This is something that a lot of women have trouble talking about. The funny thing is, once you mention it in a group of moms, all of a sudden the ice is broken and the truth comes out. Post-partum despression (PPD), or at least the "baby blues" is soooo common and a lot of women suffer from some it to some degree after the birth of their baby.
*Ahhh.... what a relief it is to hear real women talk about real personal issues - letting their guard down and really communicating and learning from their friends - creating close bonds and friendships with other moms... friendships like you've been trying develop since middle school (more on friendships after mommy-hood in a later post)*
Back on point: Why is this such a "personal" and "hush-hush" post-pregnancy (PP) issue? Obviously, mental health issues are nothing that most of us wish to divulge openly - if at all - but since PPD is so common after pregnancy, it seems like something that would be more widely discussed... at least among women... or at LEAST between you and your doctor!!
Alas, it is not.
With my first son, the crying started about a week post-partum (PP). I wasn't sure what I was crying about, all I knew was that I couldn't stop it once it started coming. It would happen about twice a day and would only last about 5 minutes... but it was everyday... and worrisome.
(On a side-note, from my research on baby blues, this pattern is very common - not crying and feeling sad ALL day, but for short periods during the day...)
By the time my 6-week PP check-up rolled around, it had stopped (thank God) and there was really nothing to discuss with the doctor. Which is a good thing because, wouldn't you know it, they never even asked me how I was doing emotionally. No one did. And I can tell you that if I had still been feeling depressed and sad at that point, I doubt I would have just come right out with that information on my own without being asked.
My experience the second time around was different. I think I was so afraid of getting PPD that I sat around the first few hours after getting home from the hospital crying and worrying about getting it. Thankfully, short of some crazy mood swings (sorry Jamie :) and a couple short crying fits, there has been no daily crying or sadness. In all honesty, I feel like I just don't even have the time to sit around and be sad and depressed this time. Whew! I'm relieved!! And again, no mention of baby blues or PPD at my PP check-up.
For me, the first few weeks are so tiring and hard - and such a huge adjustment for the entire family. And I think that's why they are the hardest for me.... and probably most families. However, the risk for PPD exists ANYTIME after pregnancy - so it's always something to consider and watch when you are a new mom!
So, what is the deal with me writing this? Mostly to point out how the current medical system (at least what I've been exposed to in having two babies) really lacks in resources for following up with new moms in regards to PPD and baby blues. Being handed a sheet of paper when leaving the hospital with a checklist of symptoms, telling you to "call your healthcare provider" does NOT cut it. I've always felt like a quick phone call from either your OB or the hospital during the first week or two would be a very worthy follow-up. Time and money well-spent in my opinion.
I feel like the medical system has really let women down in regards to mental well being - "dropped the ball" so to speak. I've got 10 different numbers and resources to contact if I have trouble breastfeeding, but no certain number to call if I have trouble just getting through my day? Of course I could call my OB, or the hospital, or Google it to find some help in my area ... I know that. But when you aren't feeling like yourself and barely have the motivation to get out of the bed in the morning, is it realistic to expect a women to look up a phone number, call, leave a message, be called back, does my insurance cover this, etc... ? Seriously. Not going to happen.
I know there are advocates out there to help women emotionally after giving birth, but where are they? Why don't THEY have fliers in my "Going Home" hospital packet along with all the other formula and nipple butter samples?
I thank my lucky stars that this hasn't been a huge issue for me. And I wish I had the resources, time, and energy to do more about helping women who are silently suffering with post-pregnancy sadness, blues, or depression. But, if nothing else, I leave you with this:
If you know a new mom, call her and ask how SHE is doing. In all likelihood, the baby is great.... and she gets asked about the baby 10 times a day... Ask how SHE is doing. Stop by.... offer to bring some coffee or a snack. Share you experiences and knowledge of life right after having a baby. Just opening up the dialogue could make a huge difference!!
*On a side note: Something to consider when speaking with a new mom - If one more person had told me to "get some rest" or "sleep when the baby sleeps" etc... when I was first coming home from the hospital, I seriously think I might have exploded. My personal suggestion, DO NOT say these things to new parents. It actually stressed us out MORE to hear people say this all the time!! OF COURSE I AM TIRED - I HAVE A NEWBORN. DUH! It doesn't help for you to tell me I SHOULD be sleeping! ahhhh! - OK, I feel better now! :)*