Most of us, at some point in our lives, go from being childless individuals to becoming parents. This is an incredibly huge transition to go through – one of the biggest we’ll face in our entire lives. It’s true what they say: having a baby changes everything: our bodies, relationships, careers, finances, schedules, and sense of identity. We experience significant shifts, some over the course of pregnancy and into parenthood, and some literally overnight. It’s beautiful, and exciting, and full of love and joy, but it’s also incredibly stressful. This is true under even the best of circumstances. It’s even more intense in certain circumstances, such as: when health complications for mother and/or baby occur, or other life stressors such as major life transitions in other areas occur simultaneously, or with the birth of multiples, single parenting, or if there’s a loss of another significant relationship, just to name a few.
What are the “Baby Blues?”
Most people have heard the term, “the Baby Blues.” But what many people don’t know is that the baby blues and postpartum depression are two different things. The Baby Blues is the term referring to the normal ups and downs in the first few weeks after the arrival of a child. Up to 80% of new mothers experience the Baby Blues; however, with support, rest and good nutrition, the Baby Blues will naturally go away in a few weeks after the baby’s born.
Is it more than just Baby Blues?
However, if a new parent (this includes fathers and adoptive parents, not just mothers) experiences emotional distress, or impairment in daily functioning that is severe or doesn’t get better after a few weeks, it might be perinatal depression or anxiety. Perinatal depression and anxiety are actually much more common than one might expect. In fact, according to Postpartum Support International, about 20% of all new mothers will experience moderate to severe anxiety or depression during the perinatal period (during pregnancy through the first year of the child’s life).
The myth of mommyhood
Sadly, most new parents don’t receive the help and support they need. It’s not because it isn’t out there; but rather, because perinatal mental health, unfortunately, isn’t talked about a lot. The new parents experiencing these feelings often feel they need to “put on a happy face.” After all, it’s supposed to be such a joyful time. They are supposed to be in love with their babies. There is a myth that still exists in our culture of the “joyous and selfless mother,” that many of us have internalized. Many new parents feel guilty for admitting to themselves, let alone others, that they’re feeling overwhelmed, sad, irritable, frustrated with their babies, scared to death of being inadequate as a parent, etc. This only leads to feelings of isolation and shame. In fact, most depressed moms actually don’t even realize that what they’re feeling is depression; they feel they are failing. This, of course, only makes the situation worse.
All of this is to say, if you are experiencing any of these feelings:
You are not alone.
You are not defective or a bad parent. You are not a failure.
There is help and support.
There is help and support available to you, and it is more than ok, it is crucial, that you receive support during such a challenging, stressful season of life. It’s pretty unrealistic, if you think about it, to expect yourself to be able to just suck it up and deal with all of it on your own.
For more information regarding information and support for perinatal mental health, I encourage you to check out the following websites:
Lastly, if you need more personalized, face-to-face, professional support in navigating the challenges of new parenthood, it may be a wise idea to start seeing a therapist who treats perinatal mental health issues. I know it can be a scary step to take, but it could just make all the difference in the quality of your experience as a new parent.
If you’d like help through this challenging season of your life, and would like to feel better less alone, click here to schedule an appointment. We’d love to help.