A guest blog post by Emily Aleksy
You’re a new parent. Whooooo is this shit overwhelming. And now - you don’t feel how you thought you’d feel. It’s overwhelming and you don’t really feel like YOU anymore. Most people have heard of the baby blues - a period of time in the first weeks after birth where the birthing person may feel sad or blue. It’s typically a low grade sadness that has to do with your hormone levels. Not everyone has it and it can vary in severity. But for some these blues continue for longer or are more intense. How do you know when you need more help? And then what do you even do about it? Check out the following signs to help determine if you might need more help, and then read below to figure out how to actually get the help you need.
1. You’re sad for longer than a couple of weeks
The baby blues typically last about two weeks. If these blues last longer than two weeks, or they are intense (excessive crying, suicidal thoughts, despair, hopelessness) it’s time for some help. PMADs (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders) by definition can pop up anywhere in that first year. Help can look different for everyone, it doesn’t have to mean medication. But you need to do something to help cope with how you’re feeling.
2. Your symptoms are severe or you aren’t sleeping
Some sadness or adjustment to being a parent is to be expected, and parenthood is by no means easy. But if you are at a point where you are unable to function (take care of yourself and baby or other kids) because of your mood, it’s time to get help. Likewise, lack of sleep comes with the newborn territory. But if you are unable to sleep when you can - again, time to get some help. You need rest.
3. You feel numb
Feeling nothing can be just as concerning as overly intense feelings. Feeling numb tells me that you are overwhelmed and shut down, and you need some help to come out of that.
4. You have thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, or are seeing or hearing things that no one else does
This is one of those “do not wait” situations. Do something NOW. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, your baby, or someone else - seek help immediately. Talk to someone close to you and ask them to help, call 911, head to the emergency room - do what you need to do to keep yourself safe. While hurting your baby is extremely rare (as is postpartum psychosis), it can happen and always requires treatment. Feeling this way is not a failure. You are not a shitty mom (or dad, or parent). You are a mom going through something shitty.
5. You’re having flashbacks or panic attacks
All of these 3 symptoms can be a result of trauma or anxiety. Not sleeping can be hyper vigilance in an attempt to protect your baby. Flashbacks and panic attacks can be the result of a traumatic birth. All 3 of these symptoms signal a need for some help and potential trauma work.
6. You’re having intrusive thoughts
Intrusive thoughts can be super scary. For some, they feel like sudden thoughts popping into your head that are unexpected and unrelenting, usually about something terrifying. Sometimes they can be about you or your baby being hurt, or something else bad happening and they freak you the eff out. The important thing to remember about these thoughts is that they do not mean that you want something bad to happen to your baby. Intrusive thoughts are unfortunately pretty common, but that doesn’t make them any less scary or any easier to deal with. Intrusive thoughts are your brain’s attempt to cope with anxiety and uncertainty. They’re an effort of your anxious mind to prepare for all of the potentially awful things that could happen so that it’s not quite so unexpected if it does.
7. YOU feel like you need more help
Listen to your instincts and the instincts of the people around you. If you feel like something’s not right - look for more help. You know yourself, you know your birth experience. Trust yourself and how you feel.
Ok, cool, now you know you need help. But what does that mean? Looking for help seems overwhelming. And then you have to actually DO something about it - ughhhh that seems like a lot of work. Maybe you even second guess how bad things feel and think you can just ride it out. Don’t wait. You don’t have to continue feeling the way that you feel. Things can get better. You deserve for things to get better.
Help can mean different things for different people. First, you need to speak with some sort of professional. Sometimes your OB is the most accessible, but they aren’t always screening for perinatal mood disorders and sometimes it can be hard to be honest with your physician about how you’re feeling. I often tell people to start by calling the Postpartum Support International warmline or MMHI if they aren’t sure where to start, these are two places that GET IT and will jump into action to help you get what you need.
The PSI warmline (call 1-800-944-4773, text 503-894-9453 or text in Espanol 971-420-0294) connects you with a regional volunteer that can help provide you with resources in your area. Disclaimer: the warmline is not a crisis line and should not be used in an emergency. Volunteers at the warmline can help connect you with a therapist, physician, or other providers. PSI also has online support groups and chats, provider lists, and fact sheets about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Their website (postpartum.net) is a wealth of information!
MMHI (Moms Mental Health Initiative) is a Milwaukee area resource for peer support. They keep a preferred provider list of professionals that they have vetted and know understand perinatal mental health. They also have a private online support group of local moms. Contact them or check out their website for additional information: https://momsmentalhealthmke.
org MMHI is absolutely fantastic and was founded by two moms who KNOW how this feels and know how hard it is to find the help you need.
You can also call, text, (414-301-3411) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)
. I’m not the right provider for everyone, but I can help point you in the right direction or connect you with someone that is the right fit for you. I know how hard it is to make that first call, and how discouraging it can be to reach out and either not get a response or have your concerns minimized. If you aren’t sure if you should reach out - idk like maybe things are going to get better, and it’s really not THAT bad, things will be fine…. - you definitely should reach out. You’ve suffered for too long already.
You don’t have to keep suffering, and you are not alone. Things can and will get better.