My Postpartum History
I’ve had a lot of family and friends checking in on me since sweet Zelie was born. It’s been so nice, and it’s something I try my best to do when my friends and family have a baby as well.
This is because of my history with postpartum depression and anxiety, which I first identified after August (our second) was born, and when things were pretty severe. I’ve chronicled a bit of my postpartum experiences here.
So now, with our 4th baby clocking in at 5.5 months old, I think I can say with confidence that this has been my best posptartum ever.
Hooray!!! And, indeed, I think this is something worth celebrating. But the reason it has been my best postpartum isn’t because I haven’t dealt with any issues, but it’s because I feel like I knew what supports I would need and prioritized putting things into place ahead of time so I had the best chance possible of being a happy momma with my new baby.
I very much believe that mental health is really important for moms to consider and to talk about when preparing for and living in the postpartum days.
However, I would never presume that what has worked for me will work for all moms, or even another mom. What I do hope is to share one example of one mother’s journey towards taking care of her mental health during her postpartum period. And in this way, to provide an encouraging example of someone who lived through postpartum depression and anxiety, who came out the other side, and who was able to successfully manage postpartum with future children.
This pregnancy was definitely my hardest both physically and mentally. I had nausea for the entire 9 months, to the point that I took medication for it each time I ate a meal. Feeling so much discomfort inside my own body, and for so long, definitely started to take its toll. I was feeling pretty sad, and found myself just going away to break down and cry sometimes. So, during my third trimester, I communicated with my midwife team, and we started me on a low dose of an antidepressant (sertraline). And…it helped me get through the rest of the pregnancy in a healthier mental state.
Once Zelie was born, we planned on me increasing my dose of sertraline from 25 mgs to 50 mgs. This is due to my strong history of postpartum anxiety and the fact that I decided I’d just rather be happy and able to enjoy my time with my baby instead of waiting to spiral into anxiety and only then getting help. I’m quite sure my postpartum struggles have a large chemical/hormonal component, and I can confidently say that with sertraline’s help, I enjoyed the newborn weeks with Zelie. It is a lovely, exhausting blur, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed or unable to function. I usually stay on an antidepressant postpartum for about 6 months, and then taper off.
I have had some anxiety this time around even with our good preparations. The biggest spike was when I returned to my day job half time, and transitioned to the change in pace and leaving Zelie with a babysitter. During those times I worked really hard to communicate with JP what I was feeling, and also to keep in mind that this spike was likely due to the transition, and would not last forever. And we did fall into a new rhythm after a few weeks.
This required some advance budgeting on our part, but we again utilized a postpartum doula to help with the first weeks after JP went back to work. Ashleigh at Guiding Mothers, who we also had help us after Mary was born, joined us again. And, like the Mary Poppins she is, she helped care for Zelie so I could do some self-care. She also cooked bulk freezer meals for us, helped with laundry and tidying up, joined me on errands, and provided much needed emotional support. It was so nice to know I had that break and that help coming as we transitioned to having 4 children.
Doing a 20 minute work-out about every other day helps boost my mood, so making that a priority and having JP or the other kids help with the baby while I do it also is something very important that I prioritize to take care of myself.
Whether it’s a trip to Starbucks to work on writing, reading a book, taking a bath, etc. When I need a break, I let my family know and I take a break. I don’t feel guilty about it, because a mom who has time to recharge her batteries is a better mom for her kids, at least in my case. Sometimes it’s funny how even a short period of time of knowing I’m going to be uninterrupted and do something I specifically enjoy, can have a long lasting impact.
I know this is an area that divides many a parent and expert alike. However, I’ve found that I am in a better mood when I sleep better, and sleeping better, for me, means sleeping next to my child so I can easily nurse her in the night and so we both drift back off to sleep. For Zelie’s first 5 months, we’ve slept on a firm mattress on the floor in our bedroom, without any heavy blankets. I sleep in what’s known as the “C” position with her, which both protects her and makes nursing easy. I’m cozy, she’s cozy, and we both wake up less and to a lesser extent than we did when I slept separately with Felicity. I’ve co-slept to some degree with my youngest three children. Others I know have used co-sleepers next to the bed, or the pack-n-play with a bassinet attachment. We’ve used some of these too as we transition the babies to sleeping alone over time, but co-sleeping for the first few months has helped me.
Overall, I’m very thankful for the relatively few bumps we’ve had along this postpartum journey. I’m thankful for the friends and family who have been checking in, and for our family’s commitment to being proactive so I could really be present as we welcomed Zelie into our family.