By Jasmine Aranda
September, 2016. One week before my 22nd birthday. I got a gift I hadn’t expected to receive- a baby was on the way, and it was time to get my head on straight.
I spent each and every day of my pregnancy doing research. Having never grown up around babies, I wanted to make sure I knew everything there was to know, from schedules to milestones. I HAD to know what to expect. I had to have everything in order.
You see, long before I found out about my little tot, I had developed anxiety. I had become scared of life, fearful of Lord knows what every day. It was a miserable existence, and knowing a whole new world of challenges was coming my way, I had to figure out how to cope with it so I could be the best mom I can be.
I let the doctor know about my mental health issues. I had medication trial and errors, and evaluations at every visit. I did everything I could to stay excited about the little girl on the way and not fixate on all the things that could very well go wrong.
All seemed well, and in order, and when the time came, I was ready to be the mom I knew I was capable of being. I had the knowledge, the technology, and the support to keep myself together and take care of my child. I felt confident that even though I had suffered through anxiety and depression, keeping myself afloat would keep the PPD away.
I was a fool to think I could prevent the inevitable, and while I did my best to be prepared for it, it’s a bullet that is not easily dodged.
Post partum depression comes in shortly after birth, and while there is no definite cause, there are several factors that contribute to PPD. Hormones, exhaustion, and pre-existing conditions all add up to PPD and can happen to almost any woman who gives birth. Symptoms include your typical depression symptoms- crying, feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest or rage. These symptoms can also extend towards an inability to bond with the baby as well as feeling that the mother may harm the baby as well as herself. Post partum depression can last a few months up to a couple of years after birth, although this can depend on how soon the condition is diagnosed and treated.
I knew I had PPD after just a few weeks. My doctor knew to watch for it, and I gave myself time immediately after to heal and try and get settled into a groove to see if I was just feeling bad or if there was actually something wrong. I found myself bawling my eyes out as I fed my baby, and completely flipping out on my boyfriend for leaving a wrapper on the couch. Getting rest was hard, and I felt I had no escape. I began having panic attacks, once a month, then multiple times a month. It was terrifying feeling so emotionally out of control. So I knew I had to come up with some ways, in addition to what I was already doing, to help ease the suffering and confusion.
Some of these things were pretty obvious, others worked by trial and error. The main thing is that it helped, and still helps now. So here are a few things I have done to help cope with PPD in the first year…
1. Being Knowledgeable
I tend to expect the worst of everything. Of course, this probably stems from the fact that I really don’t know enough about some things to know that it’s not as bad as I am making them out to be. Knowing a step beyond the basics goes a long way towards peace of mind. Take milestones for example- knowing that the timeframe for babies to learn things can be relieving because usually there is more leniencies than expected. Also knowing that children go their own unique pace, so just because Johnny down the block can roll over already doesn’t mean he won’t be eating glue with your kid come kindergarten. It’s all going to turn out ok in time.
2. Making Things Easy For Myself
If you are easily overwhelmed, remember that there is no problem whatsoever with making things as easy as possible for yourself. Don’t let others interfere with your schedule- if you need to feed or put the baby down for a nap at a certain time, stick to it. It makes things easier for the both of you in the long run. It also helps to keep everything organized and within easy reach. In the beginning I had a tendency to bring everything I needed into the living room- bassinet, swing, diapers and wipes, and since I was breastfeeding that was one more thing I didn’t have to prepare. I could do everything I needed to in one area, and not have to run around with a grumpy baby.
3. Talking To The Doctor
From the beginning, I knew I would need help. Coping with my anxiety was difficult from the beginning- I couldn’t figure out why everything was so overwhelming, why nothing I did ever seemed to work out. Just before leaving school I found that speaking to a counselor combined with medication actually did make a difference. I knew it was something that I had to stick with, because let’s be real here- face masks and essential oils are only going to get you so far. I needed REAL help, so keeping my doctor in the loop on how I was feeling went a long way towards helping me overcome my PPD by the end of the first year.
4. Me Time
Motherhood feels like it swallows our whole identity. We live and breathe our children, we’re always talking about our children, planning a future for our children. Sometimes we forget that before we were moms, we were just… us.
Carve out time- an hour at least- to get into a hobby you enjoyed, or create a new one. Call up a friend and catch up. Do something that is entirely a YOU thing, not a mom thing. Being a mom is the greatest thing in the world, but you gotta remember- you are still you, too.
I personally enjoying doing something artsy, and blogging has been a good medium for that creativity. I can create things and I can write out my feelings. It is terrifyingly public, yes, but if this story helps somebody then hey, it’s worth putting it out there.
5. Ask For Help
There’s a lot of pressure to be the mom who is on top of her game. However, being a mom with PPD means there’s an extra layer of challenge on top of everything. Please don’t try to do everything on your own; it will not work.
We all want to be great mom’s, but it can get tiresome. Between being exhausted from depression and sleep deprivation, it’s hard to keep going 24/7. Ask a sibling to come by, they would love to see their little niece or nephew. A close friend would always be down to come play with the baby for a bit. And you already know grandma is more than ready to get hands on with your little one- just reach out and ask.
6. Get Rest
My mom was dropping hints for months that she wanted to babysit overnight, and I brushed it off because I didn’t want to seem like I was abandoning my child. She finally told me straight, “You are tired. I see it. Let me take her for a night and you rest.” It was horrifying initially, but the sleep that night… Yes, please.
Having adequate amounts of rest makes a huge difference. Being sleep deprived will make your more susceptible to irritability, moodiness, and a full blown mental breakdown. Always, always, always rest whenever you get the chance (don’t forget- you can ask for help anytime!).
7. The Dishes Can Wait
I wouldn’t call myself OCD, but when things are out of order it does trigger my anxiety. Within the first year there is a lot of changes going on with you and your little one, which means a lot of schedule changes. Once you get something down, it’s on to the next thing! This makes it difficult to hold down the fort around the rest of the house, and while having a perfect home seems necessary, in reality it’s not. There are way more important things that you are doing- parenting and maintaining your mental health. It may be a day or a week before those dishes get done, but they will get done on your time. For now, just take a deep breath, and enjoy each day watching your baby grow. A little mess is hardly worth the stress.
8. Talk To A Professional
As much as we want our friends and family to understand us, there are just some things they can’t get no matter how you explain it. I can’t explain why a plate on the counter can make me crumble to bits, or why I feel so hopeless when I seem to have everything going for me. Having a counselor to talk to helped me in a different way- I was able to vent my frustrations and express myself to someone who wasn’t biased. It was a short escape every other week where I had someone who could help me reflect on what was truly bothering me so I could learn how to deal when I got all worked up.
9. Recognize Triggers
While there wasn’t any specific thing wrong, there were little things that didn’t really help my mental state. I was so easily agitated it was ridiculous. Through my counseling, I began thinking about what it was that was getting me worked up most of the time. Disorganization was a major one, so I did my best to keep what I could straight and tidy, and getting my boyfriend to lend a hand when he could.
10. Keeping Cool
When something did trigger tearfulness or rage, and I recognized it, I then had the opportunity to stop and calm myself before I let myself get too frazzled. I know that 95% of the things that bothered me only bothered me because of my depression, not because it was an actual issue. It’s important to remind yourself that you’re just tired, it’s just a plate, and there are way more important things- like baby snuggles- that your extra energy could be going towards.
Overcoming post partum depression does not happen overnight. It will be many long months before you start feeling yourself again. My daughter is 15 months old at the time of this writing, and while there has been significant improvement, I still slip into bouts of hopelessness and sadness. Remember that you are stronger than your conditions, and even when it’s rough, there’s a little one who can’t wait to see their mama every day. Baby steps are for moms, too.
Hello! My name is Jasmine and I am a part time blogger at Rise and Blossom and a full time mom to my little girl, Tate. I currently live in West Texas with my daughter, husband and two dogs. When I am not writing I am often found drinking coffee, chasing my toddler, or trying my hand at something artsy.