THE BABY BLUES
It goes without saying, if you are a human being capable of experiencing emotion, you may feel a range of emotion in the weeks and months following the birth of your baby. People will try to tell you it is because your hormones are all over the place, and while this is true, I feel this explanation takes away from the fact that you are recovering from a very significant experience with plenty of valid reasons for feeling a smidge emotional. It feels a lot like when someone legitimately does something to upset you and then accuses you of PMS-ing when you react, as though you’re just being over-emotional for no good reason. It’s infuriating. You have a right to feel how you feel. No one has the right to diminish your emotional experience.
Your midwife or doctor will screen you for postpartum depression. Know there is no shame in having it. You may require special care and support if this is the case, so make sure to utilize the resources available to you. You may feel overly joyful and elated during this time. The most common scenario, however, is that new mothers are expected to experience what is referred to as “baby blues” – a term used to describe a less severe version of postpartum depression. The baby blues is considered by the medical world as a mysterious affliction with no known cause, although it is usually attributed to the fluctuations in hormones at this time in a new mother’s life.
Excuse me for being the bearer of unpopular opinion, but it seems to me that a new mother has more than just a change in hormones going on at this time. If you are pregnant for the first time and reading this, take a deep breath and brace yourself. What I am about to list off may sound scary. My aim is not to scare anyone, but to validate the full spectrum of the postpartum experience. Keep in your mind that each recovery is individual, that you might experience some of these things but not all, and that it is possible to still have a positive recovery experience despite dealing with some of these things.
You might be experiencing afterpains which can feel, for some, as intense as contractions during labour. You’re probably sore somewhere, or everywhere, because of a physically traumatic event known as birth; your vagina will be sore because you might have pushed a human baby through the birth canal, or your belly will be sore at the site of your C-section incision. You might have had tearing which might have required stitches which can get itchy or infected or make it hurt to pee. You’ll very likely be tired, which would make anybody feel somewhat grumpy or moody or clumsy or generally out of sorts. You’ll be bleeding – sorry if you thought you’d get to enjoy a period-free life for a while, but that will have to wait until after about four weeks of moderate to heavy bleeding. Your breasts might be sore from engorgement or plugged ducts or mastitis. Depending on how breastfeeding goes, your nipples could be terribly sore, chapped or bleeding. Your breasts will leak everywhere – because, as if a heavy-duty menstrual pad isn’t fun enough, you’ll be juggling two more pads in your bra at a time when your bosom needs to be at constant access. Your wrists, arms, neck or shoulders, and everything attached to them, might be strained from figuring out a comfortable and practical posture for breastfeeding. You could have hemorrhoids, incontinence or urinary retention. Your once luscious pregnancy hair might start falling out in clumps. Your oral health could be suffering. You could be worried about your baby – their feeding, their diapers, their skin, their weight gain, their head shape, their temperature, their sleep pattern. You might be stressed or anxious about your body or your relationship or your obligations or other things going on in your life, because – news flash – moms have personal lives too. Did I miss anything? Probably! And did I mention that everything listed above falls into the realm of normal postpartum symptoms? Your midwife or doctor won’t bat an eye if you report any of the above because none of it is considered abnormal.
So, may I just say, when you’re feeling a little upset or a little sad or worried after you’ve had a baby, and someone tells you it’s because you’re hormonal – and I don’t care if it’s your doctor or your mother-in-law or your pizza delivery person – give yourself permission to tell them to ‘zip their lips’ or ‘take a hike’, in whatever way and words you choose.