A couple caveats to begin this post: first, postpartum depression and the baby blues aren’t the same thing. They differ in duration, severity, and treatment. Secondly, since I don’t have firsthand experience with postpartum depression, the main focus of this post will be the baby blues. However, I would like to mention post-partum depression, since it affects a significant number of woman who have babies. In fact, some women go through pre-partum depression as well, experiencing medical depression before the baby arrives. I’ve had several friends who have experienced post-partum depression, and once on the other side they’ve stressed the importance of 1.) acknowledging the problem, 2.) opening up to people you trust about what’s going on, 3.) and getting help in the form of counseling, medication, or both. Post-partum depression isn’t in your head, it isn’t a result of you being weak or not loving your baby enough, and it isn’t likely to just go away on its own, You deserve help, and so does your baby.
And what about the baby blues? Before I had my little boy, I steeled myself for my hormones to be out of whack, having read everywhere that I’d probably be a little bit down a few days after the baby arrived. I figured that since I was prepared, it’d be easier to handle the “blues.” And I guess in a way it was helpful to know what I was feeling was normal, but it didn’t help tame those hormones one iota.
The best way I can describe my experience with the baby blues was “unbalanced” (which I guess makes sense, given the hormonal situation). One minute I felt so lucky that my baby was healthy and that he was finally here, and the next minute I felt suddenly overcome by sadness and worry. Extreme worry was a BIG part of my experience with the blues. A couple days after I had my baby, I heard about a woman who had dropped her baby in the hospital my sister worked at (the baby was fine) and I nearly came unglued, just knowing the same thing was going to happen to me, I couldn’t stand watching the news because anything bad that had happened in the world had happened to somebody’s baby, and what if that happened to my baby someday? I know all mothers worry about their babies in this way to a degree, but it’s the degree that made it the blues. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the terrible things that could befall my little boy, topped off with feeling cruddy and just plain not like myself a lot of the time.
The good news? It felt like I’d never feel “normal” again, but after a couple of weeks, that’s what happened. It really helped to share my feelings and worries with my husband, who, knowing I wasn’t quite myself, listened patiently and let me get it all out. It also helped to write what I was thinking and feeling down in a journal—another way to get it out of my system. So hold on, find someone you can trust, and have hope. However, remember that if your worry and feelings of sadness persist, worsen, or if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, there is help.