Baby Eden has arrived, but that doesn’t mean I won’t finish out my pregnancy posts. Cute baby photos forthcoming when I share her birth story. Stay tuned.
As I was closing out the final weeks of this pregnancy, one topic in particular seemed super relevant. Mental Health.
We’ve all heard the stats on postpartum depression and anxiety. They ain’t good. As a new mom, you’ll most likely encounter some sort of depression screening at your babe’s pediatric visit. Your own doctor doesn’t screen for this until your 6 week visit. 6 WEEKS. That’s 6 weeks of no one checking in on you to see if you’ve spiraled out of your mind, which is pretty dang likely given that you’ve just spent six weeks recovering from birth, not sleeping, boobs hurting, and with your life completely changed forever. But I digress…
As someone who’s had to battle a fair amount of difficulty when it comes to my mind, soul, and spirit, I’ve spent many a dollar at the therapy couch, experimenting with EMDR, even medications at times, meditation, yoga, fitness, supplements, books, podcasts – let’s just say I’ve sought to leave no stone unturned.
Some of the most helpful resources I’ve found in supporting my mental health are as follows. Some are particular to motherhood while others are great support for anyone.
I am a die hard fan of this option. I knew I wanted to try it with Atlas and it was a HUGE support for my physical recovery as well as my mental state. I noticed that when I skipped a dose in the early postpartum my mood would tank, my anxiety would ramp up, and I would get super weepy. Not cool. I know some people are sketched out at the idea of consuming your own organs — I get it, that’s a strange concept for most. But I guarantee that the benefits will outweigh your squirminess. Make sure you do your research and hire someone certified through IPPA.
Books to read.
The Wisdom of Anxiety by Sheryl Paul and The Art of Fear by Kristin Ulmer
These two books have really brought me a lot of insight during this pregnancy, but also beyond pregnancy itself. Basically they share similar ideas about two very difficult emotions, Fear and Anxiety. Specifically the idea that we must embrace them as part of the human experience. A lot of mental health modalities seek to eradicate or overcome fear and likewise, mitigate or quiet anxiety. The big issue with that approach is the fact that fear and anxiety are primal human responses to stimuli. Trying to OVERCOME them is a recipe for internal disaster. These books offer up a multitude of ways to honor these very instinctual reactions by giving them room and space to exist. It seems counter-intuitive, but by doing so they lose a lot of their scary power. It’s almost like they’ve just been waiting to be acknowledged and as soon as they feel heard and seen, the volume turns down or they retreat altogether.
This is quite the topic du jour, but I would say that when it applies it’s really freaking important. Some people, places, and circumstances need to be held at an arms distance. Maybe not forever, but if you are going through a vulnerable and transformative phase like pregnancy, it’s a good time to protect your space. For example, I chose to have a home birth with Eden. I didn’t really talk about it publicly. I knew, as with most things in pregnancy and parenting, everyone LOVES to give their opinion whether solicited or not. Home birth was a choice that I made thoughtfully, deliberately, and with a lot of care. To protect my mind and Eden’s safety, I chose to not share my plans with everyone lest the mindf*$&ery begin. Almost everyone I shared it with was 100% supportive and positive, and if they weren’t positive, they were at least curious and open to hearing about the realities of home birth vs. hospital births.
By maintaining boundaries around my birth plan, I protected my headspace. This was so, so crucial.
Maybe the opposite of boundaries, but just as needed if not more so. Week in and week out I had a vast array of friends, family, and birth workers who were giving me the encouragement, excitement, and help I needed to vault from my previous life into this new season. My husband has been a rockstar through it all, trusting my choices, giving me space to rest, picking up the slack when Atlas needs more of me than I can give. I am truly blessed. I have a solid, loving church community who helped watch Atlas, celebrate Eden, pray, and encourage my whole family. I have a handful of women friends whom I meet with monthly who are willing to get me groceries, walk my dog, and meet up for one last coffee or breakfast before she arrived. My yoga instructors kept me safe in class and asked me how I was doing along the way. My gym members were excited and supportive as they watched this belly grow and my fitness tank. I saw a chiropractor thrice weekly for 20 weeks leading up to the birth and she became a special part of the journey. I chatted with my doula over text or instagram, sending articles and memes – just getting ready for the big day. I met with my midwife regularly, having hour long visits with her discussing all kinds of scenarios, interventions, emergencies, symptoms etc. In a nutshell, it takes a village, and I have one heck of a village. Get yo’self a village!
I hope that by sharing these few tactics, new moms (or anyone making a big life transition) will feel super empowered to support their mental state. And don’t forget about the little daily things that contribute to a healthy mind:
- Eating nutrient dense foods
- Drinking water