Although my three-day old baby is sweet and I am filled with love for her, I am feeling so sad and helpless today. Is there something wrong with me?
Any time during the first tumultuous year of your baby’s life, you may be overcome with sadness for no reason that you can pinpoint. If it lasts a few days and then lifts on its own then it is likely to be baby blues. If it persists then please read postnatal depression.
Up to 80% of women experience a bout of sadness, irritation or anxiety around the third day after the baby is born. You are experiencing profound changes both in your life and in your body. A huge contributing factor is the hormonal fluctuations that occur as your body firstly adjusts to not being pregnant any longer, and then adjusts to the breastfeeding hormones. Around this same time you are likely to experience the breast engorgement that accompanies the arrival of your milk. The upheaval in your body is huge, and an emotional response is not unexpected.
In addition to the physical changes, the reality of how profoundly your life has changed may be dawning on you. Carrying the baby for 9 months is a little like a honeymoon and bears no relationship to the reality of motherhood. You may be struggling with a wide variety of issues, ranging from the change in your appearance and in your relationship with your husband, to disappointment. Many women embark on the childbirth with unrealistic expectations, not only in their anticipation of the birth event, but also in their hopes for the appearance of the baby and the uncomplicated bonding experience they expect to have. Once you have dealt with those issues, there is a new pile waiting, not least of which are the constant exhaustion you may experience as well as the adjustment to the many demands of motherhood. There is a lot to learn, and even basic issues such as bathing baby can be fraught with complications, especially if you are receiving conflicting advice. And at the same time you are probably trying to master the skills of breastfeeding. All in all it’s not a walk in the park.
During this time of change you must find a way to be kind to yourself. You are not superwoman. But you are a person doing your best in trying times, and deserving of admiration and love, never mind how little you feel you deserve it. Be proud of any small achievements and realise that little by little the whole situation will seem less strange and before long you will be able to look back and realise how far you have come. If you feel sad, that is fine. Be sad. Cry if you want to. It’s normal. Honestly.
But having had your cry, there are things you can do to help yourself out of this situation. Rest is vital. It’s almost impossible to put a situation in perspective when you are exhausted. What this means is that you must accept any help that is offered. You are most likely surrounded by people who understand perfectly what you are going through, and who would love to be of assistance. If you are not in that lucky position, it may be worth finding the money for some help. A weekly house clean can be an enormous help. Someone to care for the baby for an hour between feeds while you get some exercise, or stock up the house so that you don’t have to shop for a while. An evening out with your spouse while the baby is snug at home can do wonders for your mood. Only you will know what the most helpful strategy will be.
In addition small efforts can pay large dividends. Try and take care of your appearance, even though it may not be easy to find the time. Get some exercise, even if it means a stroll with the baby in a pram. Join a group of new mothers so you can listen to them discuss exactly the issues you are grappling with.
If the depression does not lift after a short time, then you may need to seek help. Do not be shy. It is vital for the life of this new family that you get help if it’s required. A very helpful site is www.pndsa.co.za.
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*Important : The information provided is for information purposes only. No medical diagnosis or prescription can be inferred or is implied. Please consult your doctor for medical advice.