The second Saturday of each month is the free Outside The Mom Box support group for new moms with babies under 1 year. Each session starts with introductions and then goes in our main topic. We leave about 30 minutes for Q&A, then close. For November, we had local therapist and mom, Aimee Vandemark talk with us about understanding our postpartum moods. Here are a few noteworthy snippets from that conversation:
Aimee started our conversation off by sharing a story of an experience she had with her own young children. She asked herself in that moment and to us on Saturday to consider, "what does it mean to have another being call us "mom"?". That question segued into a conversation on how personal identity shifts for us during the postpartum period. Our identity as a woman shifts so much as soon as we become a mother. New moods, feelings or other different emotions can become a new norm. But when should we pay attention to those new feelings and when can we accept and move on?
What does postpartum depression look like? There are lots of different emotions or feelings that go into the mix (overwhelm, guilty, confusion, irritation, anger, sadness, numbness, etc.), Aimee told us. One mom commented, "that felt like Tuesday!". I know the feeling! So how do we know if we should be concerned? Aimee said that the intensity and duration of those feelings is really crucial to pay attention to. Thinking about duration: were they happening on Tuesday or for the past two weeks? And when examining intensity, it's important to consider how those feelings are affecting your life: are you able to get through the day? And perhaps find that things are better the next day? Or do you find yourself so overwhelmed that even basic daily tasks feel impossible?
One of our new moms who has struggled with depression in the past shared that our partners can serve as a good reality check for our emotional health. What a good point! Our partners are the people who know us best in the world. If they are noticing that we are different or that our behavior seems problematic or concerning, then that is absolutely something worth pay attention to.
In addition to awareness from our partners, Aimee said that our own self-awareness is a really important skill to develop. And that may be fine-tuning, instead, if it's been a while since we've been in touch with how we're feeling about things. Issues like anxiety, depression, sadness don't go away in pregnancy or even after we have our child/children. It's important for our emotional health as well as the health of our entire family that we are self-aware.
With self-awareness, ideally, goes action. So if we are feeling overwhelmed by some of the mood swings that we have going on during the postpartum period, or otherwise, we need to reach out for help and support. Help and support can include: self-care, groups like this new moms group, time talking to a professional like Aimee, connecting with other new moms or even adjustments to schedule, parenting responsibilities. And self-compassion.
I often focus on self-care as an important piece for new moms to practice getting into the habit of but Aimee reminded us that self-compassion is just as important. Self-compassion is just what it sounds like: letting ourselves off the hook sometimes. Talk ourselves the way that we would talk to our child, to at minimum a stranger. Compassion for ourselves can look as "simple" as putting away the parenting books that are causing anxiety, talking yourself out of a negative "tape" that's playing in your mind, or reaching out to someone who has been a supporter of you, to give you a reality check.
Questions? Comments? Share them by visiting my contact page or leaving your thoughts below.
For more information on postpartum mood disorders, please visit my page on mothering and mental health. Thank you for reading! On the calendar for next month: travel with baby! Join us on Saturday December 13 from 2-4 pm.