A couple of weeks after I gave birth to my son, my husband routinely would ask me “On a scale of one to ten, how do you feel ?” My mental state was in question and I remember standing by the garden in those first weeks and answering,”About a 4″ . And then eventually, I remember reaching a 7. And it’s even been only in the last year that I felt capable of a 10.
I felt overwhelmed, incompetent, full of frustration, anger, and just plain exhausted. All symptoms of what I would soon understand was postpartum (or postnatal) depression. I did a little research recently on PPD because I wanted the half a clue this time around I apparently hadn’t possessed the last time I had a baby. Just in case.
Early on in motherhood’s delightful first weeks, 85% of women may experience Baby Blues which includes exhaustion, hormonal changes, and an understandable amount of anxiety for the upcoming event. Postpartum Depression is more severe and only 15% of women experience symptoms of postpartum after childbirth. A few men experience PPD as well which debunks theories saying it’s a hormonal level problem.. Seems that we’re talking more about where someone is, or isn’t, inside their head.
The full sixteen symptoms of postpartum Depression include, but are not limited to: Sadness, Hopelessness, Low self-esteem, guilt, a feeling of being overwhelmed, sleep and eating disturbances, inability to be comforted, exhaustion, emptiness, lack of joy, social withdrawal, low or no energy, easily becoming frustrated, feeling inadequate to take care of the baby, impaired speech or writing, spells of anger towards others, increased anxiety or panic attacks, and decreased sex drive. These symptoms occur within the first four weeks of childbirth and the sufferer becomes a different person.
A list of the predicting factors of postpartum sufferers includes those with a history of depression, low socioeconomic status, prenatal anxiety, lack of social support network, smokers, and women who fed their babies with formula. And another study showed that those who suffered from PPD often focused more on the negative events of childcare and had poor coping strategies. I suffered from all of these when I had my first child.
Only after I had snapped out of it did I receive a copy of Brook Shields’ book, And Along Came a Spider, her very honest and insightful look into her struggle with postpartum depression. However, my low self-esteem was still a major reason I felt badly about the parent I was. I remember thinking when my son was two that I had succeeded in keeping him alive thus far so I must be doing something right. And I would have that revelation a couple more times in the next several years.
In the end, the gift I finally gave myself was that of personal expression through my writing, and a therapist to talk things over with. Thanks to that, I was able to see my low self-esteem for what it was, shove it out-of-the-way to see the real me, and progress forward from there to believe in my mothering ability for my son and myself. I feel confident that PPD and the Blues won’t hit me as badly this time around. But I am not so crazy as to think that the exhaustion and craziness won’t take its toll.
I leave this post with this preponderance.
The anxiety of anticipating your inability to do something is low self-esteem.
And this affects so many facets of your life, anywhere is a good place to start looking at this. Especially is there are children involved.
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I know where you are coming from. I suffered from it with my second baby. For a lot of years. I’m glad that you are better prepared because it really steals some of the joy of your baby from you. Take care, my friend.
Sad for this part our pasts and happy for our presents.
Oh Lord, the “inability to be comforted” that one sucked big time. I think there’s also the social punishment space of mother shaming that comes with things like formula feeding or c-sections or admitting that parts of pregnancy blow. We are so insecure (as a culture) we are not comfortable with the negative spaces that can come with pregnancy and birth and it sets women up to suffer in silence. No one is ever supposed to be ambivalent. All babies are joyful…blah blah blah. I remember in my birth group a woman crying because she was hating being pregnant and she had wanted a kid forever. Her identity was so tied up with her pregnancy she couldn’t just say, “Sweet Jesus, this sucks. I hate pregnancy right now.” It became all about her as a woman when really it just physically sucked right then. It would get better or it wouldn’t, but it wasn’t her fault.
You could have had the highest self-esteem in the world and still be sideswiped by post-postpartum depression. Low self-esteem just shapes how it occurs. Mine was anxiety and rage and I have literally none of predicting factors. Tons of support and self-esteem and yet I was either normal or completely anxious/angry, no transition time. It happens and when it does, ugh. The best thing to do what you’re doing: sharing and being honest about what happened, what you did and how you’re prepared for the future. The more of us who tell the truth, the more we replace the magic holy motherhood thinking with honesty the better it will be for all women.
To say your response was well-said would be an understatement. Interesting that you didn’t have any of the predictors (so you say). I think Anxiety is more prevalent, epidemic even, in society than anyone is comfortable to admitting. And I can smell a rat when some women say that they loved being pregnant. I suspect that women who assume their only purpose in life is to be a Mom don’t want to jeopardize/compromise their authority/ role/ purpose. Many women I’ve spoken to who are artists and writers immediately commiserate that they hated being this physically miserable but love their children. Thank You so much for the validation, Ish. I agree and can’t help but sharing how I feel anyway !