I'm talking to you. Yes, you.
I know. It takes time to get used to that name, no matter how desperately you've longed to be someone's Mom. It's one thing, after all, to have the idea of a baby dancing around inside your head; it's quite another to have the reality of a baby nestled in your arms.
That tug of war between the dream and the reality of motherhood can mess with a mother's head. Toss in sleep deprivation, postpartum hormones and the responsibilities of caring for a tiny, helpless human being and the experience of early motherhood can feel a lot like a hurricane.
So how do you care for yourself and your baby if you find yourself caught in the eye of the postpartum storm, struggling with a perinatal mood disorder such as postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety or postpartum psychosis (the postpartum storm at its most severe)? Here's what I suggest:
Seek the shelter of friends and family. Let others nurture you so that you can focus on caring for yourself and your baby. Don't feel guilty about what you are or aren't feeling: a groundswell of positive, health emotions will surround you and your baby as soon as you start to feel better. Understand that the world is impatient with mood disorders. Have a friend or family member advocate for you so that you are given the time and space you need to recover until you are strong enough to advocate for yourself. Recognize that what you are experiencing is a brief stopover on your motherhood journey, not a permanent detour.
When you emerge from your cocoon, you will be a stronger and wiser woman who is capable of advocating for herself, her child and the other mothers and children of the world. That is the silver lining of the gift you never asked for: you will emerge from the darkness, follow in the well-worn footsteps of other mothers who have walked this path, and become fiercely protective of all the joy and beauty in the world.
With best wishes from one of the other mothers,
Ann Douglas is the author of 28 books, many of which focus on pregnancy and parenting including "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books", "The Mother of All Baby Books", "The Mother of All Toddler Books" and "The Mother of All Parenting Books". A mother of four, Ann specializes in writing and speaking about parenting, and teaching parenting courses and workshops on various aspects of pregnancy and parenting. She is also Yahoo! Canada's parenting bloggerand blogs at ParentCentral.ca.
I love how you refer to it as a brief stopover, not a permanent detour. That couldn't be more true. It doesn't seem like that when you're going through it, but as someone who's survived PPD, I agree with you 100%. And it is pretty amazing what happens once you can look back and see how much you survived.
Lovely post. I especially like the idea of appointing an advocate. That is really smart. I recall telling my husband many times, "keep an eye on me." And he did. Anytime I was over the top stressed or tired or emotional or all of the above, he would call a time-out for me. "Go for a run…take a nap…let me take the baby…let me cook…let me take the girls." And when it got so bad that those momentary breaks no longer did the trick, he's the one who said "I am not a woman so I don't know what you're going through. I'm not equipped to help you with this, maybe you should talk to [a professional]." I remember it being such a relief to hear those words coming out of his mouth. Like I was waiting for someone else to suggest it before I would give myself permission to seek help. I'll never forget that kindness on his part. He really was my #1 advocate all along.