Recently I made a blurb book out of my instagram feed of Z’s first year (turned out beautifully, btw).
Since I had my phone with me at all times back then, those little square photos are so intimate, they perfectly capture so much of that time–the feeding, the cuddles, the unbelievable littleness and newness of it all.
They also make me a bit sick to my stomach. Which got me thinking about postpartum despression…
(Giant caveat: Of course I’m not a doctor, I’m not a healthcare professional of any kind…so basically, I know nothing. And I absolutely understand that postpartum depression is a real chemical thing that happens to many women, this is not about that and I am not passing judgment on anyone’s situation. However…)
How much of what we call postpartum depression is just being in a shitty situation with no help?
I hear over and over women describing how they are alone all day with their infant (or an infant and another child! the mind reels!**)…up multiple times at night nursing, or alone on the weekends with very little help…
And for some reason (!) this gets them down. And they’re wondering if maybe they have postpartum depression because they just seem to really hate life lately.
**and you mamas of multiples? I don’t EVEN. Wow.
When I was feeding my baby through a tube multiple times a night for months and months…
When my husband was helping as much as he possibly could while still keeping his job…
I wasn’t depressed–that shit was depressing.
I didn’t need a therapist, I needed help. Big-time help.
Not support–not “I hear you, sister” from a fellow mama-of-a-newborn in the trenches. Not “I love you baby, you’re doing great” from a partner heading off to work.
Support is critical, too, of course. But I am talking about honest-to-goodness, “here let me hold that baby while you nap”– H-E-L-P.
And I had no idea how to get it.
We didn’t have family in town, and most of the friends I had were other mamas who were going through the same thing, and we couldn’t help each other because we were all barely breathing on our own.
The quick answer is I could have hired a postpartum doula, or a nanny, or even a teenager mother’s helper…or I could have just asked a friend to come over once a week.
But it was more than the logistics that stopped me from getting help.
I guess it didn’t occur to me that it was okay for me to need so much help. I guess I thought that me and my husband were supposed to be able to handle it on our own. I didn’t want to ask anyone for anything.
I thought that since we decided to have this baby, we should be able to take care of it on our own. I especially thought I needed to have it all together immediately after the baby was born or I would be some kind of wreck of a mother. That other mamas would judge me.
But I am here to tell all you new mamas that the exact opposite is true. When I see mothers with babies under one, I want to cheer for them–you made it out of the house! you’re both dressed! congratulations! put your feet up! do you need a nap????
(I don’t usually, because I don’t want to sound patronizing. But I do it in my head.)
It gets better. Everything is different now. I have a group of mamas who I could call in a second for help. Now that our babies are toddlers, we have an extra hand to help if needed. Of course, now we need it less and less.
Mamas, that first year is going to drag you through the mud and back.
Get help when you need it. Better yet, line up some help ahead of time. More than you think you’ll need. Really. It’s okay.