|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.