Life After Birth: How Depression Motivated Me to Change the Postpartum Experience for Mothers

How Depression Motivated Me to Change the

Postpartum Experience for Mothers Everywhere

My story isn’t remarkable and it certainly isn’t glamorous. It’s actually quite common–1 in 5 common. Although, if we’re being honest, it’s probably even more common than “1 in 5” because so many women go undiagnosed and unreported. Just as I did, during my entire longer-than-year-long-bout of postpartum depression, which I had after the birth of my first son. I, like many others, just didn’t know enough about it, to recognize that I had it.

I knew I felt exhausted and challenged. That much was clear. But I thought I was able to rationalize all of my in-convenient emotions, like my moodiness, weepiness, and frustration, on things like: not having slept in days, or on just wanting breastfeeding to work so badly, despite the pain and discomfort. Now, I could go on and on about the beautiful, natural, textbook HypnoBirth I had with my first son, because I love reliving the glory of it. So much of it was truly beautiful. I gave birth with a midwife and a doula by my side  at a birth center that was reminiscent of a charming bed and breakfast.

So why did I end up having postpartum depression?

Well, perhaps, it was because I wasn’t thinking about the inconvenient parts. The hard parts. The parts I never wanted to talk about. Like the fact that I had vaginally delivered my son ‘posterior,’ so he broke my tailbone. I hemorrhaged and tore badly, needing much stitching and suturing. The first thing I felt after hearing my son’s first cries, was a needle of pitocin forced into my thigh, to stop me from ‘bleeding out,’ followed by a long painful period of receiving stitches in my most delicate places. These interruptions–both chemical and physical–can end up taking their toll on one’s entire postpartum experience.

After breaking my tailbone and losing blood from my posterior delivery, I became anemic and hypoglycemic, and my postpartum journey felt like an uphill battle from the start. From this baseline of utter depletion, I forged ahead as many of us do into the rough and sometimes unforgiving first weeks of motherhood. I continued to deplete myself with what seemed like endless acts of giving.

My early days as a new mom were riddled with challenges. Breastfeeding challenges, for one, caused my baby undue starvation, and myself a terrible infection resulting illness. Troubled sleep eventually spiraled completely out of control, resulting in my development of chronic insomnia, heart palpitations, and nighttime anxiety. As a result, my mood was affected. My whole life was affected.

Being so sick and run down for so long, quickly rendered me weepy and depressed. There is nothing more depressing than ill health–especially when it makes you feel incapable of caring for your own baby.

And it still puzzles me, to this day, that neither I, nor a single one of the plethora of pediatricians, OBGYNs, or any of the other specialists I came in contact with during that time in my life, thought that maybe–just maybe–given the glazed-over look in my eyes and the tear stains on my shirt–I was perhaps in a state of crisis–and suffering from depression.

No medical professional I came in contact with even so much as suggested the term, and I was conditioned to hold their opinions of me in very high regard–even above my own intuition.

Which is why, it’s sadly, no surprise to me, that our country is in a state of maternal health crisis. The maternal mortality rate is staggering, as are the amount of “near-misses,” and maternal deaths. We’re just not looking at the signs. Largely because we can’t look for things we haven’t learned about.

I went on to dedicate my life to making sure that no other woman would ever go through what I went through, without proper education, support, healing tools, and a clear and easier path through to the other side.

I am now a trained doula and postpartum support specialist, as well as a certified postpartum care practitioner, who has already helped over a hundred women (and counting) through my work with Life After Birth CT.

I am also the Founder of Better Postpartum, which I created so that all women could access knowledge about true postpartum support and healing from a wide range of medical and other birthing professionals–the kind that our post-birth physiology mandates that ALL women SHOULD have–in order to ensure a happier, more healthful postpartum for ourselves and our babies during that crucial first year of life together and beyond.

Because as it turns out: Postpartum recovery, hormones, sleep, nutrition… all of it can be managed.

You CAN make your body and mind work for you, instead of against you, after you give birth to your baby. And you can even live on to benefit from a more vibrant state of health after birth, than you enjoyed pre-pregnancy!

It was a long road to recovery, but I now know in my heart that everything I went through was a means to an end, ultimately leading me to my purpose in creating this incredible resource for women… a ‘one-stop-shop’ containing the wisdom of every professional that any expectant or postpartum mother would need to hear from, in order to experience the most enriching and rewarding postpartum: the sacred, small window of time they have to thoroughly enjoy their baby, on the other side of giving birth.

And since I’ve got your attention, here are some tips to get you started on a successful postpartum journey with your new baby:

1: Meet your own needs first

I can’t tell you how many moms I’ve worked with who are completely focused on their baby’s needs, but are dismally unaware of how badly they are ignoring or voluntarily choosing to forgo their own needs in those early days, weeks and months after having a baby.

Your needs must come first. Then your baby’s—at a very close second. Remember: You have to secure your own oxygen mask, before assisting others. This is just as true in motherhood, as it is as a passenger on an airplane. Every child deserves a well mother. So make sure your needs are getting met in a variety of ways every day, so that you are mothering from a place of wellness.

This can mean doing anything from taking naps and breaks, to taking showers, and from visiting with friends, to handing your baby off so that you can have some time solo. The idea here is generally to let others care for you and your baby.

Don’t forget, this also may include going to see medical specialists, joining support groups, fostering a sense of community, going to the right doctors/therapists, getting bodywork like a massage… anything that falls under the big, giant realm of “taking care of you.”  I’m talking about: Your needs. Your health. Your body. Your emotions. You, you, you.

2: Nourish yourself with specific healing foods.

Our postpartum physiology requires us to eat certain types of healthy, nourishing and healing postpartum foods in order to better recover from the act of giving birth. What we put in our bodies can assist in the repair of our body tissue, help replace lost blood supply, refortify our iron levels, assist our organs in properly processing and eliminating toxins, and help us to regulate our hormonal and nervous systems so that we have a better buffer to stress.

Generally, it is recommended to eat foods that are “warm in temperature and warm in nature”. Think of foods and drinks that can be served hot and are seasoned with warming spices: hot herbal teas; hot porridge with spices like ginger, cinnamon, molasses or cloves; and also use plenty of melty animal fats like butter and/or ghee. Or try slow-cooked meat stews—and plenty of bone broths. These are the rich healing foods that can be seen in the postpartum traditions of many different cultures all over the world, for time immemorial.

3:  Delegate, Outsource, and be willing to be waited on.

What does this look like in practice? It looks like hiring help. Or getting your partner, your mother, your neighbor, your aunt, or anyone… to do things of real value for you and your family. Things like cleaning, cooking, laundering, and baby (or older sibling) care.

Maybe you register for a meal train, a postpartum doula, a night nanny, or a babysitter. I’m telling you: whatever you can get, get that. My general rule of thumb is: Get more than you think you need. (Trust me on that one.)

4: Stay in bed for 30 days +

You need to recoup, recover and conserve energy. You need to nap whenever you can, if you can. Or just zombie out and lay like a corpse—you’re still recharging your batteries that way, just at a slower ‘charge’ level. The fact of the matter is: You will need lots of time in the supine position. Rest helps you heal, helps you lose less blood, helps your internal anatomy reset properly, and helps you to conserve your mood and energy levels. A postpartum woman’s physiology requires her to rest an exorbitant amount in order to stay healthy.

Time spent like this is often at the very heart—it is the foundational root—of what it takes to regain your strength and to feel good in your new life as a new mother.

Natalie Telyatnikov

Natalie Telyatnikov is the Founder of @BetterPostpartum. Her mission is simple: make moms’ lives after birth better, by making postpartum education as mainstream as childbirth education. If you are pregnant or postpartum, visit BetterPostpartum.com

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