Having a baby is an overwhelming experience; no matter how prepared you feel to welcome this new life, you can’t separate yourself from the feeling of stress and fear. The emotional rollercoaster that new mothers go through after childbirth is quite typical because they undergo many changes. Suddenly, all their lives revolve around the vulnerable baby who depends on them for everything. Lack of sleep, no time for self, new responsibilities, self questionings or blaming... all these are some common things that new mothers, and even new fathers, experience. Most new mothers suffer from mild depression after giving birth, which is not unusual and is known as baby blues. Mood swings, being overly emotional, and fatigue are part of baby blues.
However, this phase of mild depression turns into something serious when the symptoms of baby blues don’t go away and keeps on getting worse. If these feelings don’t phase down even after a few weeks of childbirth, then it means that the new mother is suffering from postpartum depression. When a child is a blessing, then why doesn’t it feel like one? Everyone is happy around me, then why am I not happy? Shouldn’t I be glad to be a mother? Will I be a good mother? Am I good enough for my baby? A mother is supposed to love her child, but why don’t I feel anything for this baby? These are some common questions that haunt new mother’s suffering from postpartum depression. Postpartum depression symptoms might seem similar to baby blues, but it is much more severe and affects not only the mothers but also have a lifelong effect on the bond between a child and a mother. The lack of initial bonding with the baby might put a strain on the mother-and-child relationship in the future.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a severe mental condition that develops after childbearing and sometimes leads to suicidal thoughts - something that shouldn’t be ignored. The hormonal, physical, and emotional changes that are followed by childbirth, on top of them, the stress of taking care of a newborn often pushes new mothers into a phase of depression. Welcoming a new child is one of the most awaited and happy events in any family. So, for a mother, it comes as a surprise when she doesn’t find herself enjoying this new phase of her life as everyone expects her to. Sadness, anxiousness, fear, and even feelings of detachment accompany this joyous time, and she finds it hard to embrace motherhood even though she has been waiting for this moment. The depressed new mother doesn’t exactly understand what she is going through and why she isn’t able to love or even like her newborn. Emotionally, she is unable to create that mother-child bonding with her baby and feels detached from him/her.
How to help new mothers:
Mothers going through postpartum depression feel emotionless, sad, hopeless, guilty, and empty - the inability to communicate their feelings or what they are suffering from also causes friction in their family lives. New mothers face many challenges when they embrace motherhood, they may not tell, but they need help.
Now, the question is how to help these new mothers. The best thing to help these mothers is to let them know that they are not alone. Being a mother is a huge responsibility; these mothers just want the assurance that their family and loved ones support them and they are safe to share their feelings with them. Mothers encountering postpartum depression are already living in self-doubts; they feel they are not good mothers or are less of a mother than other mothers. They need words of encouragement to help them realise they are not bad mothers and that what they are feeling is a medical condition, and these feelings will not last forever.
Social interaction: Positive social interaction is one of the easiest and most effective methods to help new mothers. They often feel lonely, exhausted, and disappointed. Encouraging them to voice their feelings will help them understand what they are going through, which will also lessen the feeling of suffocation slowly brewing inside them. Interacting with their loved ones will give them the emotional outlet to share their mental and emotional condition.
Seek professional help: However, if symptoms of postpartum depression persist, then professional help should be sought. There is nothing wrong with asking for help and getting professional treatment for depressed mothers. An expert therapist can support the mothers in successfully easing into their role of motherhood by helping them with the new adjustments in their life. Seeking professional help should never be frowned upon; new parents should be encouraged to seek all the support they need to deal with the new phase of their lives.
Don’t judge them, be kind: People are often quick to judge new mothers when they are unable to respond to their baby’s needs, as it is expected of them. Others often label them ignorant or careless without knowing what these mothers are struggling with. These mothers are not negligent; they are just depressed and need a little help and some kindness. Small things matter a lot, so if someone can step up to help with the baby, allowing the mother to catch up with her sleep, or letting her enjoy peaceful me time, then they should. However, they should be careful of the new mother’s delicate mental state, as she might feel that she is not doing a good job, and that’s why others are taking care of her baby. The feeling of worthlessness and inadequacy is already weighing down her chest, so she needs to be reassured that she is a good mother and that no one thinks less of her if others are helping her look after her baby and home. People should be kind to these struggling mothers and make their transition into motherhood a little smoother by helping them through their struggles.
It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, so instead of criticising the mother, be the village and help her raise her child by letting her know that she has people on whom she can rely, who will pick her up when she falls.