by Claire Davidson
We live in a society that has a very specific view of motherhood: of how a mother should look, and act, and feel following the birth of her child. But actually, not every woman conforms to that view and for many women childbirth is a difficult process, with new motherhood leading to postpartum depression. While this illness is becoming increasingly talked about, it is still viewed by many with suspicion: as a sign that you can’t cope, that you’re not a good mom, that you don’t love your new baby. None of these things are true. Women with the ability to overcome postpartum depression are often stronger moms because they have dealt with the confusion and isolation of not having the post birthing experience society expects you to have. Postpartum depression shouldn’t be a secret illness: if you can admit that you have suffered from postpartum depression and share your experiences then you can help to provide an example of feminine strength and a different example of motherhood for new moms-to-be to draw hope and inspiration from.
So, what is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a serious illness, and one that shouldn’t be confused with postpartum blues, sometimes also called ‘the baby blues’, which almost all new moms will experience. According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 9-16% of women will suffer from postpartum depression after they give birth. The signs of postpartum depression include a new mom feeling depressed for large portions of the day, every day for two weeks. A new mom with postpartum depression will also struggle to feel a strong initial bond with her baby, will experience feelings of worthlessness and guilt, and may even have recurring thoughts of suicide and death. There are many detailed guides available on how to cope with postpartum depression, and these can help you to explore what signs and symptoms you should look out for. When you’re a first time mom the whole experience of having and raising a baby are new to you, so it’s hard to know what ‘feeling normal’ is: and many doctors will dismiss postpartum depression as simply the ‘baby blues’. Diagnosis of postpartum depression can be tricky for everyone involved, but if you think you need help it’s important to be persistent.
Know when you Need Help!
Your first port of call if you think you are suffering from this illness following the birth of your child should be your doctor. Tell them exactly what you’re feeling: explain that you think you have postpartum depression, and ask for your symptoms to be treated as such. If left undiagnosed, postpartum depression can last for months and will only get worse as time goes on, so it’s important to get professional help if any of the symptoms listed above are experienced in the days or weeks after the birth of a baby.
There is No Standard for Motherhood!
Just as there is no standardized version of a woman, there is no standardized version of a mom: we will all bring different life experiences to our own versions of motherhood. As long as children are well looked after, there is no right or wrong. The medical profession and society in general often seek to standardize motherhood though, expecting all moms to be nurturing and have personality attributes that are deemed to be ‘normal’ and ‘feminine’ such as maternal instinct and the ability to instinctively know what your baby needs. By attempting to conform to this, many women will actually drive themselves to depression, feeling that they aren’t adequately fulfilling the motherhood’s role as they should. Instead we need to make examples of those women that take a stand and raise their babies in the way that suits them, rather that societal expectation, best. We should also make examples of those women that overcome postpartum depression and go on to be wonderful moms: every time we normalize the experience of postpartum depression, and of mothering outside of the box, we make it a little easier for the moms that are yet to come after us.