Last week I overheard a conversation about a woman who had “let herself go” after having a baby. Her baby is now 2 years old and her spouse was contemplating leaving her. This is something I have heard several times and I have even been told myself. Many people don’t realize that Postpartum depression is real and more than 3 million cases of PPD are reported yearly.
In short, Postpartum depression is the anxiety, fear, sadness and hopelessness that occurs after a mom gives birth. There are many triggers for PPD including newborn crying spells, a loss of self, depression about weight, being overwhelmed or any other symptom that comes with mother hood. Because PPD is usually swept under the rug, most women who suffer from it aren’t diagnosed and even worst, their spouses aren’t educated on how to handle it. Women with military spouses (this would be me) have higher reported rates of PPD especially if their fiancé or husband is overseas.
People are quick to assume that a woman has “let herself go” immediately after having a baby but let’s examine the facts. It generally takes more than 6-12 months to adjust to being a parent. Each stage comes with a new schedule and a new set of activities for parents and baby. Birth -3 months is one stage which includes mom's healing period, 3-6 months is a separate stage and then 6 to whenever baby is walking. Baby goes from being stagnant to rolling over, breast milk to finger food, sitting up to walking. All new things to become accustomed to. Simultaneously, our bodies were stretched to capacity for 10 months and we are still trying to get adjusted to the new body and aches that we have. May it be extra skin or a smiley face from a c-section, a new set of boobs, hips, back pain or migraines from the epidural. Depending on the pregnancy, some of these changes are irreversible. Taking care of a baby is not only emotionally and physically draining but can be painful if the new mom decides to breastfeed. New mothers haven’t let themselves go, they are simply coming to terms with motherhood and their new host of responsibilities and most like than not, their new body.
When I had Sai, I was released from the hospital and counseled on almost everything. People came in to teach me about breast feeding, pumping, what to do if my stitches popped but I didn't have someone come and speak to me about the reality of PPD. One night, I had a break down and locked myself in the bathroom. Sai was crying for 4 hours and I couldn't understand why, I did everything! Changed him, fed him, burped him and held him. I called my grandmother in tears and she spoke to me for about an hour. This was the moment I realized I had PPD. I loved my new baby but I hated my life for no particular reason.
Telltale signs that your friend or spouse may be suffering from PPD.
- Extreme sadness
- Detachment from favorite activities
- Appetite problems
- Apathetic to life
- Crying spells
- Lack of ambition
What you can do as a spouse or friend help alleviate PPD
- Be reassuring about their place in your life
- Remind them of their goals before motherhood
- Ask them how they are, and let them vent without offering a solution
- Take them for a walk or picnic
A note to women suffering from PPD.
Your spouse does not understand what you are going through. If you have gained a few pounds and are feeling down in the dumps, you are not alone. The common problem is that men don't associate fitness with mental well being. Logically, it makes sense. The questions that should be asked on behalf of the man is "What has changed since I fell for you?", "What is making you disconnected and unhappy?" Men are terrible are verbalizing or attempting to verbalize thoughts in their own every day life so it is unfair to expect them to think that something may be wrong with you after having a baby. Men are visual and if they see you getting fat they are going to assume that you have let yourself go not even batting an eye that there may be a deeper issue at hand. If you have PPD, you may have trouble orating how you feel other than some thing is wrong There's a huge break down of communication in the relationship which can lead to further anxiety and separation. In short, for women, it is I am happy mentally therefore it reflects physically whereas men see it as strictly physical. Their mental space has no bearing on their physical unless it's motivational not deterrent. These small things are crucial in order to understanding the male's perspective when it comes to PPD and other mental health issues. This is why awareness is crucial.
If you or someone you know is suffering from PPD, there is help. The Postpartum Resource Center of NY has a hotline you can call at any time.
There's a second part to this post! Click here to read!
Brooklyn PPD Support