During my first pregnancy I read a great number of books, articles and random blogs trying to prepare to a life changing moment of becoming a mother. I also heard about postpartum depression, baby blues and sad feelings new moms experience after delivery. And yet I could never imagine how hard the reality will be.
Six weeks before my due date my husband and I packed our bags and moved halfway across the world for a new job. Suddenly all my stress and worries doubled! A new country with no relatives and friends around was not much of a help to stay optimistic right before the first baby’s arrival. As much as we managed to solve everything before the big date I was feeling sad, and this feeling surprisingly didn’t go away after my daughter’s birth. I felt sad, and sad that I feel sad. Shouldn’t I be feeling happy?! How can I restore my inner happiness? I kept on thinking and trying to figure out something while being completely sucked into motherhood and most of the times not having a second to myself. I felt my life was stolen away from me.
Only after 3 months I found the first solution to help myself get out of the depressive loop. I started to run. It was literally a breath of fresh air! I could get out of the house, enjoy some time just to myself all while losing the baby weight as well. Step by step I began a two year long journey on the way to make myself feel me again. I slowly started growing into motherhood, adjusting my identity according to my new title.
While exercising was the first step of fighting the blues, I also found few more ideas to keep myself out of the Groundhog Day movie plot kind of feeling. Those ideas were:
- long walks with the stroller – I would drag myself out of the house and walk at least once a day for few hours
- exploring the stores around while the baby naps in the stroller
- reading books on my phone during the feedings – I read so many books I haven’t had time for during the 1st baby’s year
- finding simple, no-time-consuming meal recipes
- exploring parks nearby
- as the baby’s age progressed, joining age-appropriate story times, playtimes for the baby and myself to socialize
- keeping my personal basic evening routine on – like shower, creams, masks, etc
- cleaning the house during the week bit by bit, so the weekend is free of chores and dedicated to family time
- setting small daily goals and praising myself for achieving any of them, even if it was as lame as managing to brush my teeth twice during the day 😀
I still try to develop more and more life hacks to keep our daily routine easier.
Sticking to those little things really helped me accept the new lifestyle with a baby as a new family member. First weeks and moreover months, I used to feel that my life that I was used to was all of a sudden gone and it will never be the same again. At some point I realized that yes, my life won’t be the same again, but I will do all I can to live it to the max and enjoy every single moment of it.
Understanding and accepting my new self was the biggest step in overcoming postpartum sadness.
As much as the new changes the baby brought to us were overwhelming, some of them really helped make me a better person. The healthier food options that came along choosing what the baby eats made the whole family food aware and got me back to my prepregnancy weight as well! Moving around and exploring forced me to learn the neighborhood better and make new friends. My baby taught me to be more efficient, tolerant, multitask all the time and be constantly thankful for all the goodness in my life. It took me two years to completely get rid of any depressive symptoms. However, they’ve brought the best out of me after all. They were like boot camp which trained me to deal with anything. Even more, I’ve learned how to maintain my inner happiness using my personalised routine. When the time came and my husband and I were ready for a second baby, I was just rolling with the added circumstances, experienced and stress free.
Even though baby blues and postpartum depression are mentioned during the hospital stay, I wish there were more friendly reminders and groups to fight those sad emotions without making new moms feel embarrassed or left out. Yes, they give you a survey in the hospital to make sure there are no severe symptoms, they call home sometimes once or so to double check if everything is fine, a handout with some handy numbers is provided just in case. But I don’t think it’s enough. Sometimes it’s very hard to share intimate depressive feelings with a stranger or even self during a brief questionnaire. It’s much easier to deny the problem, yet still cry every day and not know how to deal with it.
Many countries have an option of a nurse visiting a new mom at home for the first month to make sure she and the baby are fine, and help with small advice if needed. Having a friendly, knowledgeable and trustful professional around during the first days of being with a newborn at home, can definitely boost mom’s confidence, and potentially help overcome or even prevent postpartum depression. I would definitely appreciate if U.S. had this option as a part of after delivery care. Days are long, years are short. But sometimes those first days are too long without a trustful knowledgable shoulder around.