Surviving the baby blues

If you feel depressed or sad after the birth of your child, you are not alone. That was the worst thing at first for me: feeling like no one could understand what I felt. However, I soon realized I wasn't the first ever sleep-deprived new mom.

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  • Giving birth to a baby was one of the hardest, most painful and most amazing things I have ever done. After 26 hours of labor, I finally got to hold my sweet little boy in my arms and marvel at his perfection. "I made that," I kept telling myself over and over. Some women talk about not bonding with their infant at first, instead, feeling ambivalence and bewilderment at this new tiny life thrust abruptly into their lives.

  • I wasn't one of those people. From the first moment I felt his warm, baby weight in my arms, I was in love. And for about a week, I couldn't have imagined being more happy (or sore, or tired or like a deflated balloon). Ten days after my son was born, I looked down through sleep-encrusted eyes at the swing where he had just started wailing, waving his tiny pink fists in the air. All I wanted to do was run away.

  • 70 percent of women get baby blues

  • At the time, I didn't know what the baby blues were. I didn't know that 70 percent of women experience them after the birth of their child. And, I certainly didn't know how I was supposed to handle them. All I knew was that the euphoria I felt in the first days after my son's birth had dissipated abruptly, leaving me cold, depressed and strangely empty. I wasn't a person anymore, I was a milk machine, on call 24 hours a day. I hadn't slept longer than two hours in a row since my son's birth. I hadn't been outside my apartment since coming home from the hospital. In the evenings, I would burst out crying for no reason, leaving my husband to look at me with shock and confusion.

  • If any of these things sound like you, know you are not alone. That was the worst thing at first for me: feeling like no one could understand what I felt. However, I soon realized I wasn't the first ever sleep-deprived new mom. There had to be other people out there experiencing what I was experiencing. So I did my research and found out what the baby blues were and how to deal with them. Here are a few of the top tips I found:

  • Sleep as much as you can

  • In the first days after returning from the hospital, you probably won't feel like going far from the house anyway. Take advantage of this time (when your baby sleeps so frequently) to get some sleep yourself. It won't be great sleep; you'll still have to wake up to feed the baby fairly often, but leave the rest to your husband or call a friend to come help when you can. Don't ever feel like you have to be super mom from the get go. The more sleep-deprived you get, the more difficult everything will seem to be.

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  • Get some "me" time

  • One of the hard parts of being a new mom is feeling chained to the house. Just a few days ago you were free to come and go as you pleased, but now there's a tiny little person that is dependent on you for sustenance and love. Now your freedom seems gone. However, once your child can go three hours or so between feedings, get out of the house as often as you can. You'll be able to stop listening for a crying baby for a while and begin to feel like an individual person again. If you have a good friend nearby, visit her and use her as a shoulder to cry on if you feel the need.

  • Talk to your doctor

  • Though many women feel the baby blues at first, the blues should slowly go away after a couple weeks. If the feelings of anxiety, sadness, irritability and difficulty sleeping persist for longer than three weeks, you may have postpartum depression — a serious condition that requires treatment. Call your doctor if at any time you feel like you can't handle the sadness anymore, but you should definitely call your doctor if your emotions don't go away.

  • Being a mother is not for the faint of heart. It's probably the hardest thing you'll ever do. But remember that in the midst of your despair it really is all worth it. That baby will eventually sleep longer, you will not always be a milk machine and the day will come when you'll wonder how time has gone by so fast. Enjoy it while you can.

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Katie Nielsen received her bachelor's in English with an emphasis in technical writing. She has taught English and is a published writer.

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