Tuesday, March 12, 2013

{ the baby blues }

I was going to write about this when I was in the hospital, when the baby blues first hit, but my emotions were too crazy at the time and I felt like I wasn't in the right state of mind. I worried in my unstable state, I'd say things I'd regret later, so I've held off writing this until now.

Even now, writing this is a little bit hard for me. Thoughts of those dark days right after giving birth bring back memories that evoke anxious feelings. While the blues have mostly passed, there are days when that feeling creeps up, and I have to take a deep breath (okay, many deep breaths) and talk myself through what I'm feeling. Why am I feeling this way? What triggered it? Then I validate my feelings and do something to help it pass.

For those of you who have never experienced the baby blues or any kind of postpartum depression, all I can say is, count your blessings! It's terrible and honestly, I feel like it's something that nobody warns you about or talks about. I remember when I first felt like I was going to cry for no reason and the anxiety that came with it, I thought, "Why the heck did nobody warn me about this!?"
That is why I'm bringing it up now- to put it out there, share my experience, and hopefully offer help or hope to anyone coping with it.

For me, I started feeling the blues the night after I delivered (I delivered at 12:11am, so it came on about 18 hours or so after my c-section). My initial reaction to the blues was confusion. After such a joyous event, why was I suddenly feeling sad and anxious? I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, and I was getting more and more irritable. For no reason at all, a lump would rise in my throat, and I'd start crying. I didn't want to concern or alarm my husband, so most of the time I'd cry when he'd leave to grab something to eat (the hospital food was terrible) or I'd send him on an errand for me and let the water gates flow. Whenever anyone would ask how I was feeling, the lump in my throat would return and it would take everything I had not to cry. Most of the time, I'd just break down.

Thankfully, I had some amazing nurses who sat with me while I cried and talked about my feelings. They told me what I was feeling was totally normal and that I was doing a great job. Motherhood is overwhelming  and exhaustion doesn't help! The exact cause of the baby blues is unknown, but it's thought to be related to the hormone changes that occur during pregnancy and again after a baby is born. These hormonal changes may produce chemical changes in the brain that result in depression. Also, lack of sleep, adjusting to a new routine, and emotions from the childbirth experience itself can all contribute to how a new mom feels. Most of the time, women experience the blues 4-5 days after giving birth, however depending on how the birth went, it depends. For me, I had a long, hard labor and then a c-section. They "cleaned me out" pretty good, which depleted pretty much any trace of hormones that I had left in me. So I went from a lot of good feeling hormones to practically zero in a 24 hour period. Talk about crash and burn. It sucked.

The day after I delivered was even worse. I couldn't hide my feelings from Andrew and the poor guy was so worried about me. He wanted to fix whatever it was that was bothering me, as husbands often do, but there was nothing he could do. Thankfully, he also listened to me and held me when I cried. He also kept his patience when I was impatient and irritable (which was pretty much all of the time and at extreme levels). I remember calling my mom, just bawling. I told her I felt totally overwhelmed and I was so anxious (not in a good way) and everything was irritating me. She too listened just listened and tried to help the best mom's can.

When my family would come visit, I tried to put on a happy face, but I was paranoid about people getting my baby sick, worried if they held him the right way, and I felt like I had to be a good host & entertain visitors, which was exhausting. On top of that, I was trying to get the hang of breast feeding and when people would come to visit, I was worried about keeping a schedule and if he went 15 minutes past the time he was supposed to nurse, I'd have a panic attack. I found out later that visitors can trigger anxiety when you have the blues. I also lost my appetite completely, which for a nursing mom, isn't good.

By Monday, I started to research what I was feeling. I thought I was going crazy, and while I never had any thoughts of hurting myself or my baby, I didn't want it to get to that point (which can happen with sever postpartum depression). Amazingly, even though the blues and depression aren't something people really openly talk about, there were a LOT of resources online. I found out what I was feeling was normal and common even. I was relieved to know that I wasn't alone feeling this way.

The blues didn't go away until about a week and a half after giving birth, but like I said, there are still days when something triggers my anxiety and I feel like crying, but I've learned how to cope with it. For some though, the feelings last longer and can get more intense. If they do, please talk to your doctor! Postpartum depression is so common and there is nothing wrong with you! Your doctor can prescribe the best treatment for you, whether it be medication or talking to a counselor or both- ain't no shame in getting some help!

And if you know of anyone who's going through this, the best thing you can do is to just listen. Encourage her to cry if she needs to. Do whatever you can to help and alleviate her stress. Also,  reassure her that everyone feels this way and it's normal! Give her space if she needs it and try not to get offended.

Some things that helped me were to talk it out. I cried a lot and felt better after I did. I asked for help (which is hard for me, but so worth it!), and I made myself get up and ready each day. It's so easy to just lounge in your pajamas and skip the shower, and it was hard sometimes finding the time and the effort it took, but let me tell you- when I did get ready and put on a little makeup and attempted to do my hair (I let it dry curly, but at least I washed it, right?) I felt so much better! I also made a schedule for myself. If I didn't stick to it exactly, it was okay, but knowing what I needed/wanted to accomplish that day helped me feel more structured. It was so hard going from working full time and being around adults all day, to being cooped up in the house with a sleepy newborn. The list helped me get past the loneliness and feel productive. I also made a list of everything I wanted and needed to get done- anything from sewing to cleaning the bathroom so I'd keep myself busy.

The baby blues and postpartum depression are terrible, but know it's normal to feel that way and there are ways to cope. I hope that my experience helps anyone suffering right now and know that it get's better. :)

Did you have the blues/postpartum depression? What helped you cope? What advice would you give to someone experiencing this? Your comments are appreciated!


Lisa K said...

I had baby blues with Colton and they lasted about 6 weeks. They eventually just decreased in frequency until they were gone all together. Joe panicked the first time I cried in the hospital because it was the first time he's ever seen me cry! The nurse reassured him (not me) that everything was fine and this was totally normal. I was so mad at him for calling that nurse in! =)

BECKY said...

great post!

everything you said is perfect.

the schedule for me was the best part. so that if i had a moment of time to start losing it, i would immediately switch to HAVING to do one of my activities. i found that if i wanted to do something, like go to the store, no matter what i went. who cares if the kids are crying; i need to get out of the house.

i still have these days (9 months after baby 2) and everything you mentioned is still crucial.

Julie J. said...

Wow Shannon! I didn't know it can come on so soon after birth. I'm glad you were able to recognize it for what it was and that it has pretty much passed.
I don't feel it until I stop nursing. I can remember about four months after Sam was born, going for a walk and thinking, "I have GOT to get away from Matt," and feeling totally panicked about being married to him. It didn't last long but I remember thinking "What is wrong with me?!" Then one year after Lola was born, which is when I stopped nursing her it all started up agaian. And it was directed at Matt, again, poor guy. This time (10 years later) I made the connection that it was a hormonal change much like baby blues triggered by not nursing anymore. I stopped nursing Sam at 4 months.This time it lasted about 6 weeks and then I started my period and felt back to normal. Our bodies are amazing and complex and sometimes it seems they can betray us, but feelings and moods healthy. I can't wait to meet sweet little Baker. Keep up the blogging, I am loving it and years from now when he is grown you will be so glad you did.

paula said...

I remember so vividly the crazy feelings and tears that happened after each of my babes were born. It seemed to be worse with my first.....probably because everything was so new and overwhelming.

In the beginning, the cries I had right after the babe was born, I chalk up to hormones. For me, the depression came a few months later; once the euphoria & excitement lessened. Reality set in and although I was ABSOLUTELY THRILLED to be a mother, staying at home with my baby, I realized I felt a complete disconnect from the woman I was BEFORE I became a mother. Probably because my lifestyle changed so drastically overnight. I had a job I loved going to each day, I had a great social life with my friends, my husband & I had grown accustomed to the "double income no kids" lifestyle and that came to a screeching halt as soon as we had our first baby. And the thing is, it wasn't that I wanted anything other than to be at home with my baby, I DID! I was confused I felt that way and tried to ignore it. I went from one extreme of having a fun, active life to the extreme of staying at home and doing NOTHING but being a mother and a wife.

I had to learn how to merge the identity of the WOMAN I was before I had kids to the MOTHER I now was.
Does that make sense?

My advice to new mothers is always this: Don't be too hard on yourself. Remember it's OK to take time for YOU. I "scheduled" out a couple hours each Saturday to leave the babe with my husband and just GET OUT alone or with a friend. No doubt your lifestyle will change Shan, but don't forget to continue to nurture those other relationships and friendships you had in your life before. Trust me, there will be days where those will be VITAL to your sanity! It took me WAY TOO LONG to realize that. Finding the balance is the tricky part but I know you will.....be patient with yourself, and your husband. Good Luck girl! I'm thinking of you.

P.S. As usual this is a novel....sorry. Wish I just had your darn phone number still.

Kirsten Krason said...

I had pretty bad postpartum after my son was born. I felt totally empty and sad and really anxious. I read a book by Brooke Sheilds that was amazing and totally helped. I can't remember the exact name of it. After about 4 months it was so much better and by 6 it was totally gone! I would say it is really just such an adjustment that it's normal for your mental state to be a little rocked. I also attribute a lot of it to breast feeding. It did not go well for me at all. The second time around I didn't do it all and I felt awesome! In the end you just need to do what's best for you :)

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize you had had the little guy yet! Congratulations:)
I never have time to check blogs anymore:( But I was scrolling through yours, looking for pictures of the little guy, and I stumbled across this post. I've so been there. Except for me, I didn't get "postpartum depression" I got "postpartum crazy and irrational". Which I am told is all part of depression. It was mild after the birth of my daughter but I think that's because I was in the Florida sunshine and everything was still so new and exciting because I hadn't been married very long. Then I got it mildly right after the twins were born and it didn't seem to last too long. It was more of just a stir crazy, I need to get out of the house-but feel guilty doing so, and I feel fat and ugly- which makes me sad phase. Then when the twins were 18 months old things got rough. I lost interest in everything and everyone around me. I would lay on my bathroom floor and just sob. I was tired and frustrated and had these two toddlers who I loved more than life itself but who drove me crazy. I was afraid I was having a mental breakdown so I went and saw a psychiatrist and she told me it wasn't anything to be alarmed about, it was just postpartum depression. I had suppressed so many feelings for so long and had just hunkered down and focused on taking care of my little ones that I forgot to take care of myself and after awhile it became too much. I ended up being put on anti depressants for the first time in my life and ended up taking them all the way up until my youngest turned 2. If I could go back and do it again, I would have been more honest about how I was feeling from the get go. I would have taken more time for myself and started opening up to people about how I was feeling. Because people seem to be less accepting of a postpartum diagnosis when your baby is 18 months than they are when your baby is just a few weeks. There is no judgement here Shannon. Good for you for opening up! Being a mom is so so so hard. In ways that no one tells you it's going to be hard. Those silly girls who cry on the Bachelor about loving someone so much it hurts have no idea what they are talking about! Being a mom, in my opinion, is the most heart wrenching love you will EVER feel. It is physically exhausting and painful to love someone so much. But I promise you, things get better. And someday you will look back on this time and not be able to believe that you actually felt the way you are feeling now. But it does pass. And it looks like you are doing an amazing job coping with it:)