The moment we all look forward to when we’re pregnant: holding our precious babies in our arms after they’re born. Our emotions are made up of some combination of joy, relief, comfort, longing, exhaustion, excitement, and anxiety to name a few. We hold this tiny human being that was living inside of us and we think “did this really just happen?” The concept of becoming a mother is phenomenal and miraculous to say the least. We spend nine months preparing everything we’re going to need for the baby—diapers, the nursery, clothes, swings, bouncer seats, strollers, car seats, medications, swaddle blankets, toys, and white noise machines. Yet we miss one very important aspect. We don’t prepare ourselves for how emotionally drained we may feel once the baby is born.
In all honesty, this part of having a baby isn’t talked about very often. I remember people who had kids told me things like “sleep while you can” and “it’s going to be wonderful!” But I don’t remember anyone telling me: “by the way, it’s totally normal to feel down after you have your baby.” I assume that people just don’t want to sound negative or to scare the mother-to-be.
I think it would be helpful to let mothers know that feeling blue can happen and that it’s ok! I remember a couple days after having my baby I started to feel my mood take a dip. I couldn’t explain why I was feeling this way, given that I had longed for a baby for quite some time and that the day he was born was one of the happiest days of my life. I started feeling guilty for feeling so down and that caused my mood to dip down even further.
I began researching my feelings online and found that I was probably experiencing the baby blues. I was startled to find out that 75-80% of mothers experience the baby blues! I remember some of my friends with older children telling me how much they missed the newborn stage. I thought they had gone mad. Who would miss sleep deprivation, being chained to the couch feeding around the clock and changing explosive diapers all day? I did experience moments of pure joy while holding my son and taking care of him but those moments didn’t last too long. I found the adjustment to motherhood to be so intense, and so beyond everything I had imagined. Being homebound with little sleep and seeing right before my eyes how much my life had changed made the baby blues last a little while longer.
Thankfully, I had a lot of support around me to help me get through this difficult time. I reached out to friends and family who had children and I was surprised to find out that every single one of them had experienced the baby blues. Every single one. I realized that there was nothing embarrassing or shameful about it and that it was in no way a reflection of how good of a mother I was. These were emotions that were valid and were beyond anyone’s control. The good news was that I found out that I could do some things to try and alleviate some of these feelings to help me cope better and to take better care of myself and my baby. Some of these things were:
- My mood improved when I accepted that what I was experiencing was absolutely normal.
- I adjusted my expectations of myself and realized how much I needed to reframe the thoughts that were contributing to my low mood. I was not a bad mother. I was not a lazy mother. I was doing the absolute best that I could.
- Don’t compare. Comparing yourself to other mothers will only make you feel worse. It’s easy to scroll through your social media pages and to think of how inadequate you feel as a mother versus the mother down the street who posted ten pictures of her and her children “having a blast” over the weekend. We don’t know what others may be going through and to compare our worst to someone else’s perceived best is a recipe for further mood and self-esteem problems.
- Keep a journal of your thoughts/emotions. People who journal their thoughts and feelings have a better chance of improving their mood and reframing their negative or anxious thoughts.
- Tap into supports. In most places, there are playgroups and support groups for new mothers which are a tremendous help. I remember looking forward to these playgroups as there was something uplifting about being around other mothers going through the same thing at the same time.
- Sleep! Sleep is a primary contributor to low mood so I made sleeping a priority for me. Of course there were things around the house that were left undone but I found that I was much more productive and able to take better care of my child when I had an extra bit of sleep here and there.
- Don’t underestimate the power of fresh air. If you can, go out by yourself even if it’s for fifteen minutes a day. Even a walk around your home or a quick drive can do the trick. I still remember my first time leaving the house without my son and although I was apprehensive about it, it was priceless.
Having a baby is truly one of the most incredible things one can experience. There’s so much to look forward to yet there’s so much unpredictability which can be nerve-wrecking especially for first-time parents. If you’re experiencing the baby blues, know that you’re absolutely not alone and that what you’re feeling is completely normal. Things do get easier over time and you’ll find that you will feel more confident when taking care of your baby and that you start to experience more positive emotions. If however these feelings last for a while and don’t seem to be improving, it’s important to discuss this with your doctor.
Help and support are available and it’s important that we take care of ourselves so we can better take care of our children. It does get better and believe it or not, I am now one of those people that terribly misses the newborn stage.
Runda Ebied is a loving mother of one active toddler who is learning something new about her motherhood journey everyday. Runda is an Occupational Therapist and works with adults who are experiencing mental health difficulties. Runda has had experience working with children with behavioural and feeding difficulties and has developed such a passion for working with children. Runda loves to read and spend time with her son and her family and is striving to achieve that much sought-after work-life balance.