I knew it was coming. Ten days after the birth of my second child, I remember standing in my kitchen with our 3-year-old and new baby, my husband blissfully off to work. I couldn’t decide what we should have for lunch. The indecision left me sobbing. The lunch issue turned out to be minor compared to the guilt I experienced over having a wonderful family, including a healthy baby boy, but still standing in a puddle of tears. I had the “baby blues.”
At the time I was a midwife and knowledgeable about postpartum depression. I knew the blues were coming and why, but I felt completely unprepared for the depth and intensity of my sadness. I felt listless; some days I didn’t even have the energy to shower. I turned down opportunities to see or chat with friends.
We quickly fell out of a routine. I felt like I would be a failure if I accepted meal offers from our church family. And I began to feel disconnected from them, as I had not attended church since my son’s birth. Many days our home wouldn’t have passed any sort of cleanliness inspection, and we ate sandwiches all too often. My husband felt at a complete loss as to how to help me.
It was a challenging time for us.
It was easy to blame it all on hormone changes, because they certainly played a huge role. But other factors came into play as well. Having my son during a midwinter month meant we didn’t get outside much. Our families lived in other states and weren’t able to help with childcare and household duties. Job obligations also contributed to the pressures I placed on myself. And our son not only didn’t live up to my hopes of sleeping through the night by four weeks, he had episodes of inexplicable crying throughout the day. Exhaustion certainly contributed to my blues.
During my third pregnancy I determined to minimize as much as possible the difficulties I’d faced before. I was quite surprised by how little attention the baby blues received in the media. Since I found little information available, I began talking to friends and coworkers about their transitions to motherhood. My informal research led me to conclude that most moms experience some degree of feeling sad and overwhelmed after the birth of a baby. (More serious depression that persists for longer than 8 to 10 weeks requires professional help.)
While I was still pregnant, I planned and prepared meals for after the baby’s birth. I stocked our pantry with healthy and not-so-healthy snacks. I made sure to plan for a routine that included daily rest for everyone.
Once our daughter arrived, my priority became taking care of both her and myself. I did not refuse any offers of food. (One friend didn’t feel confident in preparing us a meal, so she delivered bags of wonderful fresh vegetables she’d chopped.)
After spending the first week resting, I began to slowly resume activities. I stuck to our daily routine with fixed mealtimes rather than relying on a minute-by-minute plan. Rest remained a priority, but we also made sure to get outside for at least a short time every day and work in some form of exercise, whether a short walk or some gentle stretches.
I stayed more connected with family and friends by email and attended church within a few weeks. I’d planned our routine to include a quiet devotional time, but after a multitude of interruptions I learned that I can talk to God no matter what I’m doing—and that God can talk to me while I’m reading a child’s devotional book or praying with my children.
Though I still experienced plummeting hormones, interrupted sleep, and a crying baby, the changes I’d introduced helped to make this time better than what I’d experienced previously. The times of sadness and tears were shorter and less frequent, and my baby blues were more quickly replaced with enjoyment of our new blessing.