Written by guest contributor, Sarah Claywell:
Every mom-to-be imagines their postpartum life perfectly. The cute baby clothes, the family photos, and the sweet memories that you’ll make with the baby you’ve waited 9 long months to meet. I know I definitely did!
Being a mom was something I always knew I was made for and I couldn’t wait to experience life with my baby girl. Finally, I met her. She was in my arms, but I was about to begin a journey quite unlike all those wonderful things that I imagined.
To me, postpartum depression was just a term they teach in parenting classes. A rare disorder that only moms get if they had previous mental health issues. I thought it was only for moms that didn’t actually want children or got pregnant by accident. It certainly wasn’t something I had EVER thought would apply to me.
After all, I’ve always been a happy person. Someone that enjoys life and capable of handling life changes and challenges. However, it turns out, that didn’t matter. Postpartum depression doesn’t discriminate and it can affect any new mom regardless of age, job, family, health, priorities, etc.
How I Knew I Had Postpartum Depression
I remember rocking my sweet one month old, a moment most would cherish even in the midst of new parent exhaustion, and feeling nothing but detached. Empty. Angry. Anxious.
I was just going through the motions day-by-day, counting down the minutes until I could hand off my baby and just go to sleep. I was constantly agitated, irritable, and emotional. Crying at every little thing that could go wrong.
I didn’t care to bond with my baby. I wasn’t craving those newborn snuggles with her or feeling the delight of getting to know my daughter.
It took me 2 months of experiencing those unrelenting feelings before I reached out for help and a month after that to finally gain some relief. I know being a mom is hard and there are so many emotions and hormones experienced at this time, so I figured these feelings were probably somewhat normal.
4 Ways to Tell That You May Be Suffering From Postpartum Depression
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking that my story feels all too familiar or maybe you’re a mom-to-be in the throws of preparing for your new addition. Either way, I’m glad you’re here.
It’s so important to know the signs early to get help sooner than later. Postpartum depression is a common condition that many women face and there’s no shame in admitting it.
Here are 4 ways that I knew I had postpartum depression and how you can see signs too.
1. Just going through the motions
Those first few months postpartum were rough. I was quickly learning that being a mom means total submission to your child’s needs. I think it was because of this that I didn’t think anything of the fact that I felt like I was just going through the motions day-by-day.
Wash the bottles. Change the diapers. Feed the baby. Repeat. I wasn’t thriving, I was surviving. Literally doing what was needed to get by and that was it.
Through a lot of her “firsts” like her first bath, I was physically there, but emotionally I was not. I had little interest. I just wanted to get things done that needed to be done and go to bed.
Momma, being tired after just giving birth and sleepless nights with a newborn is one thing. Going through the motions of your day just to look forward to its end, is another.
Those first couple of months with your newborn may be stressful and chaotic, but you should still be excited for this new journey. If you just can’t wait for it to be over or regretting being a mother, that may be a sign of postpartum depression.
2. Anger and irritability
This one took me by surprise, y’all! As I said, I’m usually a very laid back person. You’ve got to do a lot to get me stirred up, but not during those postpartum months.
Anything and everything made me angry. Truthfully, I didn’t even recognize myself.
Cap was left off the diaper cream? Complete meltdown. Laundry piling up? Total breakdown. Bottles not cleaned? Utter rage. These are all real situations that happened to me and it was SO confusing and shocking.
Honestly, it scared me how angry I could get at times. Not just because it was so out of character for me, but because the feeling swelled up in my chest to the point of complete consumption. In those moments, nothing could bring me down.
Anger aside, being overly irritable was also an indicator for me too. God bless my husband for his graciousness during that time because he could breathe too loud and I would lose it!
If I said something and he didn’t hear me, I would snap back at him when repeating myself. If he left a dish in the sink, my level of annoyance was far beyond the minor inconvenience it caused.
If you’re postpartum and finding yourself with these feelings of uncontrollable anger and irritability, this could be a sign you have postpartum depression. It clearly was for me.
3. Crying without cause
I know some of you may be thinking ‘crying is normal with all the postpartum hormones‘ and that’s true to an extent. If the crying continues more than two weeks after childbirth, you might be suffering from postpartum depression and not just the hormones that come along with being a new mom.
All the crying was probably the number one indicator for me. I’ve never been much of a crier, but oh my goodness y’all, I made up for that big time in the months that followed my baby girl’s arrival. I cried ALL THE TIME.
I cried on the way back from her doctor’s appointments wondering if she was really gaining enough weight, even though the doctor said she was fine. I cried because I couldn’t find a shirt I liked for her newborn photos. I cried because I dropped the clean laundry on the floor while putting it away.
But I thought exactly what any new mom would think, ‘it’s just the hormones, it’ll go away soon‘.
Well after a few months of crying my eyes out, I knew something was wrong. My poor tear ducts were working overtime! If you’re two or three weeks postpartum and you’re still crying over the small stuff you might have postpartum depression.
4. Bonding with baby
This is a HUGE one, Momma! Whether you’re a new mom or a seasoned one, being with your new baby usually comes with some bonding. A desire and the basic inclination to get to know your baby and to want to be with them is generally a given, but it wasn’t for me.
I was holding this precious life that I had made and it felt like someone else’s child. Looking at her, I knew in my head she was mine, but my heart had no idea.
My desire in those early days wasn’t to get to know her. It wasn’t to be with her 24/7. My desire was to be alone; to hand her off to my husband at any chance. I felt disconnected from her completely.
To me, your bond with the baby may be the easiest sign to pinpoint. In talking to so many moms who have had very different journeys, the majority that did not experience postpartum depression say that, while they were exhausted, they still wanted those sweet baby snuggles. They still had a longing to be with their baby, to know them inside and out.
My lack of those desires was a major red flag and it was actually the first question my doctor asked me when I finally got help. If you’re not putting forth an effort to bond with your baby you might have postpartum depression.
What to do if you recognize these signs
At this point, you might be wondering ‘Now what? I am displaying all of these signs so what can I do to help myself?’ You don’t want to make the same mistake I did and neglect the feelings that you are having.
I didn’t know I had postpartum depression. I didn’t know these feelings weren’t normal. I didn’t know how to deal with the feelings of grief I felt. It took me months of confusion and struggle to realize it was more than just the baby blues.
At the same time though, I had a feeling in my gut that something was wrong. I’m hoping if you’re reading this and have these symptoms above that you’ll be braver than I was. That you’ll step out and get help. That you’ll realize it’s not your fault.
The first step is admitting to yourself that there’s something wrong. If you feel comfortable telling your husband, mother, sister, or best friend for support, confirmation, or advice, do that first.
However, seeing your physician is the only way to get the help you need to overcome it. You can speak to your OB/GYN or primary care physician. They’ll ask you a few questions and refer you to a specialist for medication or therapy, if needed.
Postpartum depression is not forever. If you go on medication now, it doesn’t mean that you will be on it for life. If you’re diagnosed with postpartum depression now, it doesn’t mean that you’ll have it for every baby.
It’s merely a small phase of time and you will overcome it as soon as you get help, whether it be from medication, support groups, therapy sessions, or speaking to a community of moms who have been through it.
Break the stigma of maternal mental health
Society has placed a stigma on mental health and it’s because of this that I suffered longer than I should have. I didn’t want to be judged, shamed, or labeled. I didn’t want to be THAT mom.
So I went on in denial about my situation and it made the first few months of my daughter’s life painful. Learn from my mistakes, y’all.
It’s not your fault. It’s not embarrassing. It doesn’t make you less of a mom. It doesn’t mean you’re weak and it doesn’t define you.
So Momma, in closing I just want to tell you if you have postpartum depression or think you might, speak up. Don’t fall for the idea that it makes you a failure…inadequate…incapable. Those are all lies spoken to us by a society afraid of its own insecurities.
If you have to take that little white pill to get through the day, that’s okay. If you have to go to therapy to work on these emotions, cool! If you need to learn an entirely different set of coping skills you never knew you’d need, it’s all good.
Momma, you are STRONG. You are ABLE. You are WORTHY. You are BRAVE. You are ENOUGH for your child.
Most of all, I want you to know you’re not alone. I want you to know that this season will pass. I promise you it won’t be forever.
If you’re in this season Momma, hang tight! You’ll come out on the other side better for it and I’m rooting for you along the way!
Related Post: The Best Use of Light Therapy for Postpartum Depression
Xo – Sarah
About the Author:
Hi Mommas, my name is Sarah and I’m one of the two owners of The Uncharted Motherhood. We’re a mom blog with the mission to cultivate and maintain a supportive community of moms that shine a light on motherhood issues that matter! We want to be a safe place for moms to speak their truths about the real, raw parts of motherhood and we welcome everyone to join our mission! Check us out on our blog at The Uncharted Motherhood. We hope to connect with you soon. Pinterest – Facebook