Postpartum depression is rarely something you plan for, because who the hell plans on becoming the party pooper at their own baby birthing party? Keep the following in mind when you’re bawling your eyes out for the 17th time in a day and want to grab the passport and run to Fiji to start a new life.
1. You Are NOT Alone: Postpartum depression is a diagnosis that many women avoid confronting because of the stigmatization and judgment that accompany it. As if women needed additional judgement and criticism (what do you mean you haven’t dropped the baby weight?!). Current research suggests that approximately 10%-15% of postpartum women suffer from postpartum depression or a similar diagnosis.
2. Get Professional Help: You just had a baby for chrissakes; the last thing you want is some shrink mind-fucking you. I get it, but shrinks can be OK. Find one that you trust and can confide in, since you will be seeing this personal regularly. Your mother/aunt/bestie/boss /politician/Starbucks barista do not equate to professional help.
3. Don’t Fear Your Baby: Spend as much time with your new baby as you can, even if you aren’t really feeling it. The more time you spend with baby, the better baby will feel with you, and ultimately, the better you will feel with baby. Get to know each other. It’s like you’re back in elementary school and you’re digging this chick’s Little Mermaid lunch box and think, “this girl gets me, we should be friends.” See, you and baby have your uterus in common, so you’re off to a great start.
4. Avoid Triggers (News, Facebook, Mommy Dearest, Etc): If you know something triggers your symptoms, avoid it like another unwanted visit from your in-laws. Recognize and identify what sets you off and write it down so you can actively avoid it. Share this list with your partner so they can keep you honest.
5. Recruit a Good Babysitter: Give yourself a break, and a Kit Kat bar if you have one handy. Having alone time was one of the most beneficial pieces to my recovery. Knowing that my baby was safe and well taken care of gave me guilt-free permission to live like my pre-baby self. Take the time away to do something you used to do before baby. Read, ride a bike, catch up with the Kardashians, get a makeover … just remember you need to return and retrieve baby.
6. Find Your Smile: I get that this sounds like some hippie bullshit, but it’s for real. Be cognizant when you smile. Seeing my baby smile generated a moment of happiness that I hadn’t felt since holding her in my arms for the first time. Googling “puppies playing with tiger cubs” also yields pretty adorable results.
7. Engage in Human Interactions: LEAVE YO HOUSE GURL! At a minimum, go to the store once a week to be around people. You need a reason to shower and get dressed. Hair and makeup are optional but score you bonus points. I went to Starbucks at least four times a week and ordered the cheapest thing on the menu as a reward for getting up, showered, dressed, and readying the baby to leave the house.
8. Medicate Me Happy: If your shrink has ordered you medication, don’t be afraid to take it. Sometimes medication can take some time to take effect, so give that shit some time to work. There are lots of mommies out there that are anti-medication (myself included), but those little pills of happy really work. The first time I took my anxiety medication, I was like “holy shit I feel like my old self again.” Bless pharmacists.
9. Go To Group Therapy: Group isn’t for everyone, but it can be therapeutic to share and listen to others who have been diagnosed with postpartum depression. Plus you might be the inspiration that someone else is looking for to aid in their recovery. Kumbaya honey!
10. Fuck Haters: Fuck all the haters out there who don’t believe in postpartum depression. That shit is real. If anyone tells you that “you’re fine,” “you’re exaggerating,” or “you’re just being dramatic,” tell them to FUCK OFF. Seriously. Maybe you’ll find your smile in the process.