Some moms who blog here on ChicagoNow are doing a project together called “Letters to a New Mom.” Sheila, who writes the blog, Mary Tyler Mom came up with the idea. Genius! I couldn’t resist. New moms need to be educated about potential changes in their mental health status post baby.
Dear New Mom (or mom to be),
Welcome to the club!
You know how in every club, there’s always one (or two or three) members who are buzz kill realists that freak you out? Well, I’m that member.
No matter how sick we feel and uncomfortable we are, first time moms spend our entire pregnancies dreaming about how wonderful motherhood will be, how happy it will make us and how full our lives will be. We also have the occasional nightmare. We worry. We ask ourselves if we will love the baby as much as we love the dog. Some of us are concerned that our mental health issues will rear their ugly heads in new and terrifying ways.
Also, even if you don’t have a history of depression, anxiety or any other mental health issue, it’s important to know that you don’t have to have a history with this stuff for it to come up. Your body has changed, your hormones have raged, you gave birth to a human being and nothing will ever be the same. You will recover physically, but you might not recover emotionally.
You might get the baby blues. Mild depression that is common after childbirth.
The baby blues might not go away, but instead turn into a clinical depression.
That depression might be mild, but it might be severe. You might not even realize it’s happening. A new mom doesn’t know what’s “normal.”
Here are some of the things that aren’t “normal,” but unfortunately, they are common. These things are scary, dangerous and cause for concern.
You might think about hurting yourself. You might hurt yourself.
You might think about hurting the baby. You might hurt the baby.
You might start experiencing horrifying thoughts like and visualizing scenarios that cause you to feel guilt and shame.
You might see and hear things that aren’t there.
You might find yourself unable to eat or sleep, even when you have time to eat and sleep, too preoccupied with fear, grief and anxiety to take care of your basic needs.
You might start thinking about death, and how to die. Maybe you will start having little conversations with yourself about how you are a terrible mother and that your baby will be better off without you. You might believe what you tell yourself.
You might cry constantly. You might not feel ANYTHING.
You might try to tell someone how you feel and they don’t listen.
You might not tell someone how you feel because you are afraid they will take away your baby and lock you up in a padded room.
TELL SOMEONE ANYWAY!
If any of these things happen to you, know that you are not alone.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
This happens to many new moms. Motherhood wreaks havoc on your mental health.
Knowledge is power. You just need to know that everything I mentioned could happen. Or not. Post-partum mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of. There is hope and there is help. Educate yourself before the baby comes. Educate your partner. Have your OB/GYN on speed dial.
I don’t want to scare you. I want to educate you. I want you to know that after the baby comes, a lot of other stuff comes with it, and one of those things could be a mental health issue. You can prepare for diaper blowouts by having more nappies, but you can’t predict what might or might not happen to your mind as a result of the changes in your body. The only way to prepare for this is to know that it can happen.
It can happen to anyone.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.