In my work as a program therapist in the Postpartum Depression program at HAS, and also in my former life as a Labor Support and Postpartum Doula, I have often heard mothers (with and without PPMD) say that the first weeks of life with a new baby are very much like having your entire world turned on its head.
In particular, new mothers feel as though their entire identity has changed. Every woman struggles–to some extent–with the process of redefining themselves after becoming “someone’s mommy.” Because, before becoming someone’s mommy, maybe you had a full-time job you loved. Maybe you worked at Target, and maybe you were a lawyer. Maybe you attended a book club. Maybe you spent a lot of time with your family. Maybe you were someone who liked to bake all Sunday. Or maybe you were a singer, an artist, or a basketball player. But you were probably someone who went places. And most importantly, you had a life that was characterized by choices that were entirely yours.
Now, you smell like sour milk. You haven’t showered in days. You haven’t checked your email. You miss work, and you miss your friends. Your life doesn’t resemble the life you had last month, or last year. There are almost no traces of the person you were, and you fear that you’ll never be able to go back to “the way things were.”
The notion that you have changed forever is haunting to some women. And perhaps this contributes to Perinatal Mood and Anxiety disorders for some women. I’ll let you in on a little secret—many new mothers have intermittent fears that having a child may have been a mistake. If you feel that way, you have to know that there is nothing wrong with feeling that way, and you are certainly not alone. And this doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother, and it doesn’t mean you don’t love your child. It just means that your whole life has changed dramatically, and (naturally!) you’re having an emotional reaction!
If you’re feeling depressed about the changes in your lifestyle, your role, and your identity, please know that while your life has indeed been significantly changed by having a child, you WILL learn to integrate your former self into the equation. You will find a balance that feels manageable and healthy for you. Don’t lose hope, and know that you’re not alone, and as always, be sure to seek help if you’re worried about how you feel. Call the HAS PPD program at 773-292-4242 for more information.
For more information on PPMD and your new identity, take a look at all of the wonderful blogs at www.postpartumprogress.org
Stay tuned for Part Two of this blog next week!
By Melina Mejia Stock