Am I an angry mom or am I just exhausted? It’s all I can think about. My chest starts to tighten. My vision blurs. I find myself getting angrier and angrier, then the uncontrollable sobbing starts. I’m so tired I can’t think. I thought I would love motherhood. All I’ve ever wanted was to be a mom. And yet, here I am thinking “What have I done?” “I’m not cut out for this.” Or worse yet, “I’m a bad mom.”
Now that I’m well beyond those newborn days, I can see what the real problem was. I was sleep deprived. That sleep deprivation, among other things, pushed me down the path of some pretty serious postpartum depression. And why wouldn’t it? They train Navy Seals with hours of loud infant screaming, so much screaming they’re unable to sleep at all. There’s plenty of research out there linking sleep deprivation to postpartum rage and other perinatal mood disorders (ppd, ppa, postpartum psychosis). See some of it here.
So what are the signs? How can we tell if something is wrong? Is this more than just the “baby blues”? Postpartum Support International (see their website here for some amazing resources) lists several symptoms to watch out for. Things like feeling anxious or panicky, feeling out of control or like you’re “going crazy”, having trouble eating or sleeping (even when the baby is asleep). Parents of all races, economic backgrounds, and cultures can experience a perinatal mood disorder within the first 12 months postpartum.
So what can we do? How can we support new parents? First, we can hold space for them. Let’s all acknowledge right now how hard those initial newborn days are. Beautiful, yes, but so hard. Then, let’s dive into what can be done. Now before anyone loses their minds and thinks I’m going to suggest sleep training a newborn, I promise I’m not. We know that babies really aren’t ready for any formal sleep training until around 4 months or so. There are things that can be done though, even with a newborn. Things like Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s, focusing on full/effective feeds, making sure that baby is getting enough calories during daylight hours, helping baby differentiate between night and day, and access to adequate postpartum support.
I’m an RN and even I felt like no one was listening. I would spend some of each appointment with my baby’s pediatrician absolutely sobbing. Telling them I was overwhelmed, that I couldn’t do another night like the one before. I was told to “hang in there” and “he’ll sleep eventually.” Or, my personal favorite, “Everyone goes through this. You’ll be fine.” This. Is. Nonsense. And, for me, it was dangerous nonsense. I had a very serious case of ppd that went entirely untreated with my first child and got dangerously close to psychosis with my second. I needed help. I got empty platitudes. None of that was ok. It wasn’t ok for me and it isn’t ok for you.
This is where The Mama Coach comes in. I started this business because I firmly believe that new parents deserve better. Here in the US, a new mom typically gets a single postpartum visit with her OB and that visit isn’t checking for mood disorders. Most of the time they will do a quick check, then ask what kind of birth control you want to be on. It’s infuriating and it’s why I’m here. To stand in the gap with new parents everywhere. To acknowledge that this is hard and that more support is needed. Notice how I didn’t say more support would be nice. I said it was needed because it’s a necessity. We were never meant to walk this road alone, and yet somehow, so many of us are. If you’re reading this and it resonates with you, know that I see you. I was you. I can help. Reach out to me here. You can schedule a call without any obligation. We’ll talk about you, your baby, and your goals for sleep and support. If you’re local to Saratoga County NY, I can help in person. If you’re not, no worries, everything I do I can do virtually.
You’re a good parent. You deserve support. We all do.