My entire pregnancy this time around has been a new experience for me. Granted it was my third time being pregnant, but everything about this time around was different (except for the extreme morning sickness throughout the first trimester — that wasn’t new; you can read my full birth story here). I guess I should have expected that my post pregnancy experience would be different as well.
I didn’t notice anything different right away, in fact the only thing that didn’t go exactly as I wanted was that I was planning on exclusively pumping instead of breastfeeding directly (in hopes of having better results and keeping my supply up). Unfortunately I was told that baby would be hungry long before I would be able to pump and I should just feed her. Okay fine. I didn’t have a problem breastfeeding her, I just wanted to make sure that she latched well and that I didn’t end up with problems like I did the first two times (first time was latch issues causing extreme pain, second time I just couldn’t produce enough).
Once I started breastfeeding I realized that I really did want to do that and the bond with my baby was something I didn’t want to miss out on. I also realized how emotional I was becoming (and I still didn’t even realize how extreme it would become). Just the thought of not being able to produce enough milk or not being able to breastfeed would leave me feeling terrible, and bring me to near tears.
Experiencing major mood swings and emotional highs and lows
The first glimpse at how high and low my emotions could become was when I got really upset with my husband for leaving the hospital for a few hours. He wanted to go home and get a few things (fine by me), but also wanted to work for a few hours (not so fine by me). I had thought he would be gone and back long before he actually made it back to the hospital. When he did get back I was tired and cranky after being pretty much confined to my hospital bed (they hadn’t removed my catheter yet and getting up was still pretty difficult with all the wires and tubes that were sticking out of me — plus it was quite painful as I had just had surgery that morning). This made taking care of baby a bit more difficult than if I could just get up and move around easily.
When he did arrive back at the hospital it happened to be right at a time when one of the nurses also came in the room (she was a new nurse to me as the shift had changed). I immediately started crying and yelling about how I needed help and no one was there to help me. I think the nurse thought I was talking to her at first, and I had to apologize and tell her I wasn’t referring to her but my husband instead. She tried to make me feel better though and said I could use my call button any time I needed anything.
This was just the beginning of my emotional roller-coaster. After we left the hospital anything and everything would make me cry. The kitchen was a mess — cry, cry cry. I didn’t have time to get any blog posts done — balling like a baby. Kids didn’t want to stay in bed — cry my eyes out. I even cried in front of the kids (which is okay for them to see mommy this way, and was probably a good experience in emotions for them).
How the ‘Baby Blues’ helped me express my feelings and brought me closer to my family
The one good thing I can say about being so emotional is that it actually HELPED me express my feelings a lot better than I normally would have been able to. I talked to my kids about how I was feeling and why I was upset instead of just losing my temper with them. I have been working really hard not to overreact when something doesn’t go exactly how I want it to, and now that all I could do was cry my only option was to let things go, talk to my kids, and explain how I was feeling. It really helped me experience them in a new way, and let them see me in a new light. Even though my extreme emotions have since dissipated, I’ve been working extra hard to ‘keep the cool’ now that my baby blues are gone.
Another thing that was was positive about this experience was that I explained my emotions to my husband — something I’ve never really been great at. At first, my husband didn’t get it. I think he was really confused as to why I was crying all the time, and he even made the oh-so-insensitive comment to me one time saying, “I get that this is probably just some postpartum thing, but get over it.” Really? Just like that…get over it. I think I probably would have decked him had I not been uber sensitive and chose crying over other ways of expressing my emotions.
Eventually he became much better and handling my outbursts, although it did take a few days. Now when I would start crying, no matter how irrational the reason, he would hug me or kiss me and tell me he loved me. This was actually EXACTLY what I needed from him and it did make me feel better. Normally I’m not a very emotional person and all the hugging and kissing isn’t my thing — but in some way this postpartum sadness allowed me to enjoy receiving the affection from my husband. Plus I think he actually enjoyed being able to take the reigns for a bit since I tend to be a pretty assertive and dominating force in our household.
And just like that it was over
It seems just as quickly as the emotions came they were gone. Almost two weeks to the day of my daughter’s birth I woke up and everything changed. I no longer felt like I needed to cry, in fact I almost felt numb compared to how sensitive my emotions were before. I told my husband that he didn’t have to worry about me crying anymore because I could feel the change. The thing was, I was kind of sad not to be sad. It sounds weird, but when I was super emotional I felt like I was really connected to everyone and I didn’t want to lose that. I don’t know how to explain it (and now that I’m writing this almost a week later the feelings are hard to describe), but I really wanted to feel something more. Once those hormones or whatever caused my emotions had calmed down, I was back to the way things were and I really missed being able to express myself in a different way. I’m sure everyone else was glad to see I was no longer crying at every single thing, but there is something to be said about allowing others to help you and love you.
What are the Baby Blues?
Since I’m sure many women go through or will go through the same thing, I thought it might be helpful to give you a little info on Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression. I did a little research, albeit after the fact, and found that Baby Blues are quite common, but are NOT the same as Postpartum Depression. KidsHealth.org gives the following info:
Up to 80% of women experience something called the baby blues, feelings of sadness and emotional surges that begin in the first days after childbirth. With the baby blues, a woman might feel happy one minute and tearful or overwhelmed the next. She might feel sad, blue, irritable, discouraged, unhappy, tired, or moody. Baby blues usually last only a few days — but can linger as long as a week or two.
Why It Happens
These emotional surges are believed to be a natural effect of the hormone shifts that occur with pregnancy and childbirth. Levels of estrogen and progesterone that increased during pregnancy drop suddenly after delivery, and this can affect mood. These female hormones return to their pre-pregnancy levels within a week or so. As hormone levels normalize, baby blues usually resolve on their own without medical treatment.
What to Do
Getting proper rest, nutrition, and support are quite important — since being exhausted or sleep deprived or feeling stressed can reinforce and fuel feelings of sadness and depression.
To cope with baby blues, new moms should try to accept help in the first days and weeks after labor and delivery. Let family and friends help with errands, food shopping, household chores, or child care. Let someone prepare a meal or watch the baby while you relax with a shower, bath, or a nap.
Get plenty of rest and eat nutritious foods. Talking to people close to you, or to other new mothers, can help you feel supported and remind you that you’re not alone. You don’t have to stifle the tears if you feel the need to cry a bit — but try not to dwell on sad thoughts. Let the baby blues run their course and pass.
When to Call the Doctor
If baby blues linger longer than a week or two, talk to your doctor to discuss whether postpartum depression may be the cause of your emotional lows and if a session with a telehealth psychiatrist could be helpful.
The March of Dimes says the following about Postpartum Depression (which is different and much more serious than Baby Blues):
Postpartum depression is different from the baby blues. It is more intense feelings of sadness that last for a long time after the baby is born. Many women (about 1 in 8) have postpartum depression after having a baby. In fact, it’s the most common problem for new moms. It can happen any time in the first 3 months after having a baby.
You may have postpartum depression if you have five or more of the following signs that last for 2 weeks or longer:
- Having little interest in your usual activities or hobbies
- Feeling tired all the time
- Changes in how much or how little you want to eat
- Gaining or losing weight
- Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Thinking about suicide or death
Mayo Clinic says you should seek medical treatment in the following situations:
If you’re feeling depressed after your baby’s birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. But it’s important to call your doctor if the signs and symptoms of depression have any of these features:
- Don’t fade after two weeks
- Are getting worse
- Make it hard for you to care for your baby
- Make it hard to complete everyday tasks
- Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
If you are experiencing any of these emotional ups and downs after childbirth, be assured you are not alone. Since this was the first time I had ever experienced anything like this it came as a bit of a shock to me, but I’m glad I had a great support system with my family and hope my story helps someone out there who may be experiencing something similar.