As I sit here reflecting on my own postpartum journey, I can't help but feel a sense of connection to each and every one of you who may be going through this phase of transformation. Motherhood is a meaningful and inspiring experience, but it can also be emotionally overwhelming and challenging. Today, I want to share my story and the valuable lessons I've learned along the way, in hopes of shedding light on the postpartum period and offering support to those who may be walking a similar path.
Let's understand postpartum: What is happening?
The postpartum period is the time after childbirth when a woman experiences physical and emotional changes as her body returns to its pre-pregnancy state. It is important to know that these changes are not only limited to the physical, but also extend deeply into the mental and emotional realm.
Hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and the demands of caring for a baby can contribute to feelings of distress, anxiety, sadness, and/or exhaustion. Postpartum depression and anxiety are very common. According to the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, one in five women experience Maternal Mental Health (MMH) conditions during pregnancy or the first year postpartum, and 75% of those women do not receive any type of treatment. So if you are experiencing any of these emotions, know that you are not alone.
During postpartum, a woman's body undergoes several significant hormonal changes as she recovers from pregnancy and childbirth. These are necessary changes to regulate breast milk production, aid in uterine contraction, and stabilize emotions. Below I mention some of the main hormonal changes that occur during postpartum:
- Prolactin: It is the hormone responsible for the production of breast milk. Postpartum, prolactin levels increase significantly to stimulate milk production and maintain an adequate supply to feed your baby.
- Oxytocin: Known as the "love hormone" or the "attachment hormone." During postpartum, oxytocin levels rise, which helps stimulate uterine contractions and reduce postpartum bleeding. It also triggers feelings of love and attachment between mother and baby.
- Estrogen and Progesterone: During pregnancy, the levels of estrogen and progesterone increase significantly. But after childbirth, they sharply decrease. This hormonal decline is associated with the onset of baby blues symptoms, such as mood swings, sadness, and emotional sensitivity.
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH): During postpartum, thyroid-stimulating hormone levels may rise slightly. This can lead to changes in thyroid function, which can cause symptoms of fatigue, weight changes, and mood swings.
Each woman may experience these hormonal changes differently, and it is normal for hormone levels to fluctuate in the first few weeks, months, or years after delivery.
How to deal with postpartum anxiety or depression? Tools for self-care
Self-care is essential during the postpartum period. As a new mom, it's crucial to prioritize your well-being so that you can be the best version of yourself for your little one. Here are some strategies that helped me on my journey:
- I sought professional help – I did not hesitate to contact health professionals who specialize in maternal/postpartum mental health. They can offer guidance, therapy, supplements, or even medication if necessary. Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness but an act of strength.
- I created my own support network : surround myself with people who encourage me and understand me. Get together with other moms. Participate in support groups or online communities. Sharing experiences and receiving support from those who have been in your shoes can be immensely comforting.
- Honest communication with my partner : Talking about the feelings you are feeling and achieving transparency in communication with your partner will not only help you create an environment where you feel safe and can express your thoughts and vulnerability, but it will also help your partner to understand a little better the path you are going through and the behaviors that may affect your relationship. That both understand that it is a transition process, which requires tolerance and compassion from both parties.
- I prioritized rest and sleep : I know it's easier said than done, and I truly believe it's not easy, but getting enough rest is key. Take short naps whenever you can, and don't hesitate to ask your partner, family, or friends for help. I can tell you from experience that you will be surprised at the help options you have when you ask for help.
- I practiced self-compassion : Be kind to yourself and accept the imperfections that come with being a new mom. Don't aim for perfection, rather celebrate small victories and remember that it's okay to ask for help when you need it.
The Emotional Battles of a New Mom: Guilt, Grief, and Identity Crisis
During my baby's first two years, I felt lost. I knew that experiencing anxiety or sadness would be quite likely during my postpartum. But what I had no idea was how alone I would feel (even if I wasn't). I felt in the shadows of everything around me. In my head I told myself that this was the most beautiful thing that had happened to me in my life. Sometimes if I felt it, the love overflowed in my body. But other times, I didn't feel myself. Rather, everything around me had power over me. As if he was invisible and had no voice. This was my experience.
Guilt often becomes the silent companion of new moms during the postpartum period. You may feel guilty for not living up to social expectations (unfortunately) or for struggling with the demands of motherhood that we often place on ourselves. Whatever the case, please remember, dear mom, that you are doing the best you can and that is more than enough.
Becoming a mom, even if it doesn't seem like it, involves experiencing a duel : saying goodbye to what your life was and embracing what it is now. It's natural to mourn the loss of your independence, the freedom to spontaneously do what you please, or the new challenges you may face in your relationship with your partner now that you are parents. Similarly, many moms go through an identity crisis , which is the change from being an individual to a caregiver, or person responsible for another. This can be frustrating, and it's normal to question who you are, feel lost, or doubt your purpose in life.
On many occasions we assume that our purpose in life is to be mothers, and that everything we do is for them. But children grow up, and they will only be children for a period of time. They will become independent adults and what you thought was your purpose for existing will no longer be actively present, which crumbles that belief and leaves you in limbo. That's why I recommend aligning with your interests and passions during this postpartum stage. Embrace this phase of self-discovery and remember that you are still you, with dreams, passions and aspirations outside of motherhood.
Recognizing and feeling these postpartum emotions and experiences helped me, but also allowing myself to live in the moment, without categorizing it as something positive or negative. It is a period of recalibration. This adjustment period will pave the way for a stronger and wiser version of you.
Seek help and take care of yourself
Remember, dear mom, that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Whether it's through therapy, support groups, or reaching out to loved ones, don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it. Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it is essential for your well-being and that of your family.
Take time to do self-care activities that bring you joy and renew your spirit. It can be as simple as taking a warm bath, reading a book, or going for a walk. Feeding your own needs will allow you to be the best mother and role model for your children.
If you are experiencing severe or persistent symptoms of postpartum depression or other health problems, please seek medical attention and support.
For all the amazing moms out there who may be feeling lost, overwhelmed, or consumed by postpartum anxiety or depression, know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The journey can be challenging, but with every challenge there is an opportunity for growth.
you are not alone Express yourself, seek support and be kind to yourself. Radically accept this transformative phase of your life and remember that you are an incredible woman, a devoted mother and an inspiration to those around you.
With love and much solidarity,
Keyla B Patty
Founder of BabyBums