During the past two weeks, my news-feed has exploded with new baby announcements. It’s common for me to have one or two here and there, but seriously, the past few weeks there were four babies born, an adoption, a new pregnancy announcement, and a gender reveal.
These things delight me.
I have five children of my own. I love pregnancies and babies and growing families. But I also know how hard these wonderful transitions can be.
Right after my second child was born, things were moving along great. Big sister was happy and adjusting well, breastfeeding was going fabulously, and my husband was able to be home with me for a couple of weeks as we all transitioned to a family of four. Our baby even slept well at night! I was a little down because of my post-baby body, but otherwise things were good.
When my new daughter was about two months old, something in me broke. One night she didn’t feel like eating when I thought she should, and this seemingly inconsequential thing caused a severe reaction in me. A sensation flowed over me that felt like someone had poured hot oil on my head. I felt it spread down my arms. It was panic and anxiety, but I didn’t know that yet. I would suffer like this day and night for another two months before I sought the help I needed.
I’d read a lot of new mom books. I’d read about baby blues and crying all the time. Since I had not cried, it never occurred to me that I was suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety. And wasn’t that supposed to happen right after the baby was born, not two months later? Since I had been fine, good even, the first two months, I thought this was just some strange ME problem.
I needed help. I needed people but felt bad calling on them so frequently. We lived hours away from family. Each day I’d think of a list of friends to call. I’d mentally cross off the ones who had young kids of their own, the one I had called yesterday, the one who was preparing to move out of state. That left me with my mom and my sister, mostly, and I hated bothering them every day.
Eventually, thankfully, my husband and I realized I wasn’t going to snap out of this. Meeting with my doctor, we decided medication was the route for me. I hated needing it for so many reasons. But I did need it, and I’m incredibly thankful it was made available to me. I required an anti-depressant following each of my subsequent pregnancies, as well. I sought it quicker and was a better mom for it.
So, what does my postpartum mental snap have to do with all those babies in my news-feed?
I have determined to be the kind of help to others that I wish I would have had. Friends and family are so eager to help and visit during those first few weeks. I get it: newborns are the best. And those meals brought over are a true blessing. However, by the time the magical six weeks is up, everyone kind of assumes you’ve got this whole parenting thing, leaving you to sink or swim on your own.
Here are a few examples of ways I try to help new moms:
- I try to be very open about my own struggles with postpartum anxiety and my need for medication. When appropriate, I bring it up in as non-threateningly as I can, in hopes to normalize it for another struggling mom. All with the hopes of encouraging her to seek her own help if she needs it.
- Besides taking a meal when a baby is first born, I’ve started making a note in my calendar to take a meal when a new baby is three months old.
- I’ve offered my not-quite-old-enough-to-babysit older daughters to new mamas who also have toddlers or preschoolers. While my daughters aren’t quite capable of taking care of infants alone yet, they can sure entertain 3 and 4 year olds while new mamas rest with their babies, take a shower, or tackle the huge task of switching out seasonal clothes. Homeschooling makes this easy for us to do in the afternoon, but this could be done on weekends and in the evenings, too.
- Knowing how hard it is for Couple Time, especially when you don’t have family nearby, I have called new moms and simply said, “My husband and I would like to watch your kids so you and your husband can go on a date. Would this night work or this one?”
- In September I’m going to go stay a week with my cousin and her new family of four. We set it up for me to come after the 6 week mark. I’m praying it will be a blessing to them. I already know it will bless me.
You might be surprised (I kind of was) that I’ve never been turned down in these offers of help and support. What this tells me is that while many new moms NEED help, they are not going to ask. But if you offer…they will gladly accept! So I will continue to reach behind me and grab the hands of sweet, tired, overwhelmed and sometimes lonely new mamas. Are there any new moms (or just plain overwhelmed mamas) whose hand you can grab this week? It might just be the life-line they need.