“This is Normal” and Other Lies People Say to Women in Postpartum Pits.

After having my first baby my tailbone was thrown completely out of place. I told the nurses in the hospital that I couldn’t move right and that it hurt to move positions between sitting, standing, and laying down. “It’s normal to be in pain after delivery,” they all said. So I endured and adjusted my life to make the fewest adjustments in my posture as possible to cope with the agonizing pain of any movement.

This is true of the emotional pain some of women go through after delivery. We are told things are normal by other women, medical professionals, and social media when, in fact, they are not okay.

  • We must take the responsibility of being honest with ourselves and others about our feelings.
  • Others must take the responsibility of believing and not minimizing.

So what does postpartum depression/anxiety really look like?

Angry rants, crying at everything, feeling on edge, isolation, desperation. You can have all this and more with postpartum anxiety and depression. We’ve talked about what the postpartum pit looked like for me and the baby factors that contributed to having a tough time transitioning. Now let’s talk about how you can detect postpartum anxiety and depression in yourself or someone you love.

*Note: This is not an exhaustive list and if you suspect you have PPA/D talk to a counselor or your doctor today. Like, seriously, stop reading and dial them!

Viv and Charlie meeting for the first time. It took her some time to warm up. Sometimes it takes moms time to warm up to their babies too, but prolonged feelings of disconnect can be a sign of PPD/A

Clinically there are two main factors your health professional will be looking for:

  • How long the symptoms have been there.
  • How disruptive they are to daily life.

In short, postpartum depression and anxiety look like normal depression and anxiety, but the root cause is attributed to the hormonal shifts and general adjustment to motherhood. It is often treated the same way as normal anxiety and depression: with medication and/or therapy.

You can google a list of symptoms for PPD/A HERE / HERE. In general, diagnosable disorders rely on external, observable criteria because… well… science. But I want to talk a little bit more about the internal mindset of someone with PPD/A because some of us may have enough coping skills and community support to not act crazy, when we, in fact, are actually going crazy.

Mind/Body Indicators

Racing Thoughts: This can sound like a few things. It can sound like angry rants over the tiniest thing. It can be constant worry without ceasing. It could be your internal monologue (because we all talk to ourselves) constantly hopping tracks all day in a way that continually takes you out of the present moment.

One racing thought that is the most toxic is a shame tape played on repeat. That you’re a bad mom, other moms don’t feel like this, other mom’s houses don’t look like this, other babies are happier, other moms cook healthier, why can’t I just get it together…. and on and on and on it goes.

Comparison is the thief of joy because it allows shame in the front door to rob us of truth.

Irritability: THIS, my friend, is an often overlooked indicator of internal problems. This is mainly because we all get irritable from time to time. It’s a normal part of being human. However:

  • When it happens throughout your day
  • When the measure of how irritable you are outweighs what was actually irritating

You need to listen to yourself. If you find that this is happening throughout your day or in ways that throw parts of your day/week way off track, then you are outside normal irritability and into a place where you need to look for a deeper cause.

It’s hard to find a picture that captures my internal mindset during Viv’s first year, but I think you can see the difference in my eyes in these Mother’s Day pictures.

Body Indicators: Our bodies will often tell us something is wrong before we can identify it with words or understand it with our minds.

Your body might feel:

  • Constantly keyed up or on edge
  • Tense muscles
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Tight chest
  • Faster heart rate
  • Your stomach might feel like it has butterflies, rocks, or squirmy worms

You may feel the opposite, like you just drag your body around, your muscles have no energy, and you’re tired all the time.

All of this is your body telling you: something isn’t right.

Don’t keep writing it off. Sure, try lifestyle changes first: drop coffee and see if you feel less restless. Start exercising and see if that brings your energy level back to normal. But if lifestyle changes don’t bring you back to equilibrium, then consider that anxiety or depression may be the root cause.

Sure you might be surviving. You can have PPD/A and still be functioning: going to work, taking care of your baby, doing your job at home. However, when you know you are strictly surviving and can’t even see a way into thriving, it’s time to enlist some help! That help could be professional: doctor, counselor, housecleaner, laundry service etc… It could be asking a friend or family member for help. It could mean letting go of your ideal motherhood (that you know was never fully realistic in the first place). But for the love of your baby and family, don’t keep how you’re feelings a secret, and don’t keep going through this alone.

Featured image: Photographed by Makenzie

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