We’ve all heard the stories about how when a mother first sees her newborn, she feels that instant love and connection. That’s how pregnancy and motherhood are portrayed in so many movies, books, and articles. We learn that mothers release oxytocin, a peptide hormone that helps the mother bond with her newborn instantly. It’s supposed to be an amazing feeling, and you expect to feel one with your baby immediately.
This depiction of pregnancy is harmful and is told to enforce the idea that women have to strive to become mothers. Women are told that we need to have kids and that our whole identity depends on being a mother (and wife). But so many women, about 15%, don’t feel this immediate connection, this rush of hormones. And they feel terrible. They feel like something is wrong with them like they’re not fit to be a mother, or like they’re a bad person.
Good news! You’re not a bad person, and you’re probably going to be a wonderful mom! But you may be suffering from postpartum depression, which 15% of women in the United States suffer from, so you are not alone. However, about 60% of women with postpartum don’t know they have it. There is so much stigma around not connecting with your child right away, that there is such little research on it. Too many people have conflated this feeling that many women have, with not feeling love for your baby. While many women report feeling “blank” or like they can’t love their newborn, that feeling actually is just the postpartum depression.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can be sadness, overwhelming feelings of anxiety or insecurity, excessive sleeping, insomnia, a feeling of being unable to reach your child, fatigue, guilt, mood swings, panic, and loss of interest in hobbies. It can be caused by prior physical and/or mental health problems, exhaustion, poor diet and exercise, or simply (and most commonly) due to an imbalance in hormones, which can be fixed with time and medication. Sometimes, the mom just does not release the right amount of oxytocin. Perhaps her body does not make the right amount of hormones and neurotransmitters. This is very normal, as everyone differs, and can be treated.
It’s really important that more research and care goes into examining postpartum depression. When women with postpartum do not get the treatment they need, they can become extremely distressed and can be harmful to themselves or the baby.
It is totally normal to feel like this after you have a baby. I mean, you just pushed a 6-9 pound human out of your body! I’m sure that is extremely taxing on not just your body, but your mind, too. It’s very important to know that having postpartum depression is not a reflection on you as a woman or a mom. Nothing is wrong with your body or your parenting skills. Postpartum depression can be treated by taking good care of your body, having lots of rest, therapy, and medication as needed.