Four months postpartum with my sweet little boy and things are starting to look up again.
The self-condemning thoughts don’t come as frequently now, and I find it easier to leave the house and enjoy being around others.
I’d like to start this off by saying there is absolutely nothing wrong with using medication to treat your depression. I know of many who take it every day and their lives have improved dramatically.
For me, though, the symptoms vastly outweigh the benefits. Right before I got pregnant with my son, my doctor prescribed a gentle antidepressant. The brain fog it caused made it difficult to function at work, so I weaned myself off it over the course of a few weeks.
Throughout my pregnancy, my hormones were probably the most balanced they’ve ever been. I felt great! There was of course the occasional preggo meltdown, but nothing earth-shattering. 😉
I felt fine the first few days after delivery, despite a 2.5 foot blood clot and complications from that. My baby was finally in my arms, all the nerves I had about labor were gone, and we were a little family! Once we came home, however, things took a turn for the worst. I remember sitting on the bed with Logan in my arms and just crying. I felt empty (physically and emotionally) and it was awful. My little boy was finally here and healthy, so I had no right to be upset…right? The mom guilt got worse every day. I felt like a bad mother anytime I set him down to do anything. All of the medical bills that had accumulated from labor complications convinced me that my body couldn’t even handle something millions of women have accomplished in the past. That if I was dead my family would get life insurance to pay for everything. Postpartum depression is so heavy, and I knew I needed to fight it hard before it took me like so many others I’ve read about in the news recently.
I sat down one morning while baby was napping and wrote out a checklist of things I needed to do every day. Having a goal helped me get out of bed the times my brain and body fought it so hard.
Self-care is incredibly important during the postpartum phase of life. No matter what you believe, taking care of yourself when you have a baby isn’t selfish. It’s mandatory. You can’t fill others up when you’re empty yourself. Even if it’s just going outside for fifteen minutes to catch some sunlight. Take a little time for yourself every day. Your family will be better off because of it.
Here are a few ideas to get you started…
1.) Start a bible reading plan. The YouVersion Bible app has plenty of bible plans. Reading just a few chapters upon waking up each morning often left me feeling encouraged and ready for the day.
2.) Get sunlight. One of my goals this summer is to get a nice tan. Husband and I go to our local pool and sit out in the sun three or four times a week. The vitamin D boosts my spirit and I always leave feeling more positive.
3.) Take time to nourish your passions. I know that may seem impossible to you right now, especially if your little one is a newborn. But taking out just 30 or so minutes a day while baby naps to work on what you love – music, writing, or art – will remind you that you are still the same woman you were before baby.
4.) Eat well. It’s so much easier to grab a pack of peanut butter crackers from the pantry, but eating well throughout the day gives you a sense of accomplishment. Not only are you nourishing yourself, you’re also feeding your baby the healthiest milk he can have!
5.) Get active. There’s usually a 6-week waiting period before you get the go-ahead to workout, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go for a walk! Pack some healthy snacks, put baby in his stroller and go for a walk around the neighborhood. This not only gives you an opportunity to get out of the house without seeing anyone, but also provides time in the sunlight (see point above).
I can’t say that doing these things every day will cure you forever, but I can tell you they’ve slowly helped me crawl out of a very dark pit.
All that being said, don’t forget about yourself and who you were before baby. It may take you awhile, but you’ll feel like her again. As the stranger in Lowe’s told my husband: “Listen. She just had a baby. Right now, she’s your first love, but that baby is her first love. The transition to motherhood is hard, and she has a lot of hormones and emotions right now…but I promise you, the girl you fell in love with, the girl you couldn’t wait to see when you got home every day, the girl you couldn’t wait to get alone with…she’s still in there. It may take some time but she’ll be that girl again.”
(If you are struggling with postpartum depression, know that you are not alone in this. According to a recent study, there are 3 million cases a year. There are that many women in the same journey as you, so don’t be afraid to reach out and get help. Your family loves you and wants you to feel better.)