A New Mama’s Survival Hacks for Conquering Postpartum Depression

Hey there, new momma!

You’re tired, sleep-deprived, frustrated, and confused–and you think you have the symptoms of Post Partum Depression, just like I did. And while it may be tempting to wallow in your emotions because of how real and raw they are, your baby needs you and can’t wait forever.

Now what? What can you do about it?

Here is my own tried and tested survival guide against the raging hormones and the pileup of emotions to get you through your days with your newborn.

1. HOPE: because this too shall pass.

“This too shall pass” was my lifesaving mantra for the challenges of breastfeeding with an inverted nipple, to the mysterious cry fests, to the poop blunders and to my lingering thoughts that it would last forever.

I clung “forward thinking” because I knew that if I persevered through these hardships, it would be well worth it. I knew it was possible because I had seen in many of my older mom friends who had endured hardships worse than mine and lived to tell their stories. Their advice to me was to always: persevere because it will get better.

It also helped that I didn’t count the days until that time came because counting would just lead to impatience and hopelessness. Yes, do hope! But don’t give hope a timeline. It won’t help to hold unto unrealistic expectations… like getting your post-baby body back immediately after giving birth. Remember too, that each mother’s body, baby, and circumstances are different so don’t compare your progress or regress on other mothers and their babies.

Be reasonable with your hope and be happy with the small successes too because every success leads toward everything getting better.

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This is one of the best photo reminder of how much breastmilk my baby could take!

2. Track your progress and make lists.

There are just six things baby needs to do in a day: bathe, eat, poop, pee, sleep and cuddle. Even if there are just six things to select from, it can still be difficult for the sleep deprived parents of newborns to figure things out.

On a small whiteboard that hung above our headboard, my pragmatic husband wrote the following:

Baby: “Why do I cry?”

1. I pood/peed.
2. I want mommy’s milk.
3. I need to burp.
4. It’s cold. Please fix my swaddle.
5. I need love/cuddles/carrying.

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As I discovered, a newborn is impossible to understand without getting to know his routine. At the height of my depression and after repeatedly hammering my husband with “I don’t know what to do anymores” he sat me down and said: “You just have to track everything that goes on with this baby. I know you may be lazy and you think it might not work. But trust me.”

He printed out a Baby Care Log he got from Baby Center. (Here is the Sample Work Sheet and here is the Blank Log Sheet) I wasn’t just logging in my baby’s feeding, diaper changes, sleep, crying and fussiness, I was encouraged to log the activities of my day, my medications, feelings about breastfeeding, emotions, diet and even the status of my relationships.

With the popularity of bullet journaling and the studies on the correlation of making list to one’s work efficiency, I don’t doubt that this is a technique that helps the first time parents get by feeling like they’ve got the whole baby thing down. These logbooks also work as great references for baby’s upcoming doctor’s checkups especially when new parent amnesia kicks in.

3. Declutter (inside and out!).

Every mother has her own way of coping with this new role in her life. This was mine.

There I was, with a copy of Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Art of Tidying Up. I felt like Kondo knew what I was going through and she knew how I could get out of this depression and be a better mom. I was sold to her idea of the connection between the things I owned but can’t let go of to how it was holding me back from who I wanted to become.

I realized that this depression made me so in denial that I was even a mom at all. With Kondo’s words: “The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important (than the sentiments we felt about these objects in the past.)” I set out to embrace motherhood with this book as a personal project.

I heart-wrenchingly started with my clothes because they are my favorite way to show creativity and style. When I faced my closet with the intention of keeping only what sparks joy in my life now that I’m a mother, I was fighting against my high school, college and work me. While decluttering my clothes, I faced the reality of my new motherhood and was able to sift through the worries and thoughts that needed to be reasoned with.

This may not work for you but do find a way to ease yourself into this acceptance because acceptance is the first leap to take mothering head on.

4. Mommy 911: Phone a friend.

A friend who I sat side-by-side with at the OB-gynecologist office and gave birth two weeks ahead of me was my Mommy 911 Hotline. We exchanged many sad, crying emoticons and shared with one another our difficulties in breastfeeding. We talked about everything. We helped each other talk through accepting that we sounded like we had postpartum depression. We also talked about how our husbands were blooming into fatherhood so well and laughed about how we felt like we weren’t blooming in any way at all. We were both new moms so we had each other to talk to even late into the night. There was so much comfort in knowing that I had someone to talk to who wouldn’t belittle my situation because we were both just as confused as the other.

You’re not alone. Sometimes, you need to feel and experience that truth.

Find someone you can trust to listen to all of your new mom woes and triumphs with. It can be your mom, OB-gyn, an older mom friend or a group chat of your trusted mom friends. Have them as your go-to and never forget to thank them with a gracious heart.

5. Prayer.

Normally, when we pray we ask for help for anything as mundane as finding a missing object to help in something out of our hands as saving a life. New motherhood may feel like you’re desperately reaching for the heavens for strength.

I believe that God is good and He listens with the heart of a Father. I would tell Him everything in my heart, because He knows them even before I uttered them and knows better than anyone how to help me nourish my soul. Apart from everything else that I could physically do for my newborn, my prayer is the only way I know could help her strengthen her soul today.

Whether you’re Christian or not, prayer or even a simple meditation or reflection is worth it to inspire thoughts of humility, gratitude and an optimism you need to get through each long day.

Originally written for Mom Center Philippines

I added some of my personal photos to this post. 😉

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The One Thing I Wish Someone Warned me About Motherhood: Post Partum Depression

No one really knows what goes on behind the scenes after birth, when mom struggles to breastfeed, when mom has to be accompanied by nurses to the bathroom just so she could pee or shower, or when mom goes home to be alone.

No one ever told me what would happen after I gave birth to the complete stranger that was my baby. Many of my friends who aren’t mothers yet have asked, what in the world is it like to have a newborn? How does it feel like?

Admittedly, my story is different from others. I’ve heard of moms experiencing depression during pregnancy or only experiencing it after having their fourth child! I had post partum depression during the first month after childbirth. If there’s one thing I wish someone had told me before I gave birth, it would be about the reality of post partum depression and how common it is among new mothers. New moms who are reading this, my message is that you’re not alone.

Here is my story.

At the Safe Haven

I lay on the bed in the birthing room. I was no longer pregnant. I felt like I had been completely deflated. I thought, “It’s just me and my body, all to myself again.”

Baby and I were then wheeled out of the birthing room to go to a regular room. Each nurse, patient or passersby beamed in delight to see the newborn baby. In my melancholy, I felt I was invisible that I was merely the passageway for this baby to be in this world.

In the regular room, I was being coached to breastfeed. I thought, “Wait a minute, my body is back to being just mine again, why should I be breastfeeding? I mean, she just came out of me right so she should have had enough food to eat in there to at least give me like a day to rest. Gosh am I tired.” I really was no longer pregnant but my body, this body, was not all for myself… Ever… Again.

The hospital room was my safe haven. My family and friends visited me and congratulated me. My husband took care of her so that I could sleep. Nurses and doctors checked up on me and baby regularly. I didn’t have to worry about anything but myself because these professionals had my small family covered.

I counted the hours to the day we went home.

At War

Home was a war zone. I had my firearms ready: my breastfeeding capacity, my arms to hold my baby and a great will to make her sleep. It felt like a war against my baby but really it was a war against myself.

There was that breaking point that I’ll never forget. It was the day I couldn’t go to the bathroom. I went to the bathroom three times and I just couldn’t go. You know what I mean. Why? I was in pain because of the stitches. I was afraid of walking and sitting. For some reason, my body was telling me, no. That one natural thing that every human could do was something I couldn’t do on my own. How could that happen?

Then, all of my enemies showed up with their deadly arsenal. My enemies were my emotions. Emotions who seemed determined to make me fail.

Overwhelm: My baby, she’s a stranger. Who is she? I don’t know anything about her. I don’t feel bonded with her. She’s just using me… I just can’t do this, I’m never going to be able to do this. I can’t handle this. I can’t even go to the bathroom, how could I possibly take care of this little person.

Guilt: I shouldn’t be handling this new motherhood like this. I’m better than this. My baby doesn’t deserve this version of me. She deserves someone who is whole and not broken and can take care of her the right way.

Loneliness and Sadness: No one understands me. No one could possibly understand what I’m going through. I am just so sad… no one can know how deep this sadness is. It’s creeping at every part of my soul. I can’t stop crying. All I can do now is cry maybe it’s the only way for me to feel better. But it’s not helping. I can’t even explain it. I have no words… I don’t even know if I should be crying about it.

Resentment… towards my husband, my baby, my friends. These thoughts, these feelings, they’re out of control!

Fear and Confusion: Why is this happening to me? When will this end? Will it ever end? Is this my new reality? Will I never go back to being the old me? Is the old me lost forever?

Numb: I don’t feel anything anymore and I can’t think of anything anymore. I can’t even make a decision. Everything is a fog.

Milennial Mommy Woes

For around two weeks (although it seemed longer than that), I took the bullets brought by changes I could not understand.

It didn’t help that I come from this millennial generation with all the awful qualities of being entitled, recognition hungry, and subscribed to the ideals of social media.

As a new mom, I thought I could figure everything out or feel better because I was smart enough to use technology to be more informed and aware of what to do. I knew I wanted to be recognized for doing a good job and I believe I was looking for the affirmation from my baby which was ridiculous, of course.  I wanted to look and feel flawless as a new mom just like all the post pregnant bodies of international and local celebrities.

The reality is that no study, article or inspirational video online can ever prepare a mother for the immense responsibility or rescue her from the feelings of lostness and confusion.

Recognition? Affirmation?

How about survival?

This is what I wish mothers had told me before I had given birth. This is what I wish they had been honest about.

Why didn’t I ever think that post partum depression could happen to me? For one, I was too concerned with being pregnant and the experience of giving birth. Honestly, how my life would shift and transform completely because of tiny human being never crossed my mind. I simply and proudly thought that I’d just have it in me to be a mother. I didn’t think there would be such an internal battle. I never thought it would break me. However, my “breaking” turned out to be essential in forming the kind of mother I am and want to be because I now look back at that month with serenity and a will to be stronger in the upcoming challenges I have yet to face.

The most important realization I gained from my experience was accepting that a baby comes with no manual.

That a baby is a person I should never “get used to” or “perfect” because she will continue to change until we’re both old and gray.

I’ll only have these small pockets of time to savor everything about her, and might as well live them in the best way they can. Because there is no way social media will ever completely capture her immense and blossoming beauty. There is no way social media will tell me what I need to hear, see, and know as a new mom.  That security, that peace…comes with time, experience, and personal growth.

And I guess that’s the one thing I want to be able to tell new moms too.

Originally Written for Mom Center Philippines