“I Wanted This Baby … Why am I Now So Depressed?”
Experiencing the “baby blues” is more common — and more conquerable — than you may think.
Celebrity moms Brooke Shields and Marie Osmond have been open about their experiences with postpartum depression, and recently they’ve even admitted to having suicidal thoughts after giving birth. While this is extreme, postnatal anxiety or depression isn’t uncommon—50 to 80 percent of new mothers experience some level of it, and in any form, it can be demoralizing and debilitating.
For some moms, the sudden change in lifestyle can spark these negative feelings. “I’d been able to lead a fairly selfish life until the baby was born, and in an instant, my days of doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted were over, and that was frightening,” admits Lauren Dimet Waters, 42, editor in chief of Second City Style, a fashion and beauty e-zine. On the day her baby nurse’s stint was ending, Lauren cried all morning. “I was terrified. I panicked about how I was going to be able to take care of him,” she remembers.
This is very common, says Ariel Dalfen, M.D., a psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and author of When Baby Brings the Blues (Wiley, 2008). “Many women have babies after establishing a career and financial freedom. It helps to realize that the intense exhaustion and round-the-clock feedings are for a limited time period, and while your life won’t be exactly the same, you can re-introduce many elements of it.”
Lauren notes that talking with friends who’d been though this stage was helpful, and she also hired a nanny for two half-days a week so she can “get out a bit and feel human.”
Our own relationships with our parents can also influence the way we feel with a new baby. “I flipped out when I found out our second child was going to be a girl,” says Luivette Resto, 31, an adjunct college professor in L.A.. “I had a very difficult relationship with my mother growing up, and I was so scared I’d make the same mistakes with my daughter.”
Luivette and her husband dealt with an additional challenge when their third child, a son, was born: He was colicky. “He was crying 12 hours a day, and we still had these two other little children to take care of,” she says. “We were at each other’s throats.”
To diffuse the tension, the two talked more clearly about what their roles as parents would be—i.e., who would be mostly in charge of bottles, who would change diapers, etc. “It sounds trite, but communicating with each other can give you both more of sense of control over the situation, which reduces stress,” says Dr. Dalfen. “And if becoming a parent triggers difficult emotions—as it did for Luivette when she had her daughter—it’s best to seek therapy. Addressing your fears with a professional can bring clarity and help put you in a more positive state of mind.”