“It will be the happiest time in your life.”
“You will feel nothing but unconditional love.”
“Don’t worry, being a mother will just come naturally.”
These are very common phrases that moms-to-be often hear as they near the birth of their baby. Although these comments are meant as encouragement, they inadvertently create a set of expectations about what motherhood and those first few months postpartum should look like and feel like. For some postpartum women, these phrases may ring true. For many others, these phrases feel unfamiliar and seem more like some standard to which their own experience falls vastly short. These new mothers gaze at their baby through unwelcome tears, wondering what went wrong.
The postpartum period comes with challenges that threaten to overwhelm even the most prepared, supported and experienced mothers.
There are emotional challenges as women often struggle through a broad range of feelings, such as confusion, uncertainty, joy, fulfillment, pain, longing, guilt and sadness. There are physical challenges, such as learning to care for an infant while managing sleep deprivation and healing from childbirth. Relationally, there are role adjustments and identity changes. And there are spiritual challenges, as mothers wrestle with managing fear and faith.
Add to this a major depressive episode, and life can begin to feel very unbearable, indeed. What is the struggle like for a woman with PPD? She feels anxious, irritable and sad almost all day, everyday. She is plagued with guilt. Guilt that says to her, “You aren’t a good enough mother.” She is so tired it hurts, yet she is unable to sleep when given the opportunity. Her thoughts are scattered, random, and she can’t focus. Except on the scary thoughts. She can’t get those unwelcome, intrusive thoughts out of her head. She isn’t able to manage her day-to-day responsibilities anymore. More guilt. She feels hopeless and helpless, and has even thought that her baby and family might be better off without her.
If this sounds like you, know that you are not crazy. You are not abnormal. You are not alone in feeling this way. And if you are feeling this way, it is important to reach out for help. It’s ok to reach out for help. There are people-trained counselors- who know what this is and know how help you feel better. There is a path to healing, and we want to walk alongside you as you begin to reclaim your life, your motherhood, and yourself.
Rebecca is a Licensed Professional Counselor/Intern (LPCI) at the Christian Counseling Center. Her areas of interest include women’s issues, emotional regulation, and mothers dealing with perinatal and postpartum depression. She is married with one daughter and a perfect day for her would include the beach, coffee, baking, a nice outdoor jog, and watching movies.