Oh those postpartum emotions. The unmatched joy of meeting your new baby is also paired with what can be an alarming emotional roller coaster. Thank your postpartum hormone levels, lack of sleep, and complete overwhelm and exhaustion from caring for a tiny fragile human.
Up to 85% of women experience what is commonly called the “baby blues.”
I’ve been there, wondering, “what is wrong with me?!” For someone who is usually pretty buttoned up and cool under pressure, bouts of crying or anger, the tiniest things feeling like they are insurmountable, and moments of intense worry seem to come out of nowhere.
Tips are based on personal experience and should not be considered medical advice. Full disclaimer.
On top of making sure your basic physical needs are met and accepting help when you can get it, here are a few things that helped me cope with swings in postpartum emotions:
1. Realize this is part of the process
Thanks mother nature! That cute little bundle comes with a mandatory side of emotional fragility. Just knowing that there is a physical reason for feeling this way and that other mothers experience it too can help put your mind at ease a bit.
Often, things do get better with time. They should start to improve within a couple weeks.
However, if your feelings are worrisome, don’t try to ride it out (see #7).
2. Communicate with your partner
In my experience, partners can be less aware of all the major shifts that go in the body after childbirth. My husband looked at me like I had three heads when I fell apart because we didn’t make it out of the house before the baby’s next feeding.
I’ve had to give reminders like:
“I have a lot of hormones right now.”
“I’m feeling very sensitive.”
“I don’t usually ask for help so when I ask for help, it means I REALLY need help.”
Partners may need education and reassurance that some emotional tidal waves are expected after childbirth (see #1).
They also may need you to ask for help if they are unsure what they can do.
3. Set simple, attainable goals
I found having one goal for the day to be helpful. In the beginning, it can be something as simple as going downstairs or taking a shower.
After some time, I realized that if I didn’t get out of the house once a day, my mental state suffered. Going somewhere once a day became my new goal. It could be anywhere—a walk down the block, visiting a friend, or a trip to a store, library, museum, or coffee shop.
Self-care can certainly be part of your goals too (see #5).
4. Celebrate successes
You took a shower (maybe)! You got out of bed! You made coffee or had a snack. You went someplace—anyplace. Go you!
And at a minimum, if your baby is warm, fed, diapered, and safe, then you’re doing something right—a big thing.
Try to think about all the things you’re grateful for and remember you’re doing a great job, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
As moms, we’re our own worst critics. We can tend to be especially hard on ourselves in those early days when we’re still figuring out what we’re doing.
5. Take care of yourself, mentally and physically
Your body has done an amazing thing. Give it some time and love. See these tips for postpartum care.
Help tame postpartum emotions by carving out some time for you: Even 10 or 15 minutes by yourself can do wonders. Sit in a quiet room. Text a friend. Read a magazine. Take a power nap. Get some space to recharge away from the demands of parenthood for a moment.
Again, this is where you may need to ask for and accept help. Sleep can be especially important for helping mood. See if there are any ways you can get more by working with a partner or support person.
6. Forgive yourself
Seriously, you’ve got a good excuse. If you snapped at someone or cried over something ridiculous, say you’re sorry if appropriate and move on. Give yourself quite a bit of leeway during this time. Your body has gone through one of the biggest changes it will ever experience.
If you dropped your phone on your baby’s face while taking a picture (yes, this happens), know it will be okay. You’re going to make some mistakes as a parent. All of us do. Cry a bit if you need to, then try to be kind to yourself.
7. Know when to get help
Postpartum depression is real and can be serious. Please check in with a health care provider right away if you have feelings that concern you or any thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
If you aren’t sure if it’s a typical case of “baby blues” or postpartum depression, experts recommend checking in with your health care provider if you aren’t feeling more like yourself after a couple weeks. You don’t have to wait for your postpartum checkup.
There is no shame in reaching out for help. Postpartum depression is very treatable.
If you’ve been through the roller coaster of postpartum emotions, what did you find helpful?
Sending love to all the mothers out there. You’ve got this.