I’m a mom of two girls -- soon to be three (I’m accepting all prayers) – and I’ve had two completely different postpartum experiences.
After my first was born, I didn’t have a single problem. I had one vaginal stitch after birth that healed very quickly; she was a great sleeper; a friendly and social baby; I was able to upkeep my nutrition and exercise habits – postpartum was a breeze.
After my second was born, I suffered from a very traumatic postpartum hemorrhage and lost a lot of blood. I felt physically weak for weeks; I had on and off anxiety for months; I was unable to properly take care of myself; I had to manage my marriage – and everything felt completely out of my control.
Then came postpartum anxiety and depression. I was officially diagnosed at 8 months postpartum and ended up on medication. As I look back, the anxiety started while I was pregnant with my second. She was a February baby so my entire third trimester was in the winter, and I got sick a lot. Colds, flu, ear infections, sinusitis – you name it, I had it. My husband was also travelling lots for work, so I was often on my own with my toddler. This, I think, is where the prepartum anxiety started. I often worried about how I could ever take my care of my toddler while in my third trimester while trying to recover from a cold with my husband out of the province. And then I would worry, “if I can’t do this now, how can I do this with two kids?” [Enter very anxious thoughts here].
The point of this article is not to just share my story, but to help other moms recognize when to ask for your help in your journey. Postpartum is a crazy ride. I would argue it’s a crazier ride than your labour and delivery itself. At least our bodies are physically engineered to birth a baby, but nobody is ever “made” for what can be sleepless nights on end, ongoing struggles with mental health, giving someone else 110% while you give yourself about 10%, running on low fuel – I think you get the point.
So when do you ask for help? Here are my 5 tips:
1. You are Feeling Overwhelmed
This one seems obvious, but maybe not in the moment. If you are constantly finding yourself in the scenario of doing all the overnight feedings or wake ups, cooking all the meals, cleaning all of the dishes, picking up all of the toys, changing all of the diapers, running all of the errands; then sister, I am here to tell you that you are overwhelmed.
“But isn’t this part of just being a mom/wife?” Sure, but we burn out like any other human on this planet. We are also losing sleep, losing self-care (hello showering every other day), losing hope and honestly losing self-love. This is a sure sign to start asking for help.
2. You Feel Anxious During Pregnancy
Prepartum anxiety can often lead to postpartum anxiety or mood disorders. So if you are feeling an abundance of stress or anxiousness during your pregnancy that is affecting you physically or mentally, then take it as a sign to ask for help. In this case, it may even be helpful to see a pregnancy/postpartum nutritionist, as there are diet and lifestyle changes that can be made to greatly decrease your odds of having postpartum anxiety/depression.
3. You are Making Excuses for Your Feelings
I was very guilty of this. If I felt any hints of being overwhelmed, I blamed it on the fact that I just never parented two children before, and I thought it was just a learning curve. If I got a mini panic attack while driving, then I blamed it on the fact that I was a more nervous driver with two kids in the back. No big deal. I would get used to it eventually.
Mama, stop making the excuses and ask for help. Whether it’s help from your doctor on just recognizing whether it is a real issue, or getting more social support.
4. You Have a Hard Time Saying No
We simply just cannot do all the things. We can’t do all the domestic work, do all the parenting, hang out with all our friends – we just can’t. Saying no can take a huge weight off your shoulders in a matter of seconds.
5. Your Self Care Has Become your Last Priority
This is a big one. It’s hard to care for a baby when you are barely taking care of yourself, and I mean more than just taking a shower or brushing your teeth. I’m referring to setting actual time aside for yourself, whether it’s going for a solo walk, reading a chapter in your book, going to dinner with your best friend -- anything that will make you remotely feel like yourself again.
For any of these tips, I recommend talking with your social support system, reaching out to your doctor and/or reaching out to a Pre/Postnatal Holistic Health coach or Nutritionist. Everyone experiences a different journey, but having a good social support system, an understanding doctor or an experienced nutritionist really goes a long way.
Asking for help makes it more acceptable to normalize and de-stigmatize these behaviours, so the better off we will all be.
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