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Post Partum Depression: When is it Just the 'Baby Blues'?

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As I anxiously awaited the birth of my child, I consulted many different sources of information to find out about caring for a newborn, breastfeeding and preparing for birth. But I remember reading little about the sadness that a mother can experience once her child arrives.

When I was only days away from the due date of my third son, I was nervous, anxious, and really excited to be going to the hospital where he would be born. You would have thought that I was going on a spa vacation. Sure, I knew that I would be recovering physically but with two young boys at home, I couldn’t wait to have nothing to do but hold, feed and care for our newest addition. I wasn’t going to have to share the remote and would probably watch more TNT movies than I could ever want.

My labor went great and I was able to get the much needed rest that my body required. But as the days went by, my anxiety grew because I knew the time was coming that I would have to go home. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go home. Of course, I missed my husband and other two sons. I missed the warm smell of my kitchen and the soft comfort of lying in my own bed. But I had a sadness inside. It felt like the vacation that you prepare and anticipate for then once it is over, you feel like all the joy is behind you.

I had built up the occasion of my son’s birth so high that I knew once I went home, the climax would be over. It was back to work but with even more responsibilities and pressures. My depression grew worse as my husband’s week off from work came to an end. As he kissed me goodbye and walked cheerfully out the door, I trailed behind him, walking out into the front yard, barefoot but still in my robe and with my newborn in my arms. My eyes that were dry from the lack of sleep were burning in the bright sunlight. Strands of my hair were loose around my face with an elastic band holding only a section of my hair still in the ponytail. I smiled with a brave face and watched him drive down on the street until I could no longer see our car.

My body was trying to heal and I was exhausted. I was breastfeeding non-stop and would hold out until no one else was around so I could bury my face in my hands and cry. And the very worst part? I had no idea why I felt so sad. I had a new baby. I had a loving and supportive husband. I had a happy life with three beautiful kids. Why did I want to sleep all the time and why couldn’t I stop crying?

It took about two weeks for this feeling to lift and soon it blended into the past much like the pain of childbirth. It wasn’t until I was removed from those feelings that I could recognize that it probably had something to do with becoming a new mom. Looking back, I remember also feeling the same way when my second son was born.

This is something that I would like all pregnant women to know about. You may also experience these “baby blues” after having your child. As some women make experience more serious cases of postpartum depression. Surround yourself with supportive people and express your feelings. Even if you don’t understand them. Talking to others can help. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of the people you love.

Edited by Alison Stanton

Add a Comment1 Comments

I imagine a large number of women have this experience.

The proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" comes to mind. I used to think of that in terms of the well-being of the child, but when I read this article it makes me wonder if that proverb is also just as much about the mother. Raising even one child is a huge amount of work...and I do not believe that it is meant to happen in the context in which most of us live in our hyper-individualist society.

If you look at how people live in older, more stable, traditional cultures, you see people living with extended family and in closer proximity to other families. This type of extra support almost seems necessary...what you talk about, the need to allow your body to heal, and also the need for emotional support during this incredible transition into totally unfamiliar territory, seems completely natural.

Reading this as a man is really important because it makes me realize all the challenges facing new mothers...hopefully I can be supportive of people in my life who face these challenges.

May 23, 2011 - 4:23pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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