When I was first starting out I started getting texts from a client. She wasn’t feeling well. At first it sounded like an infection was brewing. She was extremely tired, feeling achey and just generally sick. Like when you’re first coming down with something. I suggested she go to her midwife, which she did, but they found no signs of infection and suggested she was just tired. After that the signs trickled in. She was overwhelmed establishing breastfeeding. Her older children were demanding. She wasn’t feeling like herself.
I recognized myself in her. Because we all want to believe starting a life with a new baby will be a magical, perfect time in our lives. For one in seven of us it won’t be. The majority of us in the 1/7 will rationalise. I know I did. I didn’t need treatment. I was overwhelmed because I wasn’t a good enough mother. I had trouble bonding, because I wasn’t a good enough mother. I cried all the time because of points A and B. I was just overwhelmed, and feeling guilty, because I wasn’t a good enough mother. Even when I had my second baby, and was over the moon, postpartum anxiety took the place of depression. But I still didn’t reach out. Because I was just laying awake at night repeatedly obsessing about dropping my baby because good moms were vigilant. It must be a good thing to sit there with your heart pounding, forcing yourself to imagine all the ways the happiest time in your life could become the most tragic.
Postpartum mood disorders are sneaky. They lie. Don’t believe them for a second. Your PPD will lie and tell you that this is within your control. That the only thing wrong is you. The truth is you are enough. Even when you’re sad. Even when you’re sick.
Sometimes clients seem puzzled about why I include two different mental health assessments in my resource packet. It’s kind of a downer, right? No one wants to think about the potential for things to go wrong. And for most, they can go right ahead and ignore it. They’re welcome to think it’s a little strange of me to include. They may even decide I’m not the doula for them. I’ll still include them. Because for one in seven clients, those assessments may very well save their lives.
When they run through the checklists, “I feel sick. Dizzy, sweating, stomach aches, back pain, chest pains” “I’m overwhelmed” “I am worried about my baby all the time” “I’m not the mother I want to be”, they may see themselves. Where my client originally thought she may have had a flu, and been overwhelmed due to something she’d done “wrong”. Where I thought I just wasn’t a good mother, that it was normal to worry and obsess. What would have happened if we had seen ourselves in a postpartum mood disorder assessment? Would we have handed that assessment to a care provider when we were too afraid to say the words? Would we have realized this is a real medical condition, not a moral failing? Would we have gotten help? I can’t say for certain. But we would have had a fighting chance.
To download your own assessments and learn more about postpartum mood disorders, please click through to Postpartum Progress.