New motherhood. The reflexive smiles, the sleepy fat cheeks. The fresh smell of baby and the crushing black weight of postpartum depression and anxiety. So far, 3 times out of 3, that’s been our fourth trimester experience.
And it turns out my experience is far from unique.
Who knows what the reason, whether it be the far-flung dispersement of the extended family structure, the breakdown of neighborhoods and physical community, or the manic pace of life a newly-minted mom is expected to resume the day after delivery, but more and more American moms (and moms from all over, but particularly in Western countries) are suffering increasing rates of postpartum depression and anxiety.
And that sucks.
I have always written here about PPD with a lot of transparency in the hopes that if someone else stumbled across a post of mine they might catch a glimpse of empathy or solidarity, or at the very least, feel less ashamed or confused about what was happening to them. Because the only thing worse than suffering from depression is believing that you’re crazy, alone, and somehow fatally flawed for succumbing to something as frequently stigmatized as mental illness.
While we’re doing everything in our power to prepare for a much more peaceful 4th trimester the fourth time around, I’m still mentally and spiritually bracing myself for the possibility of another tangle with it.
In our house, that looks like having a good antidepressant plan in place with my physician (Celexa is my favorite for after baby. Zoloft and, to a lesser degree, Prozac, work decently well for me during pregnancy), a trusted counselor on tap for support, a ready supply of injectable progesterone and syringes on hand (I usually need anywhere from 4-8 shots over the course of the first 6 weeks after delivery) and doing a lot of prayer and mental prep work for life in the wake of baby. And then a handful of more practical things, too, like a freezer full of meals, a 3-month moratorium on any new speaking/writing/social commitments, and the permission to be very, very lax in what I consider a “successful” day, at least from baby’s birth date until the end of this calendar year. I’m talking bare bones here, like even barer bones than getting a shower in. Putting on a clean shirt, perhaps. Answering a handful of text messages. Microwaving oatmeal for breakfast. Stuff like that.
I’ve found it helpful to look back over my own personal reflections on PPD (here and here) so I can refresh my memory of what it looks and acts like, at least historically, for me.
It’s also a great reminder of how much better life is now, 17.5 months postpartum (and 7.5 months pregnant) than it was when each of these darlings were tiny. Perspective is golden.
I’m so grateful that Katherine took the initiative to organize this blog hop, particularly with May being maternal mental health month (and the month of our Lady, to boot.) I hope that our words bring you comfort, clarity, and the support that every new mom deserves to have.