First, don’t stop reading this because you think it can’t or won’t apply to you. Postpartum mood disorders affect at least fifteen percent of all pregnant women; that’s one in seven. And that number is probably low since the medical establishment seems to not screen the majority of postpartum mothers for depression/anxiety. Someone you know has suffered or is suffering, and we need to work at this together. Because the health of our moms is important, and their health directly affects their children.
I experienced postpartum anxiety, which I didn’t even know existed until I went through it. I had heard about postpartum depression, which I thought was anything from just feeling sad/crying to wanting to kill your child. Just feeling sad is the baby blues, and hurting your child would fall under postpartum psychosis (a rarity). Postpartum anxiety, my diagnosis, involves panic attacks, insomnia, loss of appetite, constant worry, racing thoughts. Basically, you want to crawl out of your skin.
This is all just to say. I didn’t think this would happen to me, because I didn’t know it was possible. It did happen, and I’m an educated, upper-class, white woman. I still had trouble getting the help I needed, so I want to help others, and I hope you will too. Pass this information along to every pregnant woman you know. Really, every woman in her first-year of motherhood. We need to make our own village to support moms.
In the triangle area, we are extremely LUCKY. We happen to have one of the leading facilities at UNC for perinatal mood disorders. This is RARE, and we have one right down the road. Please refer moms to this facility. I personally know many women who have received wonderful help here.
Moms Supporting Moms: This was my lifeline. This support groups is facilitated by moms who survived PPDA and also a medical counselor. This is what moms really need, someone to say “I’ve thought that too. It’s ok. I got help, and I’m better.”
Warmline Support: Moms Supporting Moms also provides phone support for any struggling new parent: 919.454.6946.
Make sure your doctor or midwife is vigilant about PPDA. Unfortunately, many healthcare providers are not diligent. Speak with your provider before delivery about your concerns and what the plan of action would be if you suffer from more than the baby blues.
Hire a postpartum doula. I’m serious, skip spending that money on an expensive stroller. I wish I had. Instead, all I wanted was someone who wasn’t family or a friend, someone who wasn’t there for the baby, but there to care for me. I’ve met Pam Diamond and she does amazing work. This would be the most amazing gift for a baby shower.
Instead of having a baby shower at work, have your co-workers make you frozen meals or sign-up for a meal train. Also, buy some paper plates and plastic utensils. You don’t need to do dishes for a while.
If you end up with a vaginal birth, these pads are amazing. Ask a good friend to make some for you as a gift.
Make a list of helpful tasks that visiting friends/family can do when they come to see you and baby. We posted this list on the fridge, so that we didn’t have to ask anyone. We were surprised by how many people stepped right in to help around the house. Our list contained requests like: walk the dog, fold laundry, pick up some groceries, etc.
Have the numbers you might need already written down somewhere that’s easy to access. You’re not going to have the time or energy to research where the closest La Leche leader is in your area.
Go ahead and designate your partner as the referee for visitors. How long do you want visitors to stay? (I recommend no more than 30 min.) Should you have a code word for when you’re ready for people to leave? Are you comfortable with breastfeeding in front of visitors? I would discuss all of this with your partner beforehand.
Identify a friend or co-worker with a child under one years old. Ask her if you can call with questions or to just vent. She will be invaluable.
Download these podcasts (The Longest Shortest Time and One Bad Mother) to listen to while baby is nursing or sleeping. Motherhood can be rather isolating, at first, when the visits stop happening as frequently. These podcasts helped me feel a sense of community even when I couldn’t get out with baby that much.
I give Anne Lamott’s book Operating Instructions to every new mother I know, and every single one of them has expressed how thankful they were to have it by their bedside. This books doesn’t give advice, you get enough of that. This book is just honest writing about the first months of having a baby.
Sweetbottoms, a store in Cary, is a wonderful resource for new moms. I recommend attending the Birthing Circle group before delivery. It’s wonderful to hear a variety of birthing stories from moms. Then you will also already have a support group. Sweetbottoms also offers a Babywearing group, where you can checkout different types of carriers, as well as many other classes and groups.
I recommend taking Taryn Leary’s birth class. She’s amazing. And a great resource to have postpartum as well. Taryn was a lifeline for me.
Babies-R-Us also offers free classes now, which include a postpartum planning class in Durham and Raleigh.
Almost every town has several mom meetup groups on FB now. Ask a fellow mom about this. There is an entire network of mommy groups that you will find, but it’s better to join ahead of time.
The majority of women experience the baby blues, which should begin to improve around three weeks postpartum. And then some women’s depression and/or anxiety will intensify. This is not her fault. This is biological and hormonal. Partners, one of your biggest responsibilities is to observe mom and watch for symptoms, so you can advocate for her when she needs you.
Megan Roberts has a MA in English from East Carolina University and a MFA in Fiction Writing from NC State University. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous journals. She teaches English at Methodist University, and she also rants and raves about motherhood at figuringouthome.wordpress.com. Megan is currently working on a collection of essays about women’s experience with PPDA.
Thanks for contributing to the Mamahood Advice Series, Megan!
Mamahood Advice series features blogging mamas from around the web each month sharing their advice for new moms. Interested in being a guest blogger for this series? Email me! hello [at] undertheoaksblog [dot] com.