I know it sounds backward. You’re preparing for postpartum depression (PPD) and you haven’t had the baby yet? And you’re right. I’m not suffering from PPD yet and I don’t even know if I’ll experience it. But I’m only a few weeks from delivery, and if my previous experience with PPD as well as my history of anxiety are any indication, postpartum depression is something I will need to deal with this time around, as well. So even though I’m still pregnant and feeling pretty good at this point, I’m doing everything I can to be ready.
Here’s how I’m preparing for postpartum depression in case it rears its ugly head:
1. I’ve got help lined up
I’ve already talked to a few critical people in my life (my mom, my cousin, and a few good friends) and let them know to be on stand-by for my phone calls. Will I need to call them? I don’t know. But during my first go round, there were a few times where I needed to talk to someone RIGHT NOW and fortunately, someone just happened to be available to take my call. That was pure luck. This time around, they know the call may be coming and they know they are on my 911 “I need help because I can’t take this” list. My list was easy to pick: my mom’s my best friend and is always the first person I call, my cousin also suffered from PPD (three times!) and knows what I need to hear, and my friends also have experience with depression. I’m sure I could include other supportive friends and family, but for me having people who also struggled with the symptoms made the most sense.
2. I have activities for coping
One of the biggest challenges I had the first time around was feeling confined to my house. I feared going outside because it didn’t seem safe and I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t sure how to use the car seat yet, and the idea of taking the baby to the grocery store (or anywhere, really) seemed daunting and dangerous. This time around, I’m much more confident in my parenting skills outside the house and have a list of activities to get me and the baby outside when I need a break and fresh air. Activities include: going for walks (get a great stroller… seriously, it’s a lifesaver. My jogging stroller was a game changer), driving to the park, shopping, etc. I also have several babysitters lined up who are available to watch my toddler during the daytime. I don’t know if I’ll even use them, but just knowing they are there if I’m overwhelmed and need someone to entertain my son so I can focus on the baby is a huge relief for me.
3. My doctor is on standby
I’ve already told my OB-GYN that I struggled with PPD for the first baby and needed medication that was safe for breastfeeding. She knows I may call her at any point and we’ve already discussed my best options. Again, I don’t know if I’ll need to go that far, but just knowing it’s available is sometimes all you need.
4. I’m staying healthy
I’ve been working hard to exercise and eat well in this last part of pregnancy, and I’ll continue post baby. By exercise, I mean slow walking, so don’t misunderstand me. But continuing to move and eat right are great measures for conquering depression. In my last pregnancy, I grew complacent towards the end, which is mighty tempting when you’re uncomfortable, your back is killing you, sleep is a struggle, and you keep thinking “I’m pregnant… if I can ever eat junk food without feeling guilty, it’s now!” I hear ya and I’ve been there. But this time around, my eye is on the prize: postpartum health. I need to be in my best mental and physical shape possible so I can care for my baby to the best of my ability. Healthy eating and living are key.
5. I’m going to go easy on myself
In my first pregnancy, I believed that knowledge was power. I read as many books as I could and I was certain that there was no problem I couldn’t solve with all my literary resources. I believed the answers to all my baby’s needs lay within those books. Now I know better. I’m going to go with my gut for this baby and know that as his mother, intuitively I have a better sense of his needs than someone who calls herself the “baby whisperer,” or all the other experts out there. Just relaxing and going easy on myself lifts a huge weight off my shoulders, and makes me feel less pressure to know it all and have all the answers. I’m going to have to get to know my baby, just like any new mama does. Reading books may make you feel better armed for battle, but the best way to care for your baby is through watching, learning, and adjusting. It’s a cliché but it’s true: all babies are different!
Who knows if preparing for postpartum depression will be necessary.
I truly have no idea whether or not I’ll suffer from PPD with my next baby. Only time will tell. But these five measures make me feel more prepared for the possibility. And being prepared for the worst case scenario allows me to focus on the magic and miracle of my new baby…the most beautiful thing in life.