I have to admit that with my 3 little ones now, the feelings of postpartum (or baby blues) have unfortunately been part of all of my pregnancy experiences. Throughout the different pregnancies, it has lasted from a few days to several weeks off and on. This last time, it hit me harder and for longer than it had ever before, and started a few weeks before my little one arrived which took me by surprise. I mean, it’s called POSTpartum, right?
There are so many resources out there these days about what postpartum is medically and what causes it, so I won’t waste your time describing the technical side. What i must take the time to explain is that there is no way to adequately describe in words that actually give true credence to the utterly deep feelings of despair and confusion that a woman can feel when she’s under postpartum depression. And although just listing out my symptoms will fall short in explaining how I truly felt, it is the only way I know to relay my experience.
The following are the symptoms I personally experienced:
- Fear and Worry- About so many things, including:
- being a “good” mom
- the future outlook of my life and my family’s lives
- the health of our children
- what I hadn’t done “right” during the pregnancy
- the unkept state of our home and how behind I was on everything
- our financial situation
- the food I buy and bring to the table for my family to consume
- dividing the attention among our 3 kids
- my health and appearance of my body now and in the future being post three c-sections
- my relationship with my husband
- judgment from the people we came in contact with that noticed my state of mind, etc. etc. etc.
Some issues were potentially legitimate, yet most were not, or at least NOT at the level of alarm I truly felt at the time.
- Anxiety- Because of the consistent worrying, I began to experience extra rapid heart beats that I could hear drumming in my ears as well as an extra heated body temperature with strong sweating.
- Exhaustion- Besides the fact that lack of sleep is part of the deal when you are pregnant or have had a baby, the anxiety itself hit me extra hard at night. This caused me to spend priceless sleep time hours just pacing around my home sometimes praying and trying to talk some sense into myself. Others, and unfortunately most of the times, the opposite… being angry at myself for the opportunities I missed in the past, the not so perfectly ideal choices I made, or whatever other non-productive thoughts I was having.
- Loss of Appetite- All the above was just too much to consider food for myself. Even though my stomach would be growling at me with all its might, I just didn’t feel hungry. This added hugely to my worries for the sake of the baby since my appetite dropped so much during my last 2 weeks of pregnancy that I actually lost 10 pounds! 🙁
- Lack of Hope and Confidence in myself- On top of all that I was feeling, at my worst I felt no hope that I could ever come out of this, solve any of my legitimate concerns, or ever be myself again.
Was this me from now on? Who could stand this forever?
NOW, after describing these symptoms, and if you haven’t read About Me and/or know me personally, it may be easy for someone to consider that it’s just part of the psyche of a person who is psychologically weak. I can tell you that I have been a solutions person all my life, a problem solver, resourceful, an optimist, searching for opportunities and not afraid to take chances or of change… yet this still happened to me. So what did and do I still practice that helps get me back on track?
1. Connect to God and Worry Less!!!!!
Pray, read scripture, and realize that worrying does nothing. The fundamental priority that I consistently strive to keep in my life is having a personal relationship with God. Being open about this, I must say that my faith journey is still in its youth, and sometimes it seems kind of one-sided. Yet, after starting our spiritual journey within the last 4 years, I have personally seen the provisions in our lives, heard direction, and experienced change beyond anything my husband and I could possibly control. These signs are often directly in line with concerns we have prayed about. This has all lead me to keep strong in my faith, because God uses many different ways to guide and carry us through our challenges. So get on your knees every day, at least twice a day, or as often as you feel worry. Don’t question why, just do it! Call on to Him, talk to Him with sincerity and ask Him for wisdom, guidance, discipline and strength to get through what you’re feeling. Then don’t just stop there but seek out the answers in His best selling book! 🙂
2. Eat healthy
Bottom line is, we have to honor God with our bodies, and you have to keep your body going with good nutrition. Even if you don’t feel like eating, make a good meal, or even eat the different good foods individually (whether they “go together” or not – who cares if its a proper meal?) Look up healthy or nutrient dense foods for ideas on what is healthy. Primarily fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, fish, white meats, etc. At my worst, I would just go in the fridge and grab a few carrots, a handful of spinach, an apple, and just stuff them in my mouth one at a time. I didn’t feel like eating any of it, but you have to start somewhere with this. Also, make sure to chew well so your stomach can process the nutrients without spending a lot of your desperately needed energy that you may already be low on while going through postpartum.
3. Talk to good people – including your Doctor, Best Friends, Mentor, Community
Postpartum depression is a serious condition. Worst thing you can do is isolate yourself by keeping how you feel hidden from everyone. Talk to people you think can be of help like your spouse, pastor, mentor, etc. Your doctor is certainly someone to keep in the loop about your state. You may be concerned of the chance that you would immediately be placed on some addictive medicine. I’m often known for living through a strong headache, high fever, and stomach ache rather than take the Tylenol to knock it out quick. I’m just the type that would rather let my body do the work (within reason of course), and hopefully get stronger. However as serious as these feelings can get, It is not a bad idea to keep your trusted practitioner in the loop about your feelings. When comparing some potentially addictive medication that can get your mind straight to the worst outcome depressions can have on a person… I would take the medication. In general, talking things out with good people can sometimes spark great ideas, result in motivation or inspiration, or even get another nice prayer to God on your behalf, which never hurts. I know that a great part of my recovery has come from the constant communications I had with my husband, mom, sister, friends and mentor. They have been huge blessings.
4. Let the light in and get your Power Hour going
Getting your morning started on the right foot is one of the best things you can do for your entire day. Opening your windows to let God’s light into your space and setting up a power hour where you can cater to the different types of energy: Spiritual, Physical, Emotional and Mental, can increase the probabilities that your spirit, body, heart and mind are in the right place to tackle what the day has in store. Read more about getting on a morning power hour routine.
5. Make some “you” time – including keeping yourself groomed
I know it sounds obvious… we all take a shower every day, right? Well, when experiencing symptoms of depression, showering every day can sometimes take a back seat in your life. I’m not talking about washing the obvious areas every day (which I’m glad to say I did), I mean an actual good shower where you take the time to ladyscape: exfoliate your skin, shave, moisturize, and put on a nice clean pair of pajamas.
Also, plan things you can look forward to, unrelated to your worries and how you feel when you’re blue. Take some time, even if just a little, to do something you enjoy or enjoyed before the symptoms came on. Whether that is watching a good tv show, reading a book, blog or magazine, partaking of your favorite hobby, go out with a friend for some girl time, or maybe go on that all important date with your husband to a place you both enjoy. Remember, good time with your earthly number one, your other half, your hubby, is important in so many levels.
6. Listen to good music and inspirational content
This potentially falls in line with the above, yet it is important all on its own. Why? Part of depression is often internally hearing yourself tearing you down. You may consistently be mentally bad mouthing everything you have done, what you’re doing now, and what you have the potential to accomplish, fix, or resolve in the future. The music we enjoy often speaks straight into our psyche. It can make us feel great, make us remember good times, and help us feel motivated or inspired, among other great feelings. Along with music, listening to inspirational content is huge! Now a days we have christian radio, motivational podcasts, the bible and other devotional study programs on apps that will read the verses to you. The options are somewhat endless, so drown out the negative by getting your mind engaged on the positive through your ears.
7. Count (and write out) your blessings, keep them handy, and review often
Get the positives in your life out on hard paper!!! This will take some effort, but after you’ve done many of the above, you will be at a better state to think through, look around, and see some good in your life. Maybe its your relationship with God, your relationship with your husband, your beautiful children, your family, your home, your career, your pet, church, great cooking skills, good looking landscape, the fact you have a roof over your head tonight, some food on the table… whatever!!! Write them out, add pictures if you can (most of us are visual), and review them often particularly when you begin feeling like the baby blues are around the corner.
8. Write to yourself on days you feel great
This may be odd, but something that was helpful to me was also taking a few minutes to write to myself on days I felt like myself. I proactively addressed several of the feelings, worries, and concerns I knew I would have, and gave reason why those didn’t feel overwhelming that day. Little by little, the concerns became weaker when I had them since I could remember why it was I didn’t feel negatively about them before.
9. Remember that You Are NOT Alone
Postpartum depression or even mild symptoms of it happen to many women. Last time I read it was 1 out of every 7 women that report experiencing postpartum or baby blues. Too many more unfortunately don’t even say anything and deeply suffer in silence. If you’re reading this, keep doing what you’re doing. Keep looking for answers, but most of all get intentional about getting yourself out of this by DOING. It’s going to take a tremendous effort to consistently tender, guide and WILL your mindset to the positive. You are absolutely way stronger and more capable than you think you are and feel when you are in this state! It just takes some over-the-top intentional actions which may not even seem worth your time at the time, yet just do them anyway and consistently until you start feeling like yourself again.
During one of my pregnancies, my practitioner told me that a woman’s hormone levels can take up to 3 years to stabilize after a pregnancy. That means that for potentially the better part of a decade, those of us who have had 2 or 3 children within the all too popular 2-3 year age gap don’t really get to stabilize our hormones before having them reshuffled with the next pregnancy. Therefore, there is a great chance that even if you feel great today, the blues could come back at some point while you’re in this tender period. What can you do? Be aware of this fact and keep up with the above actions to make them habits. They are all great habits anyone should establish in their lives to keep it moving intentionally anyway. Double dipping for the win!!!
— Scripture Reflection(s) —
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” ~ Philippians: 4:6 NIV
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” ~ Philippians 4:8 NIV
“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” ~ John 16:33 MSG
“In my trouble I cried to the Lord, and He answered me.” ~ Psalm 120:1 NASB
So what else have you done to help get you out of the baby blues? Share your tips and treasures… you don’t know who it may inspire to become intentional.