The feeling in your chest is not the swell of pride you thought you’d feel.
Your loved ones are swarming around you, your newborn is cooing and smiling. But, all you can seem to manage is a wan smile or single word answers to the barrage of questions about the birth, feedings, and sleepless nights.
“Isn’t the baby so precious?” Isn’t the baby your “bundle of joy?” Aren’t you “so happy?”
You say “yes.” But you don’t mean it. Instead, you’re tearful. And irritated. And drained.
You feel the pressure of so much responsibility, guilt, even panic as you look into that little face. None of this feels like joy. This has gone on for weeks and, more and more, you feel like motherhood might be just one huge mistake.
You look into that little face again… Surely this is more than a little emotional baby blues?
Something is wrong with this picture. If you find your early mothering experience is not just suffering from a blue period, but an ongoing darker one, it’s time to take a closer look and reach out for help.
So, what do you do when your baby finally arrives, but you simply don’t feel good about it?
First, learn about possible post-birth experiences
You should know that many mothers actually do experience something called the “baby blues.” There is no hard and fast rule about how you should feel. However, the blues or fluctuating feelings have more to do with the biological rebound of emotions, biological chemicals, and the adjustment period that come in the days or couple of weeks after giving birth. Mother’s experiencing the “baby blues” may feel tired, sad and overwhelmed. these feelings are not severe and typically only last a couple of weeks. About 80% of mothers experience the baby blues.
If you seem to be managing a more serious experience, it too has a name: Postpartum depression (PPD). Approximately 15% of women experience this after childbirth. This condition is serious, physically intense, persistent, and emotionally grueling.
Second, show yourself some compassion
You’re not crazy, you’re not lacking maternal ability, and you are not to blame.
First and foremost, give yourself the time and assistance necessary to examine yourself, work through this, and turn things around.
Third, compare your experience and PPD symptoms
If you are uncertain whether PPD is the issue complicating the bond between you and your baby, examine whether these common symptoms are happening to you:
- Do you feel physically out of sync?
Persistent sleep disturbance. Are you unable to sleep when the baby sleeps? Perhaps you cannot relax when others come to help. You feel sleep is so hard to come by that you don’t even try.
Significant loss of appetite. Does food rarely cross your mind? Nothing seems appetizing and the thought of preparing food seems exhausting.
Overpowering lethargy and fatigue. Are you totally worn out? You never knew you could be so exhausted. You don’t have enough energy to dress, change diapers, or interact with your baby.
- Has brain fog settled in your mind?
Ongoing lack of focus. Is decision-making completely beyond you right now? Conversations and concentration may be hard to manage, schedules hard to keep, and names difficult to remember.
A sense of disconnection. Does the world feel far away or “out there?” You may feel like you can’t connect with anyone, especially not your baby or partner, the way you want to.
- Is emotional numbness infecting your closest bonds?
Baby bonding problems. Are you waiting for maternal love to kick in? You keep hoping it will wash over you. Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet happened.
Social/family withdrawal. Do you feel unable to respond well to your partner, friends, or loved ones? You feel isolated and unwilling to share yourself with them.
- Are you constantly succumbing to emotional extremes?
Bitterness. Are you often lashing out? Resentment and anger cycle through your thoughts about your baby and motherhood.
Hopelessness. Do feelings of inadequacy plague you? You may feel trapped and seriously consider escape.
Sorrow. Do you feel crippling sadness? You may cry uncontrollably or feel unbearably low.
- Have anxiety and panic become constant companions?
Panic response. Do sudden attacks of inadequacy derail you? You may be dealing with physical reactions like hyperventilating or nausea.
Fearful rumination. Do you worry that you might harm your baby? You’re afraid to be responsible. You may even seek medical advice for reassurance repeatedly.
If you recognize a need for help, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust right away. The best thing you can do right now is to provide yourself and your child safety and a happier future. Furthermore, an experienced therapist will be a vital resource as well.
Don’t suffer any longer. You and your little one are meant for more.
About Me: I am Susan Chanderbhan, Ph.D., a therapist in Houston, Texas who specializes in helping those who are suffering from depression. To read more about my approach to working with those who are experiencing depression, visit my website: http://www.chandpsych.com/depression-treatment/