Preparing for Postpartum Depression

I took this photo one foggy morning at my parents' cabin. This is what depression looks like.

It may seem a little neurotic to prepare ahead of time for postpartum depression, but I seem to be a genuine candidate for the disorder due to some fairly frightening bouts with depression, some of which I suffered right up until a few months before I became pregnant.   The more my husband and I know ahead of time the better.

Postpartum is a pretty charged topic, as Tom Cruise so generously demonstrated for us all several years ago.  It is caused by a number of physical and psychological factors, including hormonal shifts after giving birth (the main culprit), a misbehaving thyroid, previous experience with depression, age and economic situation, and a lack of support.  Another factor, and the one that most concerns me, is the change in lifestyle that accompanies being a parent – changes in your friendships and career, and thus for many, your identity.  It has always been my feeling that having a child is like a social disease.  Once you have a baby you are required to quarantine yourself with all of the other breeders out there.  After all, you can’t possibly have anything in common with single or childless people any more, can you?  Well, they are not interested in putting up with your fussy baby or tantrum-throwing toddler anyways.  I know this first hand, as I have always been the biggest critic of my friends who have children, and I see my future as a bleary-eyed, mother with nothing to talk about other than her children looming.  My comeuppance will be a grand event, indeed.

I have asked The Spouse to do the following in the weeks after the baby is born:

– Watch the baby so I can take a shower every morning (I am fortunate that we live close to his work, so he doesn’t have to leave early for a long commute in the mornings).
– Encourage me to wear something other than sweats, and to make sure I am personally groomed each morning.  He will have to choose his words carefully…
– Encourage me to go out with my friends and relinquish custody of Sugar Lump to him once a week.
– Encourage me to get out of the house every day, even if it is just to walk Sugar Lump around the block or run to the grocery store.
– Call my mother, or a friend to come sit with me if I refuse to stop crying, or leave the house (I am incapable of calling for help when I feel lonely, overwhelmed, or depressed)

Here are the things that I am doing ahead of time to prepare:

– I will buy one or two items of nice, comfortable clothing that are not sweats or sweatshirts for after the baby comes.  Since I have been wearing nothing but now threadbare hand-me-downs for maternity clothes, supplemented with a few purchases from Target, I can afford this little luxury.  When I look sloppy, I feel sloppy.
– I will make an attempt to let people help me, and I will try not to feel like I am being a massive burden or inconvenience.  Since my first reaction to depression is to withdraw, this is where The Spouse needs to intervene.
– I will allow myself one small luxury each day – it could be a piece of chocolate, a cup of coffee in the morning, or some homemade sushi (the tastiest treat of them all!)
– I will remind myself that there is no such thing as the perfect mother.  That said, I will attempt to keep my living environment clean.  Like wearing sloppy clothes, I feel mentally sloppy if my house is a disaster.
– Remember to have some sympathy for my baby…after all, against his will he will have been squeezed through an impossibly small tube from his warm, dark nest into a bright, cold place, without an umbilical cord constantly supplying him with food.  He’ll go from having no needs, to having nothing but needs, and no way to effectively communicate with the loud giants that he is suddenly dependent on.

I am declaring these things on my blog because when they are made public then I will have to stick to my word.  I’ll try to be honest about my postpartum state once the baby is born, and share what things work for us and what doesn’t.

I used the following websites for research.  Don’t take my word for it, take theirs:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004481
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/postpartum-depression/DS00546
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/postpartumdepression.html

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