Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Know I Should... But I Can't... Because...

In my research on PPD, I came across a lot of websites that offered simple-sounding suggestions for how a mom could heal from PPD. As time went by, I tried all of these suggestions personally, and I found that they weren’t as simple or accessible as they sounded at first.

Here are some common suggestions for moms with PPD, and here are my reasons why they aren’t always realistic options:

  • “Talk openly about your feelings with your spouse, family, friends, and healthcare provider.”

THIS OFTEN ISN’T HELPFUL BECAUSE PEOPLE OFTEN DON’T UNDERSTAND. They simply want to fix things, rather than listen to you and ask questions. Often they will only say things that make you feel worse. They often don’t want to hear what you have to say, because it either is too hurtful or painful for them… or they have their own healing to do. Other parents often haven’t had this same experience, or they have amnesia and have forgotten how tough it is… so they can’t identify with you. Other parents are having a tough time, and they are trying to keep themselves afloat, and they don’t have the energy to help you. People who aren’t parents yet simply can’t comprehend what you’re going through. Healthcare providers don’t always offer any support beyond drugs. Grandparents usually just tell you to enjoy your time with your baby, because it goes so fast.

  • Ask for help with baby care from friends and family.

YOU OFTEN DON’T FEEL LIKE YOU CAN ASK FOR HELP, BECAUSE THAT MAKES YOU FEEL WEAK. Our culture doesn’t make it OK to ask for help. And even if someone does take the baby for you, then you’re along with your grief. Or you spend the whole time simply doing errands or emails, which doesn’t help you heal. And then you feel worse, because you can’t even take care of your child. In our society, it’s not OK to ask for help, and other people are often so busy that they don’t have time to help you. They’re stressed with their own families and lives. Moms often have to pay for help, because there are few family members or friends around to help out.

  • Eat a healthy, nutritious diet.

WHEN YOU’VE GOT PPD, YOU CAN BARELY FEED YOUR CHILD, MUCH LESS YOURSELF. It’s hard enough to eat well when a child isn’t involved, but when you’ve got a baby to take care of, all energy and effort is focused on feeding them, not you. And… to make it more complicated, most new moms don’t know what a healthy, nutritious, post-birth supportive diet looks like. Even if they did (like I did) they may not be able to implement what they know. For example, they might be able to get to the store to get the food. But layer on prep time, kitchen clean-up, and actual eating time…and eating for recovery becomes very challenging, if not impossible.

  • Exercise for more energy. Walking, which is a mild exercise, can help.

WHEN YOU HAVE PPD, YOU’RE LUCKY YOU GET OUT OF BED IN THE MORNING. Getting a workout in often requires more energy than you have. You’re just too tired. And if your body isn’t back into pre-baby shape, that can add to your depression. Sometimes, just the prospect of loading the baby into the stroller and getting out the door is just too much.

  • Join a postpartum depression support group, such as Postpartum Support International (PSI), Postpartum Education for Parents, or National Association for Mothers.

AGAIN, THERE IS NO INCENTIVE, BUT THERE IS OFTEN NO MOTIVATION. There are lots of websites with 800 numbers. But it’s rare that a depressed mom is going to pick up the phone and call a stranger. It’s very difficult to admit you’re depressed (often, moms may not even know they’re depressed). Most websites seem clinical and impersonal, and so you think it doesn’t apply to you. And, most new moms never expect they’ll get PPD, so they don’t know about any resources available to them before they find themselves in a tough situation. There’s an element of guilt and shame associated with having PPD, so it requires a ton of courage to ask for help.

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At November 3, 2007 at 12:40 AM, Blogger Kim said...

I appreciate your blog! I struggled so bad with PPD after the birth of my daughter 17months ago (and am still healing emotionally). I had an unplanned C-section after hard labor and when I got home my baby was colicky for 10 weeks. I couldn't get out of bed and I felt that I couldn't love my child. I'm pregnant again and am worried about getting PPD again and how I will handle it.


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