Postpartum Emotions: the Emotional Roller Coaster Ride. The truth about emotions postpartum and how to recognize postpartum depression.
I am not an emotional person. Other than the postpartum time in my life, I have no trouble keeping my emotions under control. I am a very even person emotionally.
I think my logical side has a lot to do with it. I am not easily offended. I readily recognize that everyone has a different perspective based on life experience. I believe most people want to be good and aren’t looking to damage other people in any way–I give them the benefit of the doubt. I know that no one can make me mad or upset; only I can allow that to happen. Etc. etc. etc.
When my husband and I were first married, he walked around in a constant state of stress. It turns out he was waiting for me to blow. He is the only boy in his family, with three sisters. He is really, really good at avoiding common things males do to upset females. Not to say his sisters and mom are crazy people who fly off the handle; they are just females. My husband was just waiting for me to get upset over something.
The funny thing is that I am a blunt person. If I am upset about something, you will know it and you will know it in a frank manner. You will hear it from me directly. My husband was waiting around for me to break down about being upset over something, and I wasn’t upset in the least. I tell him his talent for dealing with women is wasted on me 🙂 The poor guy was well equipped, and still had to learn a whole new way of communicating.
I tell that story just to illustrate that I am just an even emotional person. I have never understood how people could get emotional. Of course, life (or as I would call it, God) has a way of helping you understand things. You gain experiences to help you relate, sympathize, and empathize with people.
Growing up, my Mom would often tell me how lucky I was that I was a happy person. I was lucky that I didn’t have to deal with depression. My Mom and sister both have experience with it. I have never understood it, but I have been around it.
Then comes postpartum life. By the time Brayden, our first child, was born, my husband had accepted the fact that if I had a problem with something, I would talk to him about it.
During my postpartum time, however, I morphed. I bottled emotions up. When he did or didn’t do things that I wanted him to, I said nothing and instead just got more and more irritated with him.
It took me some time to realize that I was the one being different. We talked about it all. I don’t know that we ever really recognized that I was different because of hormones. We thought motherhood had affected me, but not necessarily that hormones had anything to do with it. Giving birth had taken a toll on my body. I was healing from that while learning how to be a new mother.
After Kaitlyn was born, I again clammed up. I found the isolation of being housebound difficult. I am a social person and an extrovert. It made me very sad to watch my husband and son leave to go do something. I was happy that Brayden had someone to do things with, but it made me sad to miss out on it. We again talked about things, and everything was good and back to normal when postpartum was over.
After Kaitlyn, I did recognize that these were postpartum emotions. I was stressed out. I had no appetite. I had a panic attack while in labor with her. We had lost a baby boy between Brayden and Kaitlyn, and I lived in constant fear that she was going to die any day.
Before McKenna, our third, was born, my husband and I had it all figured out. We talked about all of our pre-conceived notions. We knew what I needed to be less emotional. My husband is the type of guy who wants to go out and work on stuff after a new baby arrives. He wants to fix up the yard and house to be the best it can for the baby.
He wants to go shopping and run errands because he wants to help out and doesn’t know what else to do. After Brayden was born, I saw this behavior and assumed he hated Brayden and didn’t want to be around us. After Kaitlyn was born, he reacted by starting work on an elaborate playground for the children (which, by the way, is awesome), but I just wanted some company!
So, the third time around, we knew what we needed. We knew how each other reacted and what each other needed. My husband knew I needed him around to talk to. He knew he needed to force me to rest and take it easy. He knew I needed to get out every so often.
Things started off really great. I was taking it slow. My husband stopped all projects and stayed inside helping around the house and just talking to me. It helped that it snowed a lot :). I was calm and completely unemotional. The first two weeks were heaven.
Then work happened. We are thankful my husband has a job and is needed at work, but it was bad timing for an emergency to happen at work. He was needed at work. He had to work longer hours every day.
As Easter weekend approached, he was told he would be working the entire weekend. Not only did we have Easter plans, but Kaitlyn’s birthday celebration and lots of family coming to visit. I was overwhelmed at juggling my three children with little break and preparing the house and food for visitors with the three kids–including a two week old!
My parents were great to help where they could, but my Mom was foaling out her horses (she had 8 babies since McKenna’s birth) and couldn’t get away from her house much. My husband’s schedule continued on with Saturdays and late days. He also was finishing up his semester working on his Master’s Degree, which included group projects, presentations, studying, and tests. All around, it was a busy time. This went on for several weeks.
And my emotions were not so even anymore. What was wrong with me? Why was I so able to cry at the drop of a hat? Things weren’t so bad. McKenna has been such an angel baby (what a blessing!). There was nothing I could ask more of her. Brayden and Kaitlyn were really good. They are good children.
I was just emotional. And there was little I could do to change it. That is what bothered me. And then I had days where I was superwoman, and this was all too easy. What? Did I mention that I am an even, logical person? The logical side of me kept telling myself to get a reality check, but my emotional self (didn’t know she existed) wouldn’t listen.
Emotional Rollercoaster of Postpartum Months
As I mentioned in one of my Newborn Summary posts, I was re-reading Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. At the height of my emotions (week three seemed to be the worst), I happened to be on page 227: The Many Moods of Mum. Hogg discusses the many moods swings of early motherhood. Hogg says that mom will experience many moods, all within one day possibly, definitely one week. Here are some moods she broke down:
- This is Easy: You are calm. You are happy. Things couldn’t be better. Yep, I felt this way often. After all, I am the Babywise Mom. I can handle it.
- Am I Doing This Right?: Anxiety. You worry that you are doing something wrong. The slightest bump in the road sends you into a panic. Yep, I felt this way, too–even in the face of no problems. I had my moments of worry. Though I will say that I had them a lot fewer times this postpartum period than my first two.
- This Is Really Bad: This is your last child, you are sure of it. You can never do this again. Why did you want to have a child in the first place? Things were good! Yep, felt this way too. I never wondered why we had a child in the first place with McKenna, but I did with both Brayden and Kaitlyn. With McKenna, there have been many thoughts that three kids is good. I don’t know how many children we will have for sure and do not believe there is one right number for every family to have. Three might be good. We might have more. We don’t know right now. Logical me tells myself postpartum is not the time to decide. But I do have a good friend (mother of 6) who tells me that she pretends every child is her last during postpartum. It helps her make it through 🙂
- No Problem, I Will Fix It: You are smart. You are capable. You will fix it! I actually don’t think I have felt this, surprisingly enough because I am smart and capable! 😉
- The Book Says: You search books and books looking for answers. You make lists and lists. You refuse anything that could disrupt routine. Yep, I have been there too. This is a fine line. You want to ensure consistency. You need to make some sacrifices for your baby. But you don’t have to shut your life down forever. It is also good to turn to books…just not too many. Every book is going to have different advice. Look until you find what you are looking for. If you look too much, you are going to confuse yourself with the millions of opinions out there. Remember that your schedule is to serve you, you don’t serve your schedule.
As Hogg points out, some sadness is definitely normal. I think that is the message to take home for all new mothers. Expect to be emotional and irrational. We often call this the baby blues. But also be aware of the line between depression and the blues. Be really honest with your doctor about your feelings. He/she can help you know if what you are experiencing is normal or not.
Talk to good friends and family so you can have a gauge if you are having normal blues or something more. I have found when I talk to other women about my feelings, they relate. They remember those feelings. I have a good friend who always tells me she appreciates my honesty. She had her first baby 13 months after Brayden was born. She tells me that my honesty about my feelings and emotions helped her through it. You will be surprised that other people have felt the same way.
Depression and mental health are not something talked about a lot in the US culture. It is getting to be more out in the open, but I think many people are ashamed of it. If you are depressed, you need help. Seek it. It is no different than having high blood pressure. There is no shame in getting the help needed. You aren’t broken in some way. You just need some help.
Always talk to your health professional. Mental illness is not something to trifle with. If you feel like you could be experiencing postpartum depression symptoms, chat with your doctor to see what he/she thinks. You may benefit from some treatment.
If it is typical baby blues, there are things you can do to help. One is knowing yourself. What makes you happy? Is it one on one time with your spouse? Is it words of affirmation? Is it physical affection? Know yourself and be sure those around you know so they can help boost you up when you are down.
Another is to eat well. Also, get as much rest as you can. I hate that suggestion to new moms. Get rest? That is why I say as much as you can. Have a time of day you take a nap each day so you can be as rested as possible. Go to bed early. It is a short time period. You can get back to staying up later soon enough. For now, take care of yourself and let yourself recover.
Also, get out of the house when you can. Grocery shopping can suddenly become a thrill! Go outside. Get some fresh air and sunshine. You need to get in touch with reality. Staying cooped up in your house can start to make you frankly a bit crazy. Getting out every so often can remind you what life is about. What is really important.
On my worst day after McKenna was born, my husband forced me out of the house to go for a walk. That walk did wonders for me! Hogg recommends Mom take long walks.
Do your best to enjoy this period. A good friend of mine says it is too bad that women have to be emotional after having a baby because it makes it harder to just enjoy the moment. A reader of this blog also made this comment. I think by being honest with yourself and those around you, you can be better equipped to enjoy the moment.
I have had my emotions since McKenna’s birth, but I have acknowledged them and have enjoyed her as a newborn far more than I did my older children. Part of it is age and wisdom (yeah, I am only almost four years older…but motherhood adds wisdom to your years quickly!). A lot of it is honesty all around. The more we can all be honest with ourselves, we can be honest with each other, and we can stop being so secretive about the emotions we feel after having a baby.
For me, at 6 weeks postpartum I literally woke up and felt 100% better. The night sweating stopped (how annoying is that!?!?!?!) and my emotions returned to being my emotions. My husband even called me one day to tell me he hadn’t left work on time and led me to believe he would be home about an hour late. As I was talking to him, he walked in the room–30 minutes early!
My husband loves surprises, and while he doesn’t lie, he will say things and do things to trick me and make the surprise that much more surprising. I gave him the look (yes, he gets it too 🙂 ) and told him he was taking a big risk tricking me like that. He smiled and said, “Yeah, but you are okay now.” By that he meant that I was back to myself, and I realized he was right!
At some point, the emotions calm down and you can either get back to normal or get to your new normal. While you are dealing with the emotions, get the support you need and ask those around you to be patient. It isn’t fun, but it is part of the process 🙂