Y’all know my story by now, difficult birth and health problems with my oldest led me down some dark and dreary days that turned into long months of battling postpartum depression and anxiety. The dreaded PPD/PPA reality is that it could happen to you and you have no control over it. If you’re new here or newly pregnant, please allow me to enlighten you- you can’t control whether or not you get PPD/PPA, but you can help yourself through it!
My first pregnancy was clouded by horrible grief over the tragic and sudden passing of my youngest brother. The double-edged sword that is experiencing extreme grief and insurmountable joy through the one-year anniversary of my brother’s death with the simultaneous welcoming of my firstborn was too much to handle. Guilt crept in about feeling joyful toward my son while grief held me in sadness to mourn my brother. It all created the perfect storm that was postpartum depression followed by postpartum anxiety.
While pregnant with my second I decided to equip myself with some tools so that if (re:when, because at some level we all get it a little bit, and that is ok) I went through postpartum anxiety/depression I would be better prepared to handle all of my emotions. Here are some tips for when the overwhelming moments and emotions did come:
Pregnancy and the first 8 weeks postpartum:
- Go to therapy: I started perinatal therapy with Katherine Hebert of Bloom Mental Wellness Team to discuss all things motherhood + me around 30 weeks and continued for 6 weeks postpartum. My trick for scheduling postpartum is that I always schedule at my follow-up appointments, so because I have c-sections I schedule at 2 weeks postpartum and 6 weeks postpartum. I do not let myself cancel (the baby comes if needed, no exceptions to cancel but can reschedule within 7 days if needed).
- Rest: I actually rested this time around. I listened to my body and slept when I could, ate when I could, and acted like I was growing another human instead of being a superwoman and nothing was bothering me. I took the same attitude into the first 6 weeks postpartum as well.
- Acknowledged my feelings: this allowed me to process my emotions in real time versus after delivery when there is even more going on around me.
- Get a facial: I scheduled this within 7 days of the therapy session, always after so I could get my intense crying session out of the way, and after the OBGYN check up so that I could truly relax. No cancellations, but rescheduling with the same rules as therapy.
3 Months and Beyond
- I bought transitional clothes for the first year postpartum: Unlike the first time when you think everything just goes back to the way it was (bless you women who do this, but I am a mere mortal and Elastigirl’s genes skipped me). This process has been the most encouraging because as I transition back to my “normal” size I feel encouraged that my clothes legitimately fit me for my size instead of making me feel bad about myself that I am not back to “normal” yet. If I never get back to “normal” I am ok with that too, because the clothes I have fit me and my life.
- Hire a babysitter: While this isn’t in the budget for everyone, we don’t always have the family available when we need it. Getting a babysitter helps us prioritize time alone together when we need it most as husband and wife. I hired a sitter while pregnant so that I could take a nap. Do what you need to do.
- Marriage counseling: My husband and I are complete opposites in so many ways, as most married couples are. We are constantly learning how to speak each other’s love languages and it takes extra work when we are sleep deprived and lacking time to actually communicate. Marriage counseling provides a safe space for us to process what each is experiencing during the demanding baby phases. This appointment is usually via Zoom at our lunch hour because we can’t practically fit it in any other way. Do what you need to do.
- Rock your baby: never feel like any time with or away from your baby is wasted. You and your baby are in a relationship, you’re committed but not exclusive. Every relationship needs time apart and together, space and snuggles, love and distance. Be present when time and space allow for you to snuggle and rock, but when you are creeping ever closer to your breaking point feel safe enough to serve yourself and step away. Both times are well spent loving you + your baby.
Our first Thanksgiving as a family of four, and I was four weeks postpartum from my second c-section. My oldest pooped his pants while my youngest pooped on the wall, and no one ate turkey all day. No family came over and we didn’t sleep, but we laughed a lot because we had the tools to see the fun and beauty through it all. It is a process of becoming a mother, and one that is redefined every day. I hope these tips provide some insight to help you manage it a little bit better than before.