Coping With The Postpartum Period: Understanding Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, and 5 Tips For Adjusting During This New Time

So being a new mom is not turning out like you thought it would. Oh sure when you were pregnant you heard from friends, family, and even strangers on the parenting forums that being a mom was incredibly difficult. You told yourself you would be able to handle whatever came your way and maybe you even secretly judged those other women for being “weak”. You had everything planned out and just knew that you would do things differently. You would feel different.

But fast forward to the present and you are sitting with your newborn fighting back tears because you didn’t know it would be so hard. You feel exhaustion like you’ve never felt before. Your hormones are up and down. Some days you can’t stop crying, while others you are finding yourself easily irritated with everyone around you. Then you feel guilty for snapping. 

Even worse is your more secret, deep down, and guarded concern or maybe even fear about how you are bonding with your baby. You thought it would be automatic, that you would just look at that face and instantly fall in love. That’s what the good moms do right? But you look at your baby’s face and you don’t really feel anything. You feel empty. Oh sure you go through the motions of talking to your baby and doing all the things they tell you to do in the books, but you don’t feel anything as you do these things. 

So you feel immense guilt and sadness. You wonder, “What am I doing wrong? What is wrong with me?”

Being A Great Parent/Mom

When we think about being parents we think about being great. Most of us have accepted that we can’t be perfect but we don’t want to be failures either. Many of us have childhoods that range from mildly awful to plain old abusive. No matter where we fall on this line, many of us have the intentions of doing a better job than our parents did. “I will not mess my child up like my parents did with me”. 

But now baby is here and you are not feeling that instant joy. The instant love and connection. Your baby is a stranger to you and you don’t like how this makes you feel. More concerning than your baby feeling like a stranger to you, is that feeling of emptiness. It’s like an absence of feeling, something beyond feeling numb. 

These feelings cause you even more worry about your future relationship with your baby. You worry that you will end up messing up your child. Nothing is going like you had planned. 

Feeling The Pressure Of Being A New Mom

As a society we put so much pressure on new moms. There is all this research out there and all these books, articles, documentaries, forums, etc that give so much information. It basically screams at you “here are all the tools you need to be the perfect parent so if you don’t follow these guides your doing something wrong and your child is doomed”.  Do this and do that. Feel this or feel that. This is good, this is bad! It can all be too much and it contributes to your own insecurities and fears as a new parent.

But the truth is that you are doing a great job. You are doing everything to the best of your abilities and that’s wonderful. Now of course we don’t want to minimize your concerns. There is a very large spectrum of what are typical/normal thoughts and feelings around being a new parent but the key is that if any are causing you or others around you some concern you should speak with professional (your doctor or licensed therapist). 

Getting To Know Your Baby and Developing That Relationship 

When it comes to parenting one of the biggest pieces of advice I want to give you is for you to just get to know your baby. Every pregnancy and every birth is different. Whether you are a first time mother or a veteran mother, each baby is born with their own unique capabilities. 

When you are pregnant your baby is developing their own unique neurobiology based on a combination of their own DNA, genetics, and their uterine environment (meaning the constellation of things your body is providing to your baby). Each baby has their own unique ability to communicate (cue) what they like and don’t like. Some babies are really good at cuing while others struggle. Some babies can handle a lot of stimulation while others are more sensitive and can only handle a little at a time. There is such a wide variety and your job is just to get to know this baby in front of you. And in turn your baby is getting to know you.  

Remember parenting is a relationship just like any relationship you have whether with your friends, partner, or even people in your own family. No one meets someone for the first time and says “oh yes I know everything about this person”. Thats not realistic so why would you think you would know everything about your baby when you first meet them? It takes time and just as you all build upon your relationship over time and with different interactions you both change and adapt and you learn something new. It can be fun and frustrating.

I Want to Be a Good Parent

Being a good parent is one of your biggest goals, so when you feel disconnected from your baby this can be even more troubling for you. Above I talked about the importance of you getting to know your baby and that this process takes time. Now I want to give you some information regarding postpartum depression or anxiety to look out for. If you are struggling with any of these things then I encourage you to speak with a licensed mental health professional who has experience working with postpartum moms.

Thoughts, Feelings, or Experiences to be aware of that might signal PPD/PPA:

  • feeling empty
  • loss of joy or enjoyment or pleasure in life
  • feeling intensely sad
  • crying spells
  • anger outburts
  • anxiety to the point where you can’t have your baby out of your eye sight
  • feeling easily overwhelmed
  • withdrawal/disconnection from partner or other loved ones
  • suicidal thoughts
  • self harm
  • shame, blame, guilt
  • nightmares
  • difficulty sleeping because of racing thoughts or anxiety
  • sleeping too much
  • lack of interest in baby or feeling like you are not bonding with your baby

Here Are 5 Other Tips To Get You Through This Adjustment Period

#1 Identify what it looks like when you are distressed. When you are feeling low on internal resources do you shut down and disconnect. Do you get antsy and move around a lot. What is the urge that your body is wanting you to do? When you engage in these behaviors do you feel relief or more wound up? What other sensations begin to show up when you pay attention to your body?

#2 Identify triggers. things that usually set you off. Does feeling like you need someone else make you feel anxious? What about feeling like you are not good enough is that a trigger? When you have these triggers what things do you do that actually are counterintuitive meaning if you feel triggered and want help do you actually do things that push people away? 

#3 Ask for support-your partner, your family, friends, therapy, support group. Please allow others in your life, who are safe and supportive, to be involved in your babies life. Let them have visits and play with your baby while maybe you go for a quick walk, shower, or even just lay down without holding your baby. Finding a therapist whom you can talk to about your thoughts and your feelings about motherhood. Join a support group for new mothers so you can feel a sense of belonging and community

#4 Don’t hide from you feelings and thoughts. These are just feelings and thoughts and there is a reason why they are coming up. Get curious about them. Don’t judge yourself or be cruel to yourself but explore what could be going on there 

#5 Have patience and self compassion. Please be kind and gentle to yourself. You are doing the best you can and you’re adjusting to your new role. You don’t need to do it all on your own. You are not weak for needing/wanting help. Slow down and take it moment by moment

Conclusion: I know being a new mom is not going exactly how you planned it to go and that is bringing up a lot of emotions. I hope that this blog will help ease your mind some and take some of the pressure off as you just focus on building your relationship with your baby and knowing that part of this relationship building will come with good moments and bad ones. You are doing the best you can and you are not ruining your baby because you’re not enjoying every minute of every day. Also with the new adjustment both mentally and physically this can have a toll on your emotional health. You might feel extremely worried or empty and this frightens you. If you feel frightened then please talk with someone about these feelings. Don’t bundle them up and bury them, because their surfacing is telling you that you need to pay attention to something. Listen to your body, you are not weak, despite what you think, because you need additional support. You are taking care of yourself and your baby.

If you are a new mom who is having a difficult time during this postpartum period and you are looking for a therapist then I’m here to help you.

If you have any questions or would like to talk to learn more about Relational Trauma Therapy, feel free to reach out any time by visiting my contact page.

Chana Ceasar

Chana Ceasar

Hi I'm Chana and I am a licensed therapist specializing in treating sexual abuse and other traumas. Whether you are pregnant survivor, a parent of a survivor or an adult survivor of sexual abuse or complex trauma I am here to support you on your healing so you can love yourself, find your empowered voice, and have the relationships you desire.

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