Society often overlooks and neglects a mother’s mental health during postpartum. That means you and I have probably ignored someone’s difficulties before.

Foto de Lux Graves en Unsplash

Note: I am not a health professional. This is only my story. I want more people to know about this. If I knew this could happen, things might have been different.

Postpartum mental health

You have surely heard about baby blues and postpartum depression. But much more can go wrong in the new mom’s life, even while pregnant.

Most new moms are overwhelmed during the first days of a baby’s life. They might be in pain or struggling with recovery. They want to take the best care of the newborn. Even they forget about their needs.

Feeding, changing, burping, getting to know the tiny human. It can easily and quickly feel like too much.

Before my baby arrived, I hadn’t heard of postpartum insomnia. I didn’t know it existed until I suffered from it. It was terrifying. I felt like something terrible would happen to my baby and me. I was afraid I would end up in the hospital or die. It felt authentic.

My story

It all started unnoticed. We stayed at the hospital for two nights. The first night, the nurses and doctors came in and out every few minutes. They checked on the baby and me. They measured his temperature and sugar levels, and they helped me with his latch. There was no chance to sleep.

The room was very sunny during the day. There were things to do. I slept a bit. They came in less on the second night, but the bed wasn’t all that comfy, and we were checking on the baby a lot.

I realized something was wrong the first night at home. Everything was calm and quiet, my husband and the baby were sleeping, but I wasn’t. I felt anxious, nervous, and afraid. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

How I felt

Each night was different. Some nights I didn’t sleep at all. 0 minutes. Other nights, I slept for 15 minutes or two hours. A vicious circle has already begun its damaging work. I wasn’t sleeping and got anxious; as I was anxious, I couldn’t sleep.

I was weak. Most of my anxiety was related to my and my baby’s well-being. I worried I would drop him because of the physical exhaustion. I dreaded that I would be hospitalized and couldn’t breastfeed the baby. Ultimately, I was afraid I would die and my baby would grow up without a mommy.

I googled how much time a person can go without sleep. I cried a lot. My mood changed very often: a moment of hope followed by utter despair. I cried some more.

The guilt

After a few days, it was unbearable, I talked to my midwife, and she told me to speak, write, shout, or sing. Do whatever to let all the feelings and emotions out. I did that. It felt good and terrible at the same time.

I discovered I felt guilty about my son’s birth weight. He was born on the smaller side, within the normal range. He was healthy. My husband and I are short, so we could not have a giant baby.

But, the hospital staff kept saying how small he was, and it got under my skin. I was convinced I caused it during the pregnancy and questioned my diet, exercise, sleeping, etc. I felt so guilty.

People who helped me

My sister and my best friend were calling and messaging me. They shared their postpartum struggles. They told me about people they knew that went through the same terrible experience. If we lived on the same continent, they would have been at home with me.

Another friend made me a recording to listen to at night. It was a guided meditation designed for me. I drifted off for an hour or two at least once.

My husband and I searched for professional help from a psychologist and psychiatrist. We couldn’t get an appointment fast enough. I started therapy as soon as possible, but it was already after I had managed to sleep for a few nights.

After a week of not sleeping, we had to do something. My midwife gave me a prescription for a sleep-inducing pill and a full-on sleeping pill. I didn’t want to take a sleeping pill, but something had to be done. I had to come to terms with the possibility of feeding my child formula at night.

We went to the pediatrician to explain what was happening. She prescribed formula and reviewed whether the pills were compatible with breastfeeding. She advised me when I could start breastfeeding after taking them.

A lactation consultant went to our house. She taught my husband to feed the baby without using a bottle. I was afraid that bottle-feeding could confuse our son, and he wouldn’t want the breast again.

Sleeping pills

I was ready to take the sleep-inducing pill. To prepare, I pumped, put on earplugs, and went to sleep in the spare room. After a few minutes, I fell asleep. Unfortunately, the baby woke up and woke me up again. I couldn’t take another pill, and we were at square one again.

The following day, I called my dad. I cried and sobbed. I asked him for help. My call was so desperate that he thought something terrible had happened to my son.

When he understood what was happening, he felt a kind of relief. Still, he was worried about me and wanted to hold me and help me. But, he lives 24-hour-flight away. He called his shaman and alternative healing friends. They performed some rituals for my baby and me.

The tenth day

On the 10th day, we managed to get an emergency Reiki session. I only had done Reiki one time before, but I needed something to help. It was very relaxing. I was hopeful again.

That was it. If I didn’t fall asleep that day until 10 pm, I would take the sleeping pill. I didn’t want to do it, but there was no other option. We went to bed early, meditated, and turned off the lights. I fell asleep.

We were up again in 2 hours as our son woke up, and I had to breastfeed, but when he fell asleep, I fell asleep too. That night I finally slept.

I don’t know what helped me in the end. Probably many factors at the same time. Natural rebalance of postpartum hormones probably played a role. I relaxed during the alternative treatments. Many moms and my loved ones validated my feeling. Soul searching and forgiving myself was part of it too.

Getting professional medical help wasn’t easy. The psychologists and psychiatrists were hard to reach. They didn’t have appointments. My midwife and gynecologist mostly suggested sleeping pills that I was uncomfortable with. There is no mental health check-up for the new mother.

Final thoughts

These were the worst and best ten days of my life. Through all the difficulties, I was delighted and in love with our newborn baby. I managed to care for him and breastfeed him. He was thriving.

I learned that there were so many mental health problems a new mom can suffer after the birth. Nobody prepares you for that. And even health professionals sometimes forget about the mom, focusing on the newborn. None of the doctors I visited asked about my mental health.

Since this experience, I have tried to bring this up with expecting moms or their partners. They need to take care of their well-being. I message or call new mothers to see how they are doing. I am there for them as my sister and friends were there for me.