That photo above is of me as a brand new mom, with a three week old baby Charlie. I was tired and happy and struggling with breastfeeding and overwhelmed and insecure and scared and so in love. This was before my postpartum depression showed up. Before I experienced intense anxiety. Before I developed Hashimotos (and eventually hypothyroidism). That first six weeks, six months, year of motherhood was HARD. If you have one baby and you are thinking “man, this shit is HARD” you’re right. But you know what makes having one baby seem easy? Having two. And you know what makes having two babies seem easy? Having three. And you know what makes having three seem easy? I think you know…
I often have people comment on a post on Instagram how they see me with three and don’t know how I can handle it because they are struggling with one or two. Well you know what? I felt the same exact way. Charlie was two before I even thought “ok, maybe I can have another.” And I seriously doubted ever feeling capable of feeling normal again after having three kids. But, I do. It took a year, but I got there. I think it took having three kids to show me that I can do it, that I am good at this, and that I need to listen to my gut.
There were days when I didn’t think I was going to make it. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen — I just knew it seemed insurmountable to make it through the day. But slowly, day by day, it got better. If I could go back and tell that new mom a few things this is what I would say:
1. Don’t compare yourself to other mothers, especially not the ones you see on social media. They might be feeling just like you just not showing it.
2. Trust your gut. And when your gut isn’t speaking to you, trust that everything will work out.
3. You can do this. You will do things way harder than this. You are stronger than you think.
4. It is ok to ask for help when you need it. And it is ok to politely decline help and advice when you don’t need it.
5. It is ok to take care of yourself. In fact, you MUST take care of yourself.
6. It is ok if you don’t feel like taking care of anyone but your baby and yourself. You are allowed to say no.
7. It is ok if you don’t feel happy all the time. But it isn’t normal to feel so overwhelmed and down all the time.
8. Be kinder on yourself. It is ok if breastfeeding doesn’t work. You tried your best. It is ok to take medication for your PPD. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. Do what makes you better without shame.
9. Don’t wish the days away — soon, when you’re feeling better, you’ll wish for them back.
10. YOU ARE A WONDERFUL MOTHER.
So, if you are a new mom, or are having a hard time with one kid (or two) just know that you aren’t alone. We all feel that way. Some of us more than others or more often than others. We all feel like having a baby is really super hard sometimes (or all the time). Until we add another kid to the family — then we realize one kid feels like a vacation in comparison. I wish we could find a way to enjoy the vacation while we’re on it 😉
I experienced PPD and anxiety after Charlie was born, a post-weaning depression after Calvin stopped breastfeeding, and PPD/anxiety after Quincy was born and his colic hit a 10. The hormone rollercoaster has been really really hard. It took me a while the first time to address but by the time Charlie was 7 months old I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and started medication to treat it. When that didn’t completely “fix” me, I treated the PPD as well. Through those experiences I have found ways of coping and things that helped me. Sleep and focusing on self-care definitely make a big difference for me. Also recognizing my triggers (especially for anxiety) and either avoiding them or preparing for them also help tremendously. But a few other things that made a big impact for me have been:
Oftentimes we mothers are magnesium deficient and taking a supplement can help with anxiety and depression. I take some of this each night before bed and it helps me sleep better and wake up better able to cope with a hard day. It is such an easy and affordable fix. Ask your doctor first, but I highly recommend Natural Calm. I bought the biggest tub and it has lasted me over a year. You can find it here (this flavor is my favorite but they also have one with added Calcium if you need that as well).
I found talk therapy to be really helpful just to have a place to release. I had a lot of old issues that I had never dealt with (my father dying, for example) so my anxiety stemmed from that but had become really generalized and after I became a mom just became really amplified. And talking to someone with no stake in what I was saying — who wouldn’t have hurt feelings or judge or tell me to “be happy” was so good for me at that time.
Medication (specifically an SSRI)
I was really hesitant to try medication to treat my PPD with Charlie. I don’t know why — I think it made me feel weak to need it. But once I finally started taking it and it kicked in I realized how stupid that thinking was. The medication really helped me. I felt able to cope. My extreme anxiety and fear and shame of feeling that way lessened quite a bit. When I felt my PPD creeping in when Quincy was born, I contacted my OBGYN even before my 6 week postpartum visit. I KNEW what was happening, what would help me, and I asked for it. I wasn’t ashamed about it and that’s why I want to share it with other mothers. I have had a lot of success with Zoloft. I asked both my OB and pediatrician if it is ok to use even though I am nursing and we made the decision that it was better to take the medicine and to feel better than the alternative. And I have never felt better since having kids now that I’m getting 6-7 hours of sleep a night and with the Zoloft. There is no shame in treating PPD or anxiety. It makes you a better mother. Honestly, after a year on Zoloft I feel the best I ever have since becoming a mother as far as my moods and anxiety are concerned. It helps me. I feel like my old self most of the time. I’m coping. I’m happy. I still have hard days. I still get anxious sometimes. There are still tears occasionally. But I feel like a new person. A better person, better partner, and better mother.
Have you experienced PPD or anxiety? Any tips or things to share that helped you? No matter what, just remember it isn’t your fault and you aren’t alone. What advice would you give to your new mom self?
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