Preventing Postpartum Depression
I have thought about writing this so many times over the past six months, but then was apprehensive- what if I put in writing how different, how much better, my second postpartum experience has been, and then everything takes a turn for the worse? There still is the possibility for that to happen. I have not yet returned to full time work and the intense 24 hour shifts on labor and delivery. I just weaned from pumping (I told myself I would never pump again after the first time, but this is a story for another day). These events will lead to an increase in stress (the former) and a shift in hormones (the latter), both of which could trigger my postpartum depression.
I had so much anticipatory anxiety: what if my husband and I fight or lack the communication skills to be a good team? What if my 4 year old has a tough time transitioning to no longer being an only child? What if the surgery is more complicated and the recovery is harder? What if I become extremely overwhelmed and want to quit my job or just run away from it all?
To ease this anxiety I did my homework and prepared myself and my husband for how things needed to be different. Six months in, I am feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally well. I am taking my antidepressant medication religiously. My support system is rock solid, ensuring that I do not have unnecessary added stressors. The recovery from the second c-section, the transition to being a mom of two, and the demands of a newborn and being the sole source of food for that newborn have been so much better this time around.
I am still on my zoloft which I will stay on for the full postpartum year. I follow up regularly with my psychiatrist. I saw a therapist individually and incorporated couples therapy. Our therapist gave us the tools we needed in case either of us were triggered so we would be able to calmly communicate. She also helped my husband understand what I needed during recovery so that he could best support me. I hired a night nurse for the first 3 months postpartum- a luxury that sadly most parents can not afford. I also took 6 months of maternity leave from my job as an OB/GYN. I love my job, but I knew that if I went back too soon it might put enough stress on me that if I felt overwhelmed with anxiety I would make the decision to leave it entirely.
Another difference I made was not watching anything too intense- no thrillers, nothing dark. During my first postpartum experience I watched all of Sons of Anarchy while pumping. This time I knew I needed to go with something proven to be a mood booster- I rewatched season 1 and 2 of Ted Lasso multiple times. Laughter and feel good shows definitely helped boost my serotonin levels and helped me get through the mundane task of pumping every few hours in the earlier days.
Preventing anxiety, depression, and OCD was my biggest goal this time. I really wanted to get out of my head and be able to fully enjoy being in the moment and spending time with my new baby. I won’t be in the clear for another six months, however I am so grateful that my preparation and knowledge has made the second time around the kind of experience I wish for every new mom.