“ I’m crying all of the time and I feel really sad. Is this normal? ”
If I’ve seen this question, or a variant of it, asked once since my own battles with postpartum depression then I’ve seen it a thousand times.
As new moms we all want a formula for Normal. We want someone to tell us exactly what postpartum depression looks like so that as long as we aren’t showing those specific symptoms we will know that we are Normal.
Here is the first thing you need to know about postpartum life; you have to find your new Normal because Normal will never look like it did before you had children whether you ever suffer from a single day of postpartum depression or not. Every new mom will be subjected to a rollercoaster ride by their hormones after giving birth but that will look different for every new mom. Every new mom will find that for the foreseeable future there will be songs or movies, commercials or scenes in the grocery store that make her catch her breath, smile to herself, bust out in laughter or in tears that she never would have thought twice about before having children. Normal has to be redefined after having a child for every woman.
Here is what you need to know about Normal as it relates to postpartum depression; there is no formula. I have been well-integrated into the postpartum depression support community since I first started to become healthy after battling my demons and I have never heard a story from any two women that sounds the same.
There is a textbook definition for postpartum depression and with that there are textbook symptoms that you may be warned to watch for like feeling sad or hopeless, crying more often than usual, oversleeping or being unable to sleep when your baby is asleep, feelings of anger or rage, avoiding friends and family, having trouble bonding with your baby or thinking about harming yourself or your baby. Some symptoms like thoughts of self-harm might make you say “duh” while others like “crying more often than usual” may cause you to brush off your symptoms because all of your girlfriends told you to expect that.
After my son was born, I thought he was fine. He was very cute and perfectly lovely but after about a week I remember looking at him and thinking “Ok, I’m done. Your real mom and dad can come get you now.” They hadn’t written “waiting for actual biological parents to pick child up” down as a textbook postpartum depression symptom but that was the moment when I was able to say to my husband “this isn’t Normal.”
That moment, that “this isn’t Normal” moment isn’t always as clear for many new moms, though. Many new moms find themselves asking friends or family, “Is this Normal?”
Here is the thing that you need to know above all other things; ask the question. Ask the question. Ask if it’s Normal. If there is any inkling in your mind that what you are feeling or going through might be something more, ask. You won’t have medications forced on you if that isn’t what you need. You don’t have to see a therapist if you don’t want to but maybe you will want to. You won’t have a label put on you that doesn’t fit you but maybe you will feel one thousand times lighter because you put your fear out into the world to be acknowledged and if perhaps what you’re feeling is slightly abnormal then you have opened a door for help, for healing.
I don’t really remember what Normal looked like before my son was born but I’m quite certain it didn’t look anything like it does today. That’s okay, the new Normal is in.