Postpartum depression sucks. First, you’re handed a squirming creature who may or may not expire if left to their own devices, and then informed that you’re the most important thing in their life. Your body’s been through hell and you still have to wake up nights, change a million diapers, and play host to the throngs of visiting relatives.
Or maybe your baby is 6 months old. And you just don’t feel anything for it. Other mothers claim this overwhelming, life-changing sense of love, and you’re left holding a baby and just feeling guilty. Sure, you take care of him — mechanically — but there’s no joy in it. There’s no sense of reward. There’s just a sure and certain knowledge that this is your life now, so you better learn to live it.
PPD sucks deeply: at your soul, your family, and your entire life.
So, how to cope? What can you do to ease the suffering? Obviously, you’re depressed, and it’s hard to get up off the couch to help a crying baby, let alone implement solutions. But there are some simple things you can do to make your journey a little less miserable …
Admit you have PPD.
This includes recognizing the signs and symptoms in yourself, and that’s hard to do. But once you have, you can go to a doctor. There may be drugs or talk therapy that can help you.
But mostly, you need to tell the world: tell your colleagues, tell your Facebook friends, tell moms at the playdate you drag yourself to. Tell them that you are suffering from postpartum depression. They will hug you, they will tell you their own stories, and you’ll feel less alone.
Many of them will offer to help; take them up on it. Random friend offers to clean your kitchen? It’s not weak to say yes. People want to help. Identify what you need — time away from the baby, a babysitter for your therapy appointment, a clean sink — and speak up.
Remind yourself a million times: these people really do want to help. This isn’t pity. It’s caring.
Realize that you are not alone.
It’s likely that people will tell you their own stories of PPD. But you need more than that. Get on the Internet and read some stories. Connect with moms on Facebook or on forums — moms who are going through the same thing you are.
You need to know deep down that this isn’t your fault, that it doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby, and that it doesn’t mean you’re “crazy.”
You need a firm sense that PPD is an illness and that you will beat this illness. It helps to know that you aren’t fighting this battle alone.
Wear your baby.
Touch encourages the brain to release oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” Women with PPD are generally low in it to begin with, but there’s evidence that baby-wearing can give your brain an extra boost and make you feel better in the short term. It also helps you bond with your baby, something moms with PPD may find difficult.
So wear your baby as much as possible in a cuddly carrier — even better if it’s skin-to-skin, which ups the oxytocin quotient. Baby-wearing can also help you return to your normal life: going out, seeing friends, and trolling the mall. Heck, you can even get some laundry done.
If you’re breastfeeding, learn to nurse in a carrier for even more on-the-go action. To do that, you may need to go to a baby-wearing group full of people used to dealing with moms suffering from PPD. It’s an all-around win.
Get some sleep.
I know that you’re laughing at me, mother of a young child. But is there any way you can nap when the baby naps? Can a partner take a night feeding? One good night’s sleep can work wonders on your psyche.
Cash in some of those favors people are offering and have them hold the baby while you cuddle up in bed alone without having to keep an ear open for crying. You’ll feel like a new woman, or at least a rested one.
Let the housework go.
You’re suffering from a serious mental illness. If you were suffering from a physical illness, we wouldn’t expect you to scrub the baseboards. As long as roaches aren’t invading, you’re good. Put the clothes in baskets rather than drawers. Rely on quickie meals. Your house does not have to be mother-in-law ready.
If your partner expects you to do it all, now is the time to point-blank tell them to step it up. If you can’t manage to tell them, just show them this essay instead.
Remember: you’re sick.
Do not allow guilt to complicate your condition. You can’t make yourself feel love for your baby — wanting to love your baby is just as good. Don’t beat yourself up for not running a perfect household, for needing babysitters, or taking time out for therapy. This is a hard fight; give yourself credit for fighting it.
Know that it will end.
You might need psychotropic medication. It might take a year. But postpartum depression will end. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will love your baby, you will clean your house, you will wear a dress you love to a dinner you’re excited about, and you will be happy. Keep hold of that knowledge, and keep hold of it hard. Some days will be worse than others. You’ll go up and then down again, but you will get through. You will beat this. You might even be stronger than before.More On