Postpartum peer support is crucial for new moms, especially moms who are dealing with Postpartum Depression. Postpartum Depression does NOT just mean you are sad. It does NOT mean you cry all the time. It is much more complicated.
A mom with Postpartum Depression often cannot sleep when the baby is sleeping or when she is given the chance to rest. She is often constantly thinking about what the baby needs and what needs to be done around the house. She might be second guessing all her decisions. She is often aware of every little sound and movement the baby makes. Her second guessing of herself turns into a cycle of negative self talk. Her negative self talk can take her thoughts from “why did I do that” to “I don’t deserve to be his mother” very, very quickly.
She might not have any interest in eating or she might want to eat all the time to dull her emotions. She might not want to get out of bed and take care of the baby. She might be hyper-vigilant about breastfeeding her baby exactly every two hours and insist no one else can hold him. She might burst into tears multiple times a day or she might not show any emotion of joy or sadness. She might wonder why she thought having a baby was a good idea.
Postpartum Depression will look different for every mom who is suffering. Often times, Postpartum Depression is overlapping with Postpartum Anxiety or Postpartum OCD. On one end of the spectrum, a lot of the examples I gave could be 100% normal behavior for a postpartum mom. If any of these symptoms present themselves in the first 2-3 weeks, but then subside, she "just" had the Baby Blues. This is very common and very normal. A mother’s body is going through tremendous changes, physically, emotionally, mentally, during this time. It is so important to not make light of these changes! She needs support. Emotional support, physical support, mental support. Help with the baby, help with household chores, help with meals, help with other siblings, help with processing her birth, help with finding time for self care, etc., etc., etc!
BUT, let’s talk about the middle and other end of the spectrum. Keep in mind, it can often times be hard to tell how awful a mom is actually doing. Some moms might be very good at putting on a “good face.” She might look perfectly fine. She might sound perfectly fine. She might be taking care of the baby perfectly fine. But, looks and actions can be deceiving. Just because she looks perfectly fine, doesn’t mean she isn’t quietly falling apart inside. She is scared. She is scared that if she tells someone how awful she is really feeling, they might think she is a bad mom. She might have convinced herself that if she admits how she is really feeling, someone might take her baby away from her.
So, why postpartum peer support? Well, it’s one thing to go to a therapist, or your doctor, or a psychiatrist, but most likely, they do not know how you really feel. Most likely they have never had Postpartum Depression. Most likely, they will not all be mothers. When you receive peer support, you are talking with a mom who has been in your shoes. No, she probably can’t relate to all your symptoms, but she can relate to most of them. She knows what it’s like to feel worthless. She knows what it’s like to feel like a bad mother. She knows the heartache of not being able to physically take care of her family because she has so much anxiety, she can’t move from her bed. She knows the feeling of hopelessness. She probably knows how scary intrusive thoughts can be.
BUT, she also knows you absolutely LOVE your baby and your family. She KNOWS you would never hurt yourself or your child. She KNOWS you are doing the best you can at this moment. And, most importantly, she KNOWS you.will.get.better. That is the truth she can speak over you time and time again, as long as it takes. You will get better. It is going to take time and it is going to take work, but you will get better.
She also knows what resources you need to get better and where to find them, online and locally. She will walk beside you, step by step at first, for a long while or a short while, whatever you need, and then maybe move back a few steps and watch you step out on your own. She will be right behind you if you need support. Some days you will need 150% support, some days maybe 75%, and other days 20%. There is no magic formula for getting out of the hole of Postpartum Depression. You have to figure out what supports to put in place, so that you can take care of your family and also prioritize YOU at the same time. Some days, it might have to all be about you. And, that’s okay!
Peer support comes in many forms. Support group meetings, email support, phone call support, texting support. Sometimes waiting til next Tuesday to tell your therapist about how your anxiety is super high and you don’t know what to do about it, is not the best solution. Instead, in that moment, you can reach out and text your peer support person and be given some suggestions on how to lower your anxiety or a recommendation on a local yoga class that night or find hope in the story of her anxiety and how she dealt with it while also having two little kids at home. This is just one example of how peer support is different. There is a connection that takes place in a peer support relationship that cannot be contrived in a therapeutic relationship. With this said, it is important to remember that there are still boundaries to be aware of in a peer support relationship. A peer support person is not going to tell you what to do. A peer support person is not going to answer your text at 3 in the morning. Your peer support person is going to help you find the right resources, help you set up the support services you need, give you hope that you will get better, encourage you to keep moving forward and empower you to be your own advocate. This is YOUR journey. Your peer support person just has the honor of walking alongside you on your journey to wellness. It is truly an honor.
If you or someone you know is suffering from Postpartum Depression or any Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder, please reach out today. If you or someone you know is having a hard time adjusting to motherhood or feels at a loss of what to do and thinks, “is this the Baby Blues or is this Postpartum Depression?”, please reach out today. If you are having scary thoughts and you don’t know who to tell, please reach out today.
My name is Celeste and I had Severe Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. I have experienced almost everything I wrote about today and much, much more. Whatever you are dealing with today, I will not be shocked. I will not judge you. You are not Postpartum Depression. You are not Postpartum OCD. You are a mother who is having a hard time and you will get better.
You can call me at 219.742.4149. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can go to my website www.childbirthmelodies.com and send me a message. I will talk with you and we can decide what kind of services you need.
You are not alone on this journey.