TLC will help fade away your baby blues and youll begin to cherish every moment of motherhood!
from the September-October 2005 issue