A Deeper Look Into Postpartum Depression
In 2018, we gave birth to our daughter, Luna. What was supposed to be a magical time in our life turned into a struggle to overcome the difficulties of new parenthood while fighting postpartum depression.
If you haven't already checked out the episode, head on over to The Lunita Podcast and give S2E1: A Deeper Look Into Postpartum Depression a listen. Remember to subscribe to the Podcast, leave us a review if you like the show, and give us a follow on Instagram for updates and conversations with the community.
Postpartum Depression has always been around, creeping in the shadows and hiding under the bed; often denied, hidden, or spoken about in between whispers.
With the rise of social distancing in the era of global pandemics, many new parents are unable to have the help they had initially envisioned during the first few months of parenthood, coping with the responsibilities of childcare alone. This, to us, creates a bigger need now more than ever for us to be honest and open about the realities of postpartum depression.
*TRIGGER WARNING: This episode of Lunita is our most vulnerable, candid, and open discussion to date. We talk about our experiences with postpartum depression, suicidal and homicidal ideations, and talk about sexual assault. Forgive us for our explicit description of events, but we believe that the story of PPD is one that must be told if it is ever to be addressed fully. Thank you for understanding, and we hope you enjoy the episode/post.
What is Postpartum Depression?
While it typically emerges within the first three months after delivering a baby, postpartum depression can technically occur anytime within the first few years.
A drastic plunge in the birthing parent's hormones after giving birth is commonly responsible for postpartum depression. However, many people believe that a combination of isolation and exhaustion has something to do with PPD.
Postpartum depression is often described as intense feelings of sadness, guilt, shame, anxiety, irritability, un-explainable crying spells, difficulty bonding with your newborn, feeling as if you are not a "good parent", feeling worthless, unwanted thoughts around harming yourself or your child, and reduction in concentration.
Of course, it affects everyone differently, and no two new parents will have the exact same experiences with PPD, but we often convince ourselves that this won't happen to us when in reality, one in seven womyn are affected by PPD, and these numbers are based on those who are willing to report it (our guess is that number is significantly higher).
Left untreated, PPD can cause both short-term and long-term emotional and psychological effects on families, and the full extent of its consequences remains unknown.
Sharing is Caring
During the first six months after giving birth to our daughter, we BOTH experienced Postpartum Depression (yes, PPD can occur in birthing partners/fathers as well).
**We share our experiences in extreme depth on the podcast, so check out S2E1: A Deeper Look Into Postpartum Depression if you haven't already.
While we at times exhibited very similar signs and symptoms, mainly being depressed most of the day, every day, to having unwanted thoughts of harming ourselves and our child, we both fully acknowledged that our experiences with a newborn were not what we had expected. No one can ever fully prepare you for the shock of having a new baby, especially when it is your first child, regardless of how positive or negative your birth experience is.
For me, Nina, PPD felt like being hit by a ton of bricks within a few days after giving birth.
I had a pleasant, uplifting, unmediated birth through the Brooklyn Birthing Center and a positive experience with my doula and lactation consultants in the days after birth, yet when the initial cocktail of Adrenaline and Oxycontin ran out (about 3 days in), I was filled with a sadness and exhaustion I had never experienced before.
Days seemed endless and colorless, I was constantly exhausted and stressed, and in a great deal of physical pain; I also struggled with breastfeeding, and within a month, I was diagnosed with mastitis... twice. This definitely contributed to feelings of insecurity and helplessness.
I distinctly remember feeling like I was not allowed to feel sad, and that created guilt. It was supposed to be the happiest time of my life; I had given birth the way I wanted to a healthy baby, yet still, something inside me felt empty.
I truly enjoyed my time being pregnant, and I felt a deep sadness that my baby was no longer physically connected to me and that my stomach was now flat again. It made me feel empty and alone.
The lack of sleep, coupled with our daughter's colic, only fed the flames of exhaustion, and made our experiences seem, at times unbearable and never-ending. Never had I had to adjust to getting so little sleep; if you know me, you know how serious I am about my rest. I remember feeling as if I would be tired forever and that created even more anger and sadness.
I share all this to say that at the time while I felt like a complete fuck up and disaster, everything I experienced was completely normal. It is not only important to share our stories of PPD because it normalizes the experiences, it also creates a safe space for those experiencing PPD to open up and share their experiences and emotions in one of the most vulnerable times of their lives.
Parenthood is a life-altering event that takes time adjusting to, especially if it is your first time. It is not normal to be bombarded by images of parents with newborns who only omit one emotion, happiness. Too often our society sees having a baby as being solely a joyous occasion, and this makes those of us that are flooded with complex emotions feel that much more ashamed.
There is nothing wrong with you if you are currently struggling with, or have struggled with, PPD. You are not a bad parent or unfit, and there is hope and help on the other side.
Most importantly?... You are not alone.
Healing in the Here and Now
The process of healing both our bodies and our minds takes time, but we would like to share some tips on we have learned throughout OUR journey.
If you are currently experiencing Postpartum Depression:
1. First of all, take a moment to place both feet firmly on the ground beneath you and take three big belly breaths. This too shall pass. Here are some suggestions for the here and now.
2. If you are able to safely take a walk today, go do it. Even a short ten-minute walk around your block can make all the difference in the world. It can be so healing to have the sun or moonlight on your face and to take in the fresh air.
3. Drink a glass of water, and be sure you eat something today.
4. ASK FOR HELP! There is no shame in needing help. Working with a therapist who specialized in new parents was a game changer for me. A postpartum doula can also make all the difference in the world. Check out S1E4: Is a Doula Right for You? (and the very detailed complimentary blog post) to find out more.
5. Share what you are feeling. No matter how you choose to release your emotions make sure that you are not keeping it in. Whether you choose to journal, paint, draw, sing, dance, workout, etc. Expressing yourself brings out joy and releases the negativity within us.
If you are currently dealing with PPD, have been for a while now, believe you had it during your postpartum period, or just want to be better prepared in case it happens to you, we suggest the following:
1. Seek Therapeutic Support. This can be via talk therapy or any other type of healing. PPD is not something that just goes away, the residual side effects can stay with us in our minds and bodies for a lifetime. You deserve to process your experience and heal from it.
2. Microdosing (if you are no longer breastfeeding or pregnant). What can we say? We are avid fans of microdosing and both saw huge improvements in our moods and quality of life when we began working with plant medicine. Of course, the research continues on the benefits and risks of microdosing, but for more info on microdosing, check out S1E2: Microdosing Psychedelics (and the more-detailed, complimentary blog post).
3. CBD has been a huge part of our daily routine for the last year now. It has done wonders for me as a mother with a young child. Not only has it improved the quality of my sleep, but it has reduced my anxiety and helps my stiff joints and sore muscles relax after a day of carrying my two year old around.
We love the brand Miss Grass and highly recommend their CBD products to those of you who are 21 and up. Use code Lunita20 at checkout for a discount!
4. Routine: having a stable and constant routine is easier said than done (especially given our current global circumstances), but finding a flow that works for you and your family will help reduce stress and anxiety and is an important part of finding a new balance when you are in the postpartum stages.
5. Normalize your experiences. You are not the only one who is having a hard time with a new baby at home! Sometimes, joining a support group of new parents, or just meeting with a few, can make all the difference in the world.
However, when you choose to engage with new parents, it is important that you have a support system of people in your life who actually GET it. This is a normal part of adjusting to life with a baby, and the more people you are able to freely talk with about your experience, the less isolated you may start to feel.
Always Remember: Billions of parents have gone through this, and you can too!
In the era of social distancing, not having people in your homes, and limiting your time outside, we can only imagine what new parents must be experiencing.
Postpartum depression is more common than we think and will most likely only continue to rise Post-Covid.
This does not mean that you have to lose hope if you or someone you know is experiencing PPD.
There is more help available than ever before, and while it might feel like the longest time of your life, it is just another stage in the journey of parenthood, one that you do not need to go through alone.
CBD Wellness - Miss Grass (code Lunita20 at checkout)
Postpartum Support International- For anyone in need
Finding a Doula - Ancient Song Doula Services (based in Brooklyn)
Parenting Classes - Birthday Presence (based in Brooklyn)
Birthing Alternative - Brooklyn Birthing Center
Breastfeeding Support- La Leche League
In Her Words - NY Times
Why America's Black Mothers and Babies are in A Life or Death Crisis- NY Times
ADDITIONAL LUNITA LINKS