Hmmmm, ” Baby Hues “, what does it mean!? You’ve heard “Baby blues” plenty if you have been around a baby, or a mom, or a pregnant woman for any length of time. It’s all just a fancy way of saying “Postpartum depression”. I’ve found, however, that postpartum emotional imbalances don’t always surface as one shade of blue, but sometimes they come in many different hues! See what I did there? One moment you are gushing over the sweetness of your newborn and the next you are about to blow a gasket because your spouse/partner did not put their plate in the dishwasher. The day can start a nice shade of lavender with your organic steel cut oats , jump to bright pink after your morning workout, get a little mossy green during pre-bedtime meltdowns, and end in some sort of grey-ish blue when you go to bed and realize you have to do it all again tomorrow.
Just this morning I started out in a really strong magenta. Had my gluten free pancakes with fresh berries, turmeric cinnamon almond milk latte, and youngest was down for her first nap. Jane (the toddler) and I were enjoying breakfast while I wrote this post. Then for the 347th time this year, I heard the sounds of an impeding emesis (fancy term all her nurses use for “up chuck”). I maintained said emesis into a small mason jar and only a small amount found its way onto her shirt. I’d say I sustained a nice rose color. Then I remembered that Jane had only recently received her morning medications. Rose turned to moss as I realized I needed to intently watch her , um, emesis, as I poured it down the sink looking for the pink color of her medicine. No pink color to be found. Back to magenta! The point is the hues of postpartum and life in general cannot be isolated to one color. They ebb and change often moment to moment, which is why I believe many new moms struggle with really talking about their ever changing emotions.
My newborn is 3 months old now. My oldest is 2.5 yrs old and special needs. I am a generally happy person who LOVES to laugh, exercise and eat healthy. Pretty low risk for postpartum depression I would say. Not long after my baby was born I started experiencing some severe anxiety. Any one thought or bit of sad news could send me spiraling. I simply chalked it up to caffeine. I had no problem getting out of bed in the morning. I loved my husband and kids (still do), and enjoyed going out and about. Still, something was slightly “off”. In the evenings it was like a freight train full of that little sad character from the Pixar movie with Amy Phoeler in it would hit me. You know, the one who has Phylis’ voice from The Office? She would show up in my brain to a dramatic degree. I would fall asleep telling my husband, sometimes through tears, how I felt “stuck”, “limited”, and wondered if it was all “worth it”. These words did not match my character and I finally realized that while I was not necessarily “blue” 24hrs of the day, I was experience postpartum in a more sneaky way.
In this post I hope to open the can a little further as I know I’m not the only blogger to dive into this topic. Hopefully I can de-mystify, remove shame and send a few lifelines to an otherwise confused and struggling mama.
- Give Yourself a Break!
Before we go any further, if you are struggling with any hue of the blues, give yourself a break! You just created a human! Your body has gone through a 9 month hormonal overhaul, lending out rental space to a brand new life, and in just a short couple of weeks you are evicting them, tearing out the floors (no pun intended), getting new paint on the walls, and going from rental home to new Niemen Marcus. This is a big deal. If you are experiencing change in the way you act, think, behave, it is no wonder why. Give yourself room to allow these changes, cry a little, laugh hysterically, and get mad (try not to take it out on your spouse or retail clerk or helpless baby).
To that end, give yourself a break for experiencing any sort of new life at all. A fish out of water is expected to struggle. A dear friend of mine recently moved back home from out of state. She and her husband had just finished renovating their new house, she had graduated her certification program, they were on their second attempt to conceive via surrogacy and they just got a new dog. When she was feeling confused about experiencing anxiety, feeling like she needs to “toughen up” and “get over it”, I made sure to remind her just how well she was handling an extreme amount of change. While she may not have a baby in her house yet, she was certainly entitled to be experiencing a wide range of emotions. So whether it’s adoption, a move, or a new job, give yourself a break!
2. Give Yourself Credit!
I just want to say, at the chance of losing my credibility as a serious writer, you freaking did it! You made a human. You keep it alive everyday (Along with yourself, your spouse and any animals and plants you may have. ) Since when did preserving lives become NOT a big deal? I used to tell myself in the first week of our youngest Haven’s life, “If all I do today is feed them and keep their butts clean, that is enough”. And you know what, it’s true. And eventually you’ll find yourself making dinner again, going grocery shopping and wanting to clean your house (Not all in the same day of course. I’m not Jessica Alba). Remember, you got up, you made it happen, you cleaned something (even if it was just someone else’s butt), and you are alive to read about it in this post. Bravo! Go relax and make yourself an iced coffee. Which leads me to my next point.
3. Treat Yo Self
“Treat yoself 2011!” – Tom & Donna, Parks and Recreation ?
Years ago I was talking with a friend who also has a child with special needs. We agreed it can be depressing watching your child have an inability to “thrive” by today’s standards. We agreed that we each needed at least one thing a day to look forward to. A “treat yoself” moment. No matter how blue you are feeling, you always have your treat to look forward to. I rarely shop, so retail therapy isn’t really my thing. For me it’s my food and my exercise. This does not mean I binge eat Ho Ho’s and hope to burn it off in the gym. No, I love buying fresh organic produce. Eating clean, healthy and delicious meals. Fueling my body in good ways so I 1. Don’t go hungry 2. Don’t feel guilty 3. Have energy to face any emotional ups and downs. And sometimes a brief at home yoga session or 15 min treadmill run is all you need to bring clarity to your mind. This morning it was my gluten free pancakes and latte. This evening we are going out for a friend’s birthday. Sometimes it’s a play date or time by the pool, or writing. Always find a way to treat yoself!!
3. Tomorrow Is A New Day
While the other tips are more light hearted, I understand that there are many dealing with very real depression that either don’t know how they’re going to make it out of bed in the morning, or too afraid to go to bed at night. This is a real struggle for many and the only real hope I can give you is from the Bible.
Lamentations 3:22-23 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning…
Today may have been hard. You may be unsure of what this evening or tomorrow will bring. But you can be sure that tomorrow is new. There will be mercy to get through your trial that is new. Tomorrow may be similar to today but there will be an element, a lining, or a flair about tomorrow unlike you have ever seen in your other “today’s”. How exciting! So tomorrow is always worth getting up for ❤️
4. Talk About It
Internalizing our emotions may work for a moment, but it is rarely the solution. It was really hard to tell my husband that I thought I may be dealing with depression. Is he going to think I’m a mess? Incapable of taking care of our family? Obviously he thought none of those things. I was surprised when opening up to friends about it just how many of them also dealt with these ever changing range of feelings and thoughts. A whole community of people who are “in this together” does absolutely no good if no one opens up to let the other know that they are “in this together”! I like the way that David says it in Psalms,
Psalm 18:6 In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears.
You never have to wait for your confessions to be pretty to get honest before God, your spouse/partner, or professional help. It says,”In my distress”. Not, “When I finally figured it out”, or, “Only when I felt stable again”. No, “in my distress”.
Let’s open up the conversation and get through all the hues of post baby-ness and life together.