As mentioned last week, having a baby is stressful. The bundle of joy is not always joyful and this can sometimes lead to undesirable feelings, leaving new mothers confused and in an awkward place to be. A place where you feel your partner won’t understand, a place where your family will think you’re ungrateful and a place where the community will call you possessed – what do you do?
First, you figure it out. Believe it or not, you can actually prepare yourself for these feelings (it’s a shame we can’t do that all the time!).
New mothers, brace your selves. Brace yourselves to believe… that you are lot like other new mothers. Experiencing feelings of mild depression and anxiety, with added feelings of guilt and shame is so common, that this period of time actually has its own name. The baby blues! Unfortunately, it’s not as cute as it sounds. In reality, it’s a truly testing and difficult time for our nurturers of the future generation. Most women will feel a certain way immediately after giving birth due to the sudden change in hormones and a few of the symptoms include: being tearful, feeling overwhelmed, and emotionally fragile – but fear not! This is usually at its peak around week one and slowly starts to linger off at the end of week two postpartum – usually.
However, Post Natal Depression is much more serious and something that shouldn’t be ignored and definitely something not to be “patient” with to see if it will go away. Sometimes, it can be difficult to separate the two as the baby blues and PND may appear similar, but the usual distinction is that PND lasts for much longer and the feelings are much more severe. For example, mood swings can include suicidal thoughts, anxiety can turn into wanting to self-harm, and sleep deprivation can turn into insomnia. Not to mention the heart breaking feeling of not being able to look after the newborn appropriately, this is often accompanied with not wanting to look after them at all. You can also start to isolate yourself mentally and physically away from people that care about you, especially your partner creating a tense distance.
Hope is not lost. New mothers, and fathers, expecting mothers and fathers, and everyone in general (we hope you all have children one day) – please take note! Hope is not lost.
There are ways to get help, and as terrifying as the experience may feel – you will get through this.
- Your first and most important point of call would be your GP, or the nearest health care visit you have, and don’t let anyone make you think that you are not a priority.
- Speak to your partner or your closest loved one. There is no shame in leaning on others for support, you are not incapable – you just need help. Keeping your feelings to yourself is the worst possible thing you can do right now.
- Care. Of. Yourself. This is fundamental for you and your baby. Whether that’s eating good food, getting enough down time, getting fresh air, and as much as the aunties will hate to admit this – you need some time away from your baby, even if that is half an hour.
- Communicate and make time for people that matter to you, and those you matter to.
- Finding a therapist may be helpful. There is no better way than to relieve yourself of the guilt you’re feeling to a stranger, who will help you analyse and reprocess your feelings.
This bit is for our bearded baba’s!
- Encourage your partner to talk about her feelings, she probably feels that you won’t understand – which is true, you won’t, but you can remind her that you will try to feel her pain. Remind her that you may not be able to fix her problems, but you won’t judge her and you are there for her to lean on.
- Let your partner have some down time, your dinner can wait. Offer to change nappies, do the feeds and when you are both alone, open up the floor for communication or cuddles. Make her feel important and acknowledge her vulnerability.
- PND can take a long time to recover from, especially if it involves psychosis (we’ll be going into that next week), so you can’t push her on the intimate side of things. She may appear fine and well, but it’s best not to assume. She may still be in pain, or be insecure about her bodily changes, so to avoid an argument, it’s best to communicate (we can’t stress communication enough).
- Make time for exercise and fresh air. Depression can put these things on hold, and sometimes the simplest of tasks can seem overwhelming, so assist her and be the first one to offer. If there is an issue with bonding between mama and baby, you can lead the way without being patronising.
- Be patient and remind her to be patient.
It’s not easy, and perhaps this is why Allah said that children are a test as well as the coolness to our eyes.
May Allah make it easy for our struggling new mothers, and parents and allow them to raise righteous offspring that serve the ummah in many ways, Ameen!
If you know a parent that needs to hear “you got this!” then share this post with them or tag them on social media.