Postpartum Emotions, What’s Normal?

Hi Mommas!

You had a baby recently. Congratulations and great work. What better time to bask in the undeniably powerful, female ultimate warrior that is you -ness? Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works for us. Our bodies and minds don’t always align in the ways we wish they would and for so many different reasons, we feel the blues.

Having the “baby blues” is natural, and it is different than a more serious condition, postpartum depression/anxiety, but sometimes it’s hard to recognize the difference within ourselves. The American Journal of Clinical Medicine states that “The key difference between the blues and PPD is the short time frame and the fact that the blues do not interact with maternal role functioning, making the blues a self-limiting disorder that does not demand treatment.”

What is normal?

Only you know your mind well enough to decide what is considered normal. Only you know what thoughts just aren’t like you to have. The National Library of Medicine mentions: “The baby blues affect 75% of new mothers, onset within 1–2 days and resolve by 10 days post-delivery.” If you experience moderate sad and depressed feelings for more than two weeks after baby, even if you aren’t sure if it’s linked to something more serious like postpartum depression, talk to a doctor, it will feel good to know what’s happening with your body.

Here are a few normal and healthy feelings to have just after you give birth:

Sadness

I cried over everything right after my little one was born. Every single thing. I just couldn’t deal. It would be silly for me to even try to list the things that would make me cry because it really was everything. Breastfeeding didn’t really help that phenomenon either. Whenever my baby was latched on I made sure I had tissues. In fact, I had tiny packs of tissues tucked away in most of my bathrobes, drawers, purses, everywhere. I felt like I’d be that emotional forever, and I wasn’t. ITS OKAY. You can cry and cry and cry and then one day it will be over, and you won’t feel this crazy range of emotion anymore. My advice? It’s your baby and you should cry if you want to…cry if you want to…etc.

Anger

Okay so this is a tough one because not all women experience it the same way. It depends on your personality. Since every human has a different relationship with their emotions all I can offer is my personal story. Being a new parent made me feel alone. Very alone. Regardless of the amount of support I had from my husband, family and friends this child’s survival was on me, 100 percent. The loneliest feelings would come at night, while waking for the third, fourth, fifth time with your fussing baby, being unsure of exactly what he needs, my boob is out, I have an itch on my ankle that I can’t scratch, and I don’t want to wake my partner because what’s worse than one sleepless parent? Yep. Two. This brought forth a lot of anger for me. I was angry at the world. Angry that I didn’t know what to do yet, angry that I was awake every hour, that at any given minute of the day one of my breasts was exposed, that people always wanted to visit, etc. I kept telling myself the story that I was the only person in the entire world going through this and if I’m not, then it’s a lot harder for me than it is for them. It is so incredibly easy to feel that way! In my experience and opinion, anger isn’t a feeling, it’s the result of several feelings in your subconscious that, whether they have come to the surface yet or not, express themselves as anger and rage. These feelings may be resentment, feeling overwhelmed, isolation or a vast range of others. I must remind you that if your anger is ever directed towards your baby or another living thing and you feel like it cannot be controlled you need to see a doctor. Don’t wait. Speak up.

Fear/Anxiety

Let’s start with this. You are not the first mother in the world to experience anxiety after having a baby. In fact, postpartum anxiety and fear is much more common than postpartum depression. In a study of 1,024 women for three months after they gave birth, researchers at the University of Heidelberg in Germany found that more than 11 percent of the subjects developed postpartum anxiety disorders, while around 6 percent fell victim to postpartum depressive disorders.

Fear and anxiety occur in the body in order to react when a threat is present. Most commonly, women who have experienced heightened anxiety in their past or have a family history of heightened anxiety are more likely to experience it postpartum.

Joy

Finally! I bet you thought I was skipping out on the good emotions huh? Joy was the primary feeling that drove me through the tunnel. It was the car that just kept me trucking to the other side. I have a large capacity for emotion and regardless of any anger, sadness, or frustration I may be feeling, I still carry the same amount of love in my heart. No matter what feelings of doubt I may be feeling, I still carry my optimistic card in my back pocket. There is no one or the other in the big scheme of things. There is space for all emotions. That is why joy was able to do what it did for me. Yes, I was angry at times, but I still felt the same way every single time I went into my baby’s room first thing in the morning, and still do. Pure joy. It’s the juicy nectar of life that makes it all okay. Make space for joy. Don’t ever feel guilty for feeling it, and never let anyone take it from you.

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What isn’t normal?

Often, it’s easy to make a decision in your head that you’re supposed to feel any certain way after the baby. You always hear about the baby blues, so it’s bound to happen in some way shape or form, right?  You may feel that you’re bound to feel depressed, obsessed with negative thoughts, or panicked but you aren’t. If you are experiencing the following, get in to see a doctor or specialist right away. (Support info at the bottom of the page)

Your baby blues don’t go away.

New mamas should be feeling an incline in mood and emotional health after two weeks postpartum. If you’re experience a longer period of the baby blues or your blues are changing into something more serious, talk to a doctor right away.

You’re having thoughts that frighten you.

Thoughts or feelings that interfere with your ability to care for your baby? These types of thoughts are negative, repetitive and they come out of nowhere. They are the thoughts that make you say “whoa, what was that?”

Sadness and guilt consume your thoughts.

If you can’t focus on anything other than negativity, guilt, blame or obsessive thoughts this is a warning sign.

You have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

If there is ever a time to be honest with yourself it is now, and the best thing you can do for yourself or your family if you are having harmful and dangerous thoughts is to see a doctor or specialist. PPD can be treated and it doesn’t always involve medication. Speak to someone, you are not alone. Most often this is chemical. Postpartum depression is treatable, and it DOES NOT make you less of a mother. Seeking the best solution for your family is what any good mama would do, do not be afraid.

To talk to someone who understands, call:

  • Postpartum Health Alliance
    (If you need immediate support please call the San Diego Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240. The toll-free call is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    Talk to mothers who have recovered from PPD.
  • Postpartum Support International
    (800) 944-4PPD or (800) 944-4773

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