The Baby Blues: How to Overcome Motherhood’s Scarlet Letter


The Baby Blues and How to Deal with Them | The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/03/baby-blues-postpartum-depression-overcome/

This picture of my oldest daughter was taken minutes after she was born and perfectly sums up the way I felt after both of my pregnancies. You see, for the majority of my life, I imagined that giving birth to my children would be like the opening scene of The Lion King where Rafiki the monkey triumphantly holds up baby Simba and presents him to the Pride Lands while “The Circle of Life” blares in the background.

It was nothing like that for me. My first daughter, Arden, was a week late and, after 36 hours of labor (that included me showing up for work that day not knowing I was in active labor but wondering why my lower back was killing me) and a night of zero sleep, by the time she came, I was mentally and physically exhausted, incapable of experiencing any emotion other than than shock. “And now I’m supposed to breast feed?” My second daughter, Elle, was also a week late, and in the true spirit of an impatient diva who needed to plan everything, I insisted on an induction. Be careful what you wish for. Because my epidural could not keep up with the Pitocin, I felt every last bit of childbirth. I screamed and begged for more drugs, and two more epidurals later, nothing dulled the pain. Before I knew it, I was 10 centimeters dilated and needed to start pushing.

Oh you can feel that? Too bad. You have to PUSH.

I’m pretty sure everyone who was working on the delivery floor at the hospital that day is treating for some time of PTSD for the out-of-body-lunatic experience that they witnessed. I’m sorry. Really sorry. When Elle arrived only a few hours after I was admitted, I was mentally and physically in shock, just like I felt after my first pregnancy.

While both of my pregnancies were completely different, something remained constant: one week after delivery, The Gremlins arrived. The Gremlins are my name for the surge of hormones that came after childbirth when my body was trying to get back to its pre-pregnancy self. As I’m already an emotional person without being pregnant, The Gremlins made my life a nightmare for a couple weeks after delivery. They kept me awake at night. They caused hot flashes resulting in a drenched bed. I could have literally wrung my clothing. They caused my hair to fall out. They made me hate my husband. They caused me to resent my then two-year old. Worst of all? The Gremlins caused me to feel like a terrible mom and person.

What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I have the Lion King moment? Why is changing a diaper in the middle of the night (while I’m not sleeping anyway) a chore instead of a privilege? Why am I not singing ‘Kumbaya My Lord’ while shedding tears of joy at the thought of the life that I created? 

These feelings can be crippling, but are common. Studies from Mental Health America show that up to 80% of new mothers experience the baby blues, with 10% to 20% of them rising to the level of postpartum depression.

I think The Gremlins are magnified by all the “mom shaming” that goes on these days. If women feel ashamed that they aren’t breastfeeding, putting their kids in cloth diapers, and giving them organic foods that are grown in a backyard garden, then they surely aren’t going to admit when they aren’t feeling good about their kids or about themselves. The Gremlins have become the proverbial Scarlet Letter that nobody wants to talk about.

It is critical that we not be ashamed to talk about The Gremlins and to reach out to experts and our inner circles for the resources on how to overcome them.

The Baby Blues and How to Deal with Them | The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/03/baby-blues-postpartum-depression-overcome

Me and Arden days after her birth in 2012.

Therapist, Ann Witt, has experience providing services to women who are coping with The Gremlins, both before and after delivery. She has developed a C.A.L.M. approach to helping women to defeat The Gremlins:

C= Cultivate Collaborative Caregiving

Open up 30% to 40% more time in your schedule by creatively working within your budget and timeline to identify people who can help, both before and after the pregnancy. What commitments can you delegate or eliminate as you re-prioritize? What can you simplify in preparation for the 24/7 demands that will soon become a reality? The goal is to slowly create a greater sense of balance by doing less with more; more nurturing support, more guidance, and more mentoring!

Knowing that my stress triggers would become stronger when I returned to work after having Elle, I hired a Mother’s Helper to assist with household chores. The impact has been tremendous, and it’s worth the extra expense. Read about her here.

A= Achieve Accelerated Awareness

Sometimes we don’t really know what we need in order to feel content. Awareness is the key to identifying your needs and wants, to include how much sleep you need, what triggers your stress, and how you can best manage it. Remember, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Knowing when your shoulds are terrorizing you is critical. For instance, are you comparing yourself to a friend whose pregnancy seems much easier than yours, or who seems to cope much better than you? Do you feel like you won’t be perceived as a Superior Mommy-to-Be unless you do this or that?

This is where self-awareness and compassionate self-observance is critical to growing and developing along with your baby, in a way that invites peace into your life. Research shows that people who practice mindful awareness and stillness throughout their pregnancy are able to better manage stress, fluctuating moods, and the pain and discomfort of childbirth. To help with self-awareness, find a coach who can introduce holistic ways to practice it.

L= Leverage Lessons Learned

It’s critical to apply best practices and benefit from others’ lessons learned. There are a million different websites and available resources, but which ones provide information you can actually trust and put to good use? Below are some sites that offer tons of mindful birthing resources:

Mindful Birthing

Gina Hassan, Ph.D.

Osher Center for Integrative Medicine

BayCare Obstetrics

Ann has graciously volunteered to donate a copy of Nancy Bardacke’s book, Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond to three randomly-chosen individuals who comment on this blog post by April 30, 2015.

M: Mindfully Manage Motherhood

Aside from the fact that you will nurture and grow a beautiful person inside of you for months and then withstand hours of labor and delivery, the expectation is that you can and will seamlessly transition into your 24/7 role as a new mother! How have you conditioned yourself to go the distance now and after the pregnancy? Making healthy, mindfulness-based practices a priority in your life will serve you well when you have to rely on your “reserves” to get through the intensity of the first days and weeks of motherhood. Building a strong internal guiding system will help you navigate motherhood with grace, resilience, and a sense that “knowing” that you already have the answers. Cheers to you, your new baby, and the magical celebration of life. And if you’re like me and the initial step into motherhood wasn’t exactly “magical,” then know that you’re not alone.

Ann Witt, MS, LMHC, is the founder of PieWise Living in Tampa, Florida. Her coaching and counseling is premised on the knowledge that within each client lies the solution to his or her concern. Her role as a collaborative coach and therapist is to help clients identify their strengths, build strong coping and resiliency skills, and advocate for themselves in ways that help them feel empowered and fearless when addressing life’s milestones and challenges. Ann is a bilingual licensed mental health counselor, life coach, and peak performance consultant with over 30 years of experience. She integrates decades of knowledge in mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques with eclectic, evidence-based, theoretical orientations to customize solution-focused client interventions. Ann is certified in qigong, food healing, and aromatherapy, offering clients holistic alternatives. She is a published author, international keynote speaker, and expert on PTSD, anxiety disorders, and leadership peak performance. Ann is married, a mother of twins, and passionate about helping others.

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    43 Comments on The Baby Blues: How to Overcome Motherhood’s Scarlet Letter

    1. Aurelie | Surface85
      October 14, 2016 at 5:31 am (7 months ago)

      This is exactly how I felt just a couple of weeks ago. Thanks so much for sharing, it helps to see other mamas going through the same struggle. I felt so ashamed and guilty for feeling so down and having bad thoughts. To keep up, I talked a lot with my husband and took care of myself as much as I could. Essential oils like lavender, lemon are also helpful.
      As my hubby told me, it’s going to pass and even if you don’t feel that way when you’re in the middle of it, it’s good to keep in mind that it’s not you, it’s just a phase. It’s hormones, fatigue and the aftermath of delivery that hit you.

      Have a lovely weekend.

      xx
      Aurelie | http://www.surface85.com

      Reply
    2. Tamara
      March 2, 2016 at 2:23 am (1 year ago)

      I have been through, and currently am dealing with PPD. The second time round it hit faster, and harder. So thankful for the support around me.

      Reply
    3. noemi
      February 29, 2016 at 8:53 pm (1 year ago)

      Unfortunately PPD is real and affects so many of us. Seeking help is they key. Love how your post really describes pretty much what we go through.

      Reply
    4. Cara
      February 29, 2016 at 4:51 pm (1 year ago)

      Great post on a subject that so many mothers out there can relate to. It’s also good for mothers to understand that there’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s okay to ask for help.

      Reply
    5. Kristen from The Road to Domestication
      May 25, 2015 at 11:51 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you for sharing this! I hope it will help those in the same situation! Thanks so much for taking the time to link up with us over at the #HomeMattersParty – we hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend, and that we see you again this Friday! Feel free to bring a friend 🙂

      Reply
    6. Katie
      May 21, 2015 at 8:16 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you so much for sharing this! When I was dealing with some pretty extreme severe post partum anxiety, it was really difficult to explain what I was feeling and dealing with. I love that you’re giving a voice to all those too scared to reveal what they’re struggling with

      Reply
    7. Lisa Ehrman
      May 17, 2015 at 7:51 pm (2 years ago)

      Great post! We need more of these, imho. There seems to be innumerable posts these days about the perfect birth, perfect diapers, perfect blah, blah, blah….I ‘m glad my kids are grown 🙂 Life isn’t anywhere close to perfect. There are so many reasons that childbirth can be tough and then come the baby blues! Thanks for sharing this story 🙂

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        May 18, 2015 at 8:50 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks for stopping by and for your input, Lisa. So glad you enjoyed it. And yes, I think people try to glamorize their lives on the internet!

        Reply
    8. Mila
      May 2, 2015 at 10:45 am (2 years ago)

      That sounds like a breath of fresh air! Love the approach!
      LOL at ‘ giving kids organic foods that are grown in a backyard garden’ 😉

      Thank you so much for linking up with iDEA boX !
      xx
      Mila

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        May 3, 2015 at 12:37 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks, Mila! We can revisit the connection between feeding kids organic meals and life success once they are old enough to go to college… LOL! Thanks for stopping by!

        Reply
    9. Romany
      April 29, 2015 at 6:19 am (2 years ago)

      You story spoke volumes to me, and as it happens before I read this post I had posted a similar themed post about sharing more about postnatal depression. I appreciate that not everyone has close or supportive families and that is why we as women need to be reaching out to new mums to make sure that they really are okay! Thanks for sharing such a well written post on a topic that needs to be spoken about more! — Romany

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        April 30, 2015 at 9:01 am (2 years ago)

        Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience, Romany! I think, like you, this is something most women go through that nobody wants to admit. When we left the hospital with BOTH girls, the doctors stressed to my husband that I might become emotional about one-week post-partum. That’s exactly when it happened both times. Crazy! Glad I’ll never have to go through that again.

        Reply
    10. Danielle
      April 28, 2015 at 2:48 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you so much for your post! With my first I am pretty sure I had some baby blues. It wasn’t until my mom asked me if I was ok, did I really realize how unhappy I was. Like you said, it’s so hard to talk about, since you think you should be so happy. Thanks again for sharing and linking up with Idea Box.

      Reply
    11. Brandi Clevinger
      April 25, 2015 at 6:22 pm (2 years ago)

      I had postpartum depression after my third child was born, but I didn’t realize it until after I pulled through it. Looking back it was so obvious, but as I was living it, it surely wasn’t obvious.

      Thanks for sharing your story and tips at Inspire Me Mondays!

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        April 26, 2015 at 1:03 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story, Brandi!

        Reply
    12. Jenny @ Unremarkable Files
      April 22, 2015 at 8:08 pm (2 years ago)

      It is as if you can see the thought bubble above your daughter’s head: “WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!”

      I learned not to ask, “Why am I not having those moments where the angels sing and the orchestra swells, etc?” Maybe that happens for other women. But for me, the sweetest moments in motherhood are just a calm, happy feeling – and I think that’s cool.

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        April 22, 2015 at 8:40 pm (2 years ago)

        I agree, Jenny! And I think there’s nothing better than when my daughter in the picture, now three, comes into my room at night and says “Can I sweep with you Mommy?” How can I say no to that? Thanks for stopping by!

        Reply
    13. Stacey
      April 22, 2015 at 12:55 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you for your honesty. People talk about PPD and baby blues, but they don’t share stories and so you never know if what you are feeling is “normal” or not. With my first I had PPD. He was a screaming little mess. It turned out he had tons of allergies, but I didn’t know that and thought I was failing.

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        April 22, 2015 at 8:41 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks for stopping by and sharing your personal experience. Good point that sometimes we, as moms, blame ourselves if our child isn’t “perfect.”

        Reply
    14. Tahnee
      April 22, 2015 at 10:49 am (2 years ago)

      Loved your post thank you so much!

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        April 6, 2015 at 10:28 pm (2 years ago)

        JES! I love your blog and your honesty and hilarity. Thanks for chiming in, glad I’m in good company.

        Reply
    15. Debbie
      April 3, 2015 at 11:34 am (2 years ago)

      I’ve read this two times, and although I’m a grandmother now and didn’t have these issues 40 years ago when I had my daughter, I have known women who have had similar experiences. I think it is very important for all of us … family or now … to pay close attention to our new moms. A little help goes a very long way. I always try to prepare a couple meals and deliver them to young families during those first weeks with a new baby.

      Reply
    16. Sara Glomski
      March 31, 2015 at 8:46 pm (2 years ago)

      The Simba story is cracking me up! I can’t relate to the labor and contractions becuase I’ve had 3 C-sections but I do know all about the night sweats! Holy moley! And I would get sad in the evenings a lot. I started to get overwhelmed thinking about getting up to feed the baby and being all alone. Hormones! Ugh. Gremlins is a good word- they did a number on my hair too!!

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        April 2, 2015 at 8:55 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks for stopping by, Sara! My hair is growing back in and I have these hideous bangs that people probably think I cut on purpose. Dang you, gremlins!

        Reply
    17. UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine
      March 31, 2015 at 4:22 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you for this article, and for including Nancy Bardacke’s wonderful work! In addition to our two classes for expectant parents:
      Weekend: http://www.osher.ucsf.edu/classes-and-lectures/meditation-and-mindfulness/the-mind-in-labor-working-with-pain-in-childbirth/
      Evening: http://www.osher.ucsf.edu/classes-and-lectures/meditation-and-mindfulness/mindfulness-based-childbirth-parenting/

      we also host a post-partum support group:
      http://www.whrc.ucsf.edu/whrc/gex/afterglow.html

      Reply
    18. Shamene@sayitwithcake
      March 31, 2015 at 2:06 pm (2 years ago)

      thank you for your story, it was great. I experienced similar things!

      Reply
    19. Sarah J
      March 30, 2015 at 11:32 am (2 years ago)

      Popping over from Monday Motivation =) The thought of having and raising children terrifies me, just as much as the potential for Gremlins to show up… It’s a wonderful plan you have in place to chase them away. Should I consider parenthood, I’ll have to reference this =)Be sure to share your recipes, crafts, upcycles & DIYs at Two Uses Tuesday (Mon 8pm EST to Fri 11pm EST) over at Sarah Celebrates if you don’t already!

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        March 30, 2015 at 8:43 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed, Sarah!

        Reply
    20. Allyson
      March 29, 2015 at 8:44 pm (2 years ago)

      I could have written this myself! I feel bad this is such a taboo topic, because more people go through it than not. I had such a terrible delivery with both of my kids, then tons of crazy things going wrong after, plus feeling super depressed, it was not easy. Luckily I had my husband for support and he helped me through it (along with some Zoloft), but without him and the drugs, I probably wouldn’t have ended up in a good place. Thanks for writing this and putting it out there. I try my best to be honest and realistic with new moms when they ask me about my experience, because you never know when someone is suffering. Thanks for letting people know it’s okay to feel the way they feel, and there are ways to make it better and get back to a good place.

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        March 29, 2015 at 8:50 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your experience, Allyson! I’m glad you’re in a great place now. Motherhood is the best but the road there isn’t always the easiest.

        Reply
    21. Rose's Craft at FineCraftGuild.com
      March 29, 2015 at 3:49 pm (2 years ago)

      Oh my goodness, that child birth description rings SOOOOOO TRUE. How you could get yourself a second child, well, that speaks for character! Wow.

      This is really good and useful info beyond that, because I too believe many women need help not trying to be too much of a ‘superwoman’ and to get things into balance and healthy perspective.

      Thank you for linking this up with us, Jennifer. What a valuable contribution to our SHARE IT sunday party.

      Till next week Sunday, if not before that! ~ Rose

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        March 29, 2015 at 8:52 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks so much for stopping by, I LOVE Share it Sunday!

        Reply
    22. Jackie
      March 27, 2015 at 11:39 am (2 years ago)

      What a great article. I actually had just gotten home from my Ob/Gyn when I came across this and in all honesty, the Gremlins made me cry… This is definitely something that expecting Mothers need to be educated and coached on to take the signs seriously. I am actually suffering from PPD and while things are getting better, it is still a struggle. My signs weren’t the things that I recognized, I was having a really hard time leaving the house alone with my son. It isn’t that I didn’t want to take him places.. I just couldn’t/sometimes still can’t.

      I thought that I was just anxious but it turns out that I had PPD and didn’t realize it.. My biggest advice to new Moms is that they need to listen to their bodies and get educated before hand. No one wants to look at this before hand in fear that If something isn’t right, then address it. If you find yourself hating your husband because he took a breath in the same room as you, might want to get that checked out. I am glad I did.

      I am going look into all these references this weekend and work on the items you have listed! Thanks for the post Jen. Who would have thought that we would be talking about this now when just a bit ago we were covering up scratches in paint with nail polish 😉

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        March 27, 2015 at 3:39 pm (2 years ago)

        Jackie- thanks for having the courage to share your personal story about this. Keep me posted on your journey and always know that I am here if you need to chat. Loved the reminder about the nail polish- I had TOTALLY forgotten. Hilarious. Cheers to you.

        Reply
    23. Cathy
      March 27, 2015 at 12:23 am (2 years ago)

      I was just discussing similar issues with friends tonight!

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        March 27, 2015 at 3:41 pm (2 years ago)

        Cathy- I am going to ask my Mother’s Helper on monday if she has any friends who might be interested in helping your family. She has a group of friends so hopefully someone will work out. I’ll keep you posted.

        Reply
    24. Stephanie
      March 26, 2015 at 10:20 pm (2 years ago)

      Excellent article! I experienced the Baby Blues post delivery and hated myself for feeling that way despite knowing my hormones were crazy! I too shared the same thought about needing to breastfeed after going through so much…I just wanted to sleep, rest, and have a single uninterrupted moment to myself so I could take it all in.

      Gotta love those hormones!!!

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        March 27, 2015 at 3:40 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks for sharing, Stephanie, and for stopping by the blog. I think we are all stronger with more education.

        Reply
    25. Kerrie Forrester
      March 26, 2015 at 8:25 pm (2 years ago)

      Great Article Jennifer! This is definitely something that women should be educated about. I suffered severe PPD with my first and I had never had an ounce of depression, which made it all the more shocking. I think it is so important for women not to be ashamed of it but learn how to cope if it does occur 🙂

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        March 27, 2015 at 3:42 pm (2 years ago)

        Kerrie- I remember you telling me about this when you did my newborn shoot. People can’t believe how strong The Gremlins are until they are dealing with them. Glad you had a happy ending and thanks for sharing your story.

        Reply
    26. Sarah
      March 26, 2015 at 10:45 am (2 years ago)

      Keeping it real, Jen! Love your transparency…and how you are totally unapologetic!

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        March 27, 2015 at 3:42 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks, Sarah! You’re the best.

        Reply

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