Things are a bit overwhelming right now, I know. You feel like your life has been turned upside down and you don't know how you feel from one minute to the next. You love your baby but you are confused with the feelings you did not anticipate such as loneliness, anger, sadness, guilt and resentment. You may be a stay-at-home mom and you expected to feel fulfilled in that role yet find yourself feeling lonely and craving another sense of purpose. Or maybe you work outside of the home and feel conflicted with the struggle to balance both roles. You worry often and feel an irritability and rage that scares you... you feel like you are barely holding it together.
You question who you are and yearn for a piece of who you once were. Even a tiny resemblance of life before your sweet baby was born. Mama you are still there - all that you were before that feels lost will be found again.
Having a baby is supposed to be - or so we've been told - one of the happiest and fulfilling times of our lives. However, many new and expecting mothers (and fathers!) struggle silently - doubting themselves, unhappy, and ashamed of their experience. During a time that is often characterized as "the most special," a large majority of women are overwhelmed due to hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, and relational stress with their partner. For some new moms, the struggle may be adjusting to a new role and identity, figuring out how to balance the demands of work and family, and when to fit in essential "me-time."
Some women are down or anxious during pregnancy. Lack of sleep and worry drain their energy and hopefulness even before the baby arrives. Fear that something will happen to the baby, or anxiety about labor and delivery can set a new mom up to struggle after baby comes, too.
Telling the difference between postpartum depression and general overwhelm and new-baby-related anxieties can be difficult. Many new mom experience the baby blues - a mild, brief bout of depression - for a few days or weeks after giving birth. Some new mothers experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression knows as postpartum depression. Up to 20% of pregnant and new mom will experience some form of anxiety or mood disorder such as depression.
You are not alone. You are not to blame. And with help, you will get better.
Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Symptoms:
*Sadness or depression
*Anxiety or panic
*Difficulty bonding with your baby
*Irritability or anger with those around you
*Frustration or resentment towards your partner that does not go away
*Feeling alone and isolated without the desire to be around others
*Problems with eating or sleeping
*Upsetting thoughts you can't get out of your mind
*Feeling as if you are "out of control"
*Feeling you never should have become a mother
*Worry you might hurt your baby or yourself
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you may have postpartum depression or anxiety beyond what is common stress and adjustment for a new mom. The good news is that treatment can contribute to the well being of the mother, baby and the entire family. Whether you are dealing with general feelings related to new mom adjustment or more serious and ongoing feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, being a mom can be overwhelming and exhausting at times and warrants support and understanding. You deserve to be heard and, most importantly, to have time for you!
Shannon Kaufman, LCSW, PMH-C
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