I want to talk about something serious: postpartum depression. Depression is the most common complication of childbirth, affecting a vast array of women. Postpartum depression can last for as little as 1 day or as many as 3 years.
I used to think that I would never experience depression. I thought it was a made up thing that when people had bad days, they would chalk it up to “depression”. That was until I got pregnant and experienced depression. This was supposed to be one of the happiest moments of my life, but I felt guilty… for no reason. Because of this guilt, I didn’t want to share my pregnancy experiences with others, I didn’t even want anyone to know.
My prenatal depression provided me an opportunity to prepare and find solutions for when I might experience postpartum depression. These are some things that I set up because I knew they would help me after giving birth. These little solutions are still helping me today, 5 months after giving birth.
I set up a breastfeeding area. I had heard from some friends that “the demons really come at the dark hours when you are all alone, feeding your baby.” This area had 4 key pieces:
1. Plants: I have a plant resting on an end table that’s across from me as I sit and nurse. My mother-in-law was kind enough to give me this gift at 38 weeks, and I am so grateful she did that.
2. Art: I have a picture of my mom, dad, and me when I was little. I also have a print called “She Will Find What Is Lost” by Brian Kershisnik. This image really brings me peace because I can imagine that I am that woman and I have angels blessing me. I also have an elephant Ethan carved for me for our first Valentine’s. These images bring positive memories and help me feel uplifted.
3. Nutrition: I’ve noticed that my appetite affects my mood. I have a nice green water bottle. The color reminds me to take a drink! I also really like having small chewable snacks; e.g. cheese, fruit, and muffins. I have found, through trial and error (mostly error), that preparing these snacks beforehand saves yourself a lot of trouble.
4. Books: I set up my rocking chair next to our book case. Having it there is super handy because I can grab books, like Black Beauty. I really like having a small chapter book to read out loud. This soothes Hugh but also helps me feel less alone. I like reading because it is more distracting than going on Instagram or Pinterest. I just feel better about reading than using social media (I still do a boatload of that, trust me).
I’ve chosen the title “Common but Not the Norm” because that’s what postpartum depression is. It’s a common experience but it isn’t, nor should it be, classified as “normal”. If something is classified as normal, it is often pushed away or seen as unpreventable. “Normal” tells people that the problem doesn’t need to be solved. Postpartum depression is not “normal” – it’s “common”. You aren’t alone if you look at your baby and aren’t overcome with extreme joy. You are not alone. There are measures you can take that help, and having a safe and beautiful space is one of them.
I am going to be posting some more ideas about postpartum care to make a small series.
What do/did you have in your feeding environment that helps/helped lift your mood?