People think that having a baby should be the happiest time in your life but for many the stress can out weigh the joy.
CNN reviewed a study by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research which indicated that “the drop in happiness experienced by parents after the birth of the first child was larger than the experience of unemployment, divorce, or the death of a partner.” So, if this time is indeed experienced by so many as so stressful, why do we continue to uphold an unrealistic expectation of unbridled postpartum joy?
Our cultural awareness of postpartum depression as a diagnosis has increased somewhat as many get screened by their OB/GYNs or baby’s pediatrician, however, the shame around postpartum depression, and anything less than joyful feelings, remains. This shame leads mothers to hide their true struggles from partners, family, friends, and doctors. Pressures around breast feeding, work, childcare, sex, finding “mom friends”, and “losing the baby weight” can contribute to a mother feeling overwhelmed, anxious, sad, and isolated. If the mother’s feelings are left unaddressed, children are more vulnerable to sleep, cognitive, attachment, and emotional regulation issues.
But here is the problem, stats like that also can lead a mother to feel even worse. When you are exhausted and stuck in feelings of shame and overwhelm, hearing that your feelings can affect your child in such a way can sound like another thing you are not doing right.
To all mother's struggling in their postpartum period, these feelings are not your fault and you can feel better. Individual and/or group therapy can help you to process and relieve the stress of new motherhood, help reduce feelings of shame, and learn tools for surviving this new stage in your life. You don’t have to go through this alone and you won’t feel this way forever.
Contact me for more information on individual sessions and women’s postpartum groups.
If you have one or more of these concerns, you may benefit from postpartum support:
You have feelings of sadness or hopelessness that has exceeded the first two weeks post-birth
You just don't feel like yourself.
You have frequent crying spells and feel guilt often.
You are having difficulty feeling excitement, pleasure, or joy.
You are having trouble thinking clearly, remembering things, or making decisions.
You worry that you are not a good parent.
You have heightened anxiety and are overly focused on details or cleanliness.
You experienced a difficult time with conception, pregnancy, and/or birth.
You are feeling disconnected from your partner and/or support system.
You are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby*
You are seeing or hearing things that others are not.
*If you are having any suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harm, you need to call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. This is a sign you are in crisis and need care immediately.