How to Cope with Baby Blues
Never have I anticipated spring’s arrival as eagerly as I have this year. Winter seems to have stretched on forever, giving me ample time to formulate and test a new hypothesis: December is the worst month to have a baby.
Please don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful for my son, and I’ve cherished the last (almost) three months of his life. But if you’re a parent, then you know how hard it is to have a newborn. And, for me, winter made it even harder.
Off the bat, folks (like me) who suffer from seasonal depression start the season with a disadvantage.
Then, on Dec. 10, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy, and in retaliation, my hormones waged a war commonly known as the baby blues.
On top of that, I had a couple of other things working against me: I was frustrated at the difficulty I was having breastfeeding (read all about that in February’s issue of TulsaKids), and I faced the one-year anniversary of my father’s death in January. I was a walking, talking (sometimes yelling) emotion.
And then there was the cabin fever. When my older son, Isaac, was born in April of 2008, I counteracted my baby blues with long walks outside and hours in the sun on a blanket at Woodward Park, enjoying the company of other mommy friends and their kiddos. And normally I wouldn’t let winter get the best of me. Normally, I wouldn’t think twice about getting out of the house, even if it’s 32 degrees outside, to take a walk or run a few errands, but the last thing I wanted to do was expose my newborn baby to winter’s frigid temperatures.
The cabin fever didn’t just affect me; it drove my almost 3-year-old a little stir crazy as well, which caused him to act out and caused me to lose my temper more times than I’d like to admit.
For me, depression isn’t about lying around in my pajamas, feeling sad all day. My depression manifests itself in mood swings, irritability and anxiety. I’d get this nervous feeling that I just couldn’t shake, and I’d often lose my patience with my older son and fiancé.
Obviously, if I thought I had a serious problem, or if I experienced this more than a couple of months out of the year, then I’d seek professional help. My mother is a sufferer of clinical depression, and I’ve always been very aware of the warning signs and of my own psychological wellbeing for fear of inheriting her disease.
But, this winter, I just had a lot of things stacked against me that made the season less than enjoyable.
As soon as I figured out what was going on, I started looking for ways to relieve some of the pressure I was feeling. This sounds silly, but an episode of The Dr. Oz Show that featured Deepak Chopra instructing the audience and viewers in deep breathing and meditation techniques was my first inspiration. As I watched the show, Chopra showed the audience first how to breathe deeply and then how to meditate (instructions at ww.doctoroz.com).
I did both exercises along with the studio audience and felt immediately calmer and more relaxed.
Although they were offered on the show as a weight loss aid for women, the basic idea behind them is that they encourage centeredness and relaxation.
The other things that helped me feel more like a normal human being and less like a prisoner of my home and emotions were showers; getting dressed every day, even if I couldn’t take a shower; and indoor play dates with friends and their kids. I chose girlfriends whose children played well with my son and who didn’t mind watching me breastfeed or listening to me whine and vent.
As much as play dates are good for our kids – teaching them social skills and offering them a much-needed change of scenery when winter has kept them cooped up for days on end – they’re also a necessity for mothers who want to maintain their sanity.
And on the warmer days, when the temperature outside was only 50 degrees or so, I’d bundle Isaac up and put Ben in my Moby wrap, and Ben and I would walk up and down the sidewalk in front of our house while Isaac pedaled furiously on his tricycle just a few feet in front of us. It was a nice reminder that winter wouldn’t last forever and that spring would be here soon. And now that it’s almost arrived, I couldn’t be happier.
The Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
Many women have the baby blues in the days after childbirth. If you have the baby blues, you may:
• Have mood swings
• Feel sad, anxious, or overwhelmed
• Have crying spells
• Lose your appetite
• Have trouble sleeping
The baby blues most often go away within a few days or a week. The symptoms are not severe and do not need treatment.
The symptoms of postpartum depression last longer and are more severe. Postpartum depression can begin anytime within the first year after childbirth.
Postpartum depression needs to be treated by a doctor.
Call your doctor if:
• Your baby blues don’t go away after 2 weeks
• Symptoms of depression get more and more intense
• Symptoms of depression begin any time after delivery, even many months later
• It is hard for you to perform tasks at work or at home
• You cannot care for yourself or your baby
• You have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Your doctor can ask you questions to test for depression. Your doctor can also refer you to a mental health professional who specializes in treating depression.