Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. She is anticipating a child, a new life to care for and love. She is getting a lot of attention; people ask daily how she is feeling, compliment her on her glowing complexion, and she receives gifts for new baby and even for herself.
Let’s not mention the hormones involved in pregnancy. All the extra progesterone, which does cause some unpleasant symptoms, could also put a lady in a pretty good mood.
After birth, that process in which we all experience the miracle (and pain) of giving life, these things slip away. People now gush over the baby, rightfully so, and a woman’s complexion doesn’t glow so well on 3 broken up hours of sleep a night. In addition, the change in hormone levels can really leave a lady feeling low.
This hormonal change, combined with the pressures of taking care of a new life, can lead to post partum depression in some women. I know this because I suffered from mild to moderate PPD after the birth of my second child. Being born in November, my second child didn’t go on as many outdoor walks as her sister (born in July) did in her first few months. I had a 17 month old at home when I brought my second daughter home from the hospital, and it was challenging caring for the two of them. Piled on to this was my husband’s odd work schedule. He worked 12 hour days, and he really wasn’t home much to help me transition to caring for two children. With all of this stress in addition to the sleep deprivation and hormonal fluctuations, I found myself not feeling quite like…myself.
I didn’t always feel sad, but I often felt lonely or isolated. Without much adult interaction during the day, I found myself getting disappointed with my time with the girls, rather than being blessed by it. I participated in a MOPS group, which helped some, but I was too shy and somewhat unaware of my mental state to truly reach out for help. Instead, I continued to wallow in my own state of self-pity and depression.
It wasn’t until my youngest was almost 18 months old that I weaned her from breastfeeding, and she slept through the night. Finally.
I then, with ample sleep, began to see some relief from my PPD symptoms, a full year and a half after my daughter was born.
I look back at that season of my life with some regret and lots of sadness. I don’t feel like I enjoyed my second daughter’s infanthood, nor my oldest daughter’s toddlerhood, because of what I was experiencing. I felt alone and overwhelmed, yet bored and understimulated. I was home with a toddler and an infant, and I found little satisfaction in my day to day work. I felt no sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, and I could see no real fruits of my labor.
As I wade through this post partum period with my third newborn, I can be so much more honest with myself about how I am feeling. Having lived through PPD, I am better able to recognize it’s ugly horns as they rise up. Better yet, I can understand how to prevent and/or lessen any issues that may arise. For example, it took me months before I could verbalize to my husband how I was feeling and what he could do to help after I had our second child. This time around, baby #3 hadn’t been born, and I was already able to ask for some help that I knew I would need (like walking the dog!).
I also find I am more able to enjoy the newborn stage with my third baby because I have seen how quickly they truly grow up. Our oldest child will be 5 years old this summer, and seeing our son is almost like seeing her as a newborn again. It is hard for me to believe it has been almost 5 years since I changed her first diaper, gave her her first bath, nursed her in the middle of the night, and kissed her sweet, soft, newborn cheeks. She is becoming more and more of a young lady as of late, absolutely blossoming in her role as the oldest child. It has all happened so fast. Recognizing that makes me want to enjoy our little boy’s infanthood as much as I can.
Finally, and I certainly don’t want to understate this one bit, I have a lot more help now than I did when we had our second child. Living with my husband’s grandparents certainly has its perks. Although I try to do my fair share of household duties, I am definitely not doing as much housework as I had been doing when we lived in our own home. Cooking and kitchen duties are split up, so I am not cooking 3 meals a day, 7 days a week and cleaning up from all of that. I also have the luxury of asking for help with the girls when I need it, having my husband’s grandmother play with them or read to them when I am busy with the baby or if I want to go for a walk to get some fresh air. I am spoiled to be able to step away and leave the house with only one child (or none at all) if I need to get something from the store. I am able to carve pockets of time to care for myself that I was not able to after the birth of our second child.
I still feel the let down of pregnancy hormones, and I still struggle with the stress of learning to care for 3 children now. I do find, though, that my coping skills have improved, having help has greatly improved my ability to keep my head in the game, so to speak, and taking time to care for myself has allowed me to keep up my spirits.
Now if I could only carve out time for a daily shower we would be back in business.