Four years ago we had welcomed our third child. Her arrival was a very welcomed event in our family and I was in a happy birth high, newborn happy bubble for several months. I’m sure my placenta pills helped keep my hormones leveled out for a while, too! However, by her five month milestone I was starting to sink. Many think of postpartum depression (PPD) happening within weeks of birth, but this isn’t always the case. The dangerous cocktail of hormones, sleep deprivation, and feeling overwhelmed with the new out numbered balance of three children threw me into a slow spiral of sad thoughts and guilt that I wasn’t doing a good job.
I felt guilty, which made me angry, which then lead to me being snappy towards my children. It was a vicious cycle and I felt trapped within it– trapped within the motherhood I so longed for. I cried everyday and felt like I wasn’t good enough as a wife and mom. One day I sat nursing and rocking my infant, with tears streaming down once again when the thought popped in my head, “I just don’t want to be here. My kids would be better off without me.” That thought thankfully caught my attention and I sought counseling to begin climbing my way out of my funk. I learned so much about myself in the process and the tools below kept me out of PPD when baby number four arrived two years later. Now, as baby five lays sleeping on my chest, I’m leaning on these again to avoid PPD once more.
1. SAY “YES” TO SELF-CARE WITHOUT GUILT
I used to feel guilty for wanting time away from my kids, or spending a little extra money on me where I wouldn’t hesitate to if it was for them. Us mommas matter too though! I learned the hard way when I denied myself that I end up empty and bitter if I continue to sacrifice my own wants or needs. No more! Even simple things like remembering to stay hydrated, not skipping lunch because we’re too busy, making 30 minutes to exercise, or taking a breather outside in the spring air are so important to mental health. We deserve to be healthy too, just like we want for our kids. When we are healthy and feel good, then that overflows into our parenting.
3. DO THINGS I LOVE
I used to also deny myself moments of doing things that I loved. Simply because it wasn’t seen as “productive” in my day, like reading a book or writing in my journal, I would brush it off until later when I had time, but later never came. As a result I felt like all I was in life was a mom. I’ve learned to make those things a priority now to remind myself that I’m still me amongst all my kiddos, with my own interests. Both my husband and I have 1-2 nights out a week for a few hours to refresh and recharge. I use that time to write and drink coffee at my favorite local shop, or grab dinner with a friend.
3. CREATE A ROUTINE
I’ve learned that putting a little thought into my day makes a difference in my mood as well, otherwise I end up in a lazy cycle. Sure, there is wiggle room for resting when needed so we aren’t overwhelmed from over doing it, but when most days of the week have a purpose and order I feel happier. Even if my routine is simply making the effort to get up a little before the kids to shower alone, it makes a difference.
4. TAKE A SHOWER– AND NOT AT LUNCH TIME
There’s something about getting the postpartum extra-stinky pits clean and de-greased hair that helps a momma’s mood and introduces some motivation to do something productive. When I let my routine slide and don’t shower until right before school pick up, I not only feel gross but usually means I was unproductive and then feel guilty.
5. KEEP TIDY AS POSSIBLE
I don’t expect my house to be spotless, I have five kids after all! But, I do love how I feel when at least the downstairs is mostly picked up and my bedroom– my getaway– is tidy.
6. COUNT SMALL DAILY SUCCESSES
I love a good to-do list to check off, but on those kind of crazy days, that check list simply looks like this and it totally counts as “productive”:
√ Kids fed and alive
√ Dishes done
√ I showered
7. LET GO OF WHAT I CAN
Making compromises in this season of postpartum transition is key. Myself being on the crunchy side of motherhood, I’d love to save the trees and eat a clean diet but that would be too much pressure on me right now to achieve (which would feed into the guilt!). For right now, I’ve traded my reusable plates with paper to keep messes at bay and some nights are organic boxed macaroni. I’m okay with that.
8. ASK FOR HELP
Coming from a place where I was too prideful to ask for help, I’ve learned to embrace it. And the truth is, many times our friends and family want to help us– just like we would help them if they ask because we love them, right? But, they can’t help us if we don’t open our hearts and mouths with our needs. If I need a nap in my sleep deprivation stage, I’ve got a neighbor willing to watch my littles while I do that. I’ve had people pick up groceries for me before and fold my laundry when I felt overwhelmed. No shame. That’s what a village is for! Enlisting help from older children would fall under here too– a training I’m still working on.
9. CLING TO THE HOPE OF A SEASON
Now having my fifth child, I have the beautiful perspective of my rear view mirror in that I can look back to the past babies and then forward to the road I’m on now, knowing this phase will not last forever. Sure, it seems impossible and never ending, but I know new milestones are coming and living in survival mode will eventually come to an end.
10. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
I remember how the dark cloud of depression felt looming over me and truly never want to experience that again. Last time I sought out counseling which helped me find my sunshine in life again, and I certainly will this time as well if needed. I also wouldn’t be opposed to seeking medicine if I sink low again. I’ve learned the value of happiness within parenthood and sometimes us mommas may need help getting back to that point.