Why don’t I feel like the perfect mom?
A woman delivers a beautiful baby, a bundle of joy, so cute and cuddly!
Several weeks later she may look at herself in the mirror and wonder what has just happened. She never imagined a baby could cry so much. She thought breastfeeding would be easy. She thought her partner would be there to pitch in 24/7. The relatives come to visit this miracle child and stay for weeks. There is still the laundry, cleaning, entertaining and cooking to do. The whole experience can be overwhelming. What stares back at her is a person she no longer recognizes, dark circles under her eyes, pale and her expression says, “I didn’t expect this.”
Childbirth is a wonderful experience. Those of us who have given birth know a manual doesn’t pop out at birth, with instructions on how to care for this baby.
Most women, 80 percent, develop the “Baby Blues “after birth. A new mother can experiences mood swings, irritability, exhaustion, and tearfulness, sometimes mingled with periods of intense joy as she regains her hormonal balance and sense of self. It can last a few hours to a few weeks. If these feelings persist longer than a few weeks after birth it may be post partum depression.
The symptoms of post partum depression may include feeling depressed most of the time, excessive worry, inability to sleep, fear of criticism of mothering skills, conflicted feelings about the baby and hopelessness. Twenty percent of new mothers will experience these symptoms, no matter how many children they have birthed. Women who have been diagnosed with depression before becoming pregnant are 50 times more likely to develop post partum depression. The symptoms can come on gradually or rapidly and happen any time during the first year after the birth.
Often times, the mother may think it is normal to have these feelings. She may be thinking that motherhood is huge job and with time it will get better. Often it is her family and friends who may see that she is not coping well. They may recognize her lack of energy, volatile temper, weight loss or gain or lack of interest in the baby.
Post partum depression that is not treated can have devastating effects on the baby, the mother, and on her relationships. Untreated, it can make it difficult or impossible for a mother to form an attachment with the infant. This lack of attachment can follow the child for years, causing emotional trauma, and attention problems and lower test scores. It can even result in the mom abusing her child.
For the woman, it can become an endless battle with feelings that she cannot understand, feelings of failure, sleep problems and at its worst, thoughts of suicide. It affects her relationships with others and she may have mood swings, lack of caring, and loss of sexual interest.
The first step in getting treatment is realizing what is occurring. The support of family and friends is extremely important. Let mom know she is not crazy, Allow her to talk about her feelings, help her with chores, make dinner, and care for the baby so that she can rest. These are important ways in which everyone can help.
A visit to her physician should be encouraged as medications may need to be prescribed that can help her through this difficult time. Motherhood is not always a joyous experience. With understanding and education, we all can help women who experience post partum depression.
If you are a mother that feels like you weren’t dealt the “Perfect Mom” card in the deck of life, it’s OK. Talk to other moms; join a support group or chat room with other mothers who understand what you are going through. Talk to your doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Post partum depression is real and if you think you have it, you probably do. With help, you can be overcome this problem and feel healthy again.
— Tamara Degler, RN, MPA, CLC, is supervisor at Nurse Family Partnership, a free program for first-time mothers. For more information about Family Visitor Programs’ services, call 945-1234, extension 10 or visit http://www.familyvisitor.org
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