Can We Talk About Baby Blues?
Baby Blues: Is this a jazz song? No, no, it is the small name given for the enormous feelings that accompany radical hormone & life change after birth.
For 9 months a small person grew in our bodies. Slow, yet quick, our hormones shift to hold on to the baby, to give baby priority of nutrients, to build a placenta. Later, the baby’s head nuzzles against our cervix initiating contractions, and finally, our cervix ripens. Pregnancy can feel like a one way train to the tunnel of birth, the only way through it is through it. And then suddenly, we are through it. There’s an explosion of oxytocin if we're lucky. But then, more quickly this time, our body changes again. Hormones adjust to breastfeed. Our body is no longer pregnant. The uterus that grew over 9 months time shrinks significantly in just 24 hours. Some things in life aren’t meant to be easy and I think becoming a mother is one of those things. The baby blues is the recalibration stage.
We sweat, we cry, we may become chatty. We leak milk and blood, oscillating from ravenous to no appetite, obliterating exhaustion to inability to sleep. This is postpartum. And for some reason, in the midst of this radical adjustment, our culture thinks this is the very best time to welcome in all the visitors.
I believe there is some element of “baby blues” that is unavoidable. Our hormones are shifting at a rapid fire rate. Birth has brought us to our most primal selves, our brain is not as domesticated as instagram would have one believe. The hormones adjust, and readjust. At the same time we are processing our birth experience. Empowering and traumatic births, and everything in between, all have their level of processing that needs to happen. The hormones that carried us through birth are catalyzing and we may find pain: cramps, tears, stitches, pulled muscles. We may cry for relief, in amazement, in sadness of our loss of control, in overwhelming love. The tears release you. They wash the wounds of birth.
It doesn’t last forever - 3 weeks or less - and it usually isn’t an all-pervasive feeling. It is a hard for families to watch the new mom experience baby blues because it isn’t fixable. If a mother tries to rationalize her feelings, they don’t make sense. Nothing is wrong, exactly, but your feelings are still real. It can feel dismissive for a mom to hear “Oh, it’s just the baby blues.” You are entitled your feelings.
Perhaps the baby blues serves a purpose. It is a reminder to stay home and take it slow. Our brain, heart and body are all catching up to each other and this is incredibly important work. You are meeting this new person and learning all kinds of things that are supposed to be “natural” and “easy” but are the opposite. The baby blues can safe guard us by keeping us home and limiting abrasive company.
Baby blues describes the initial integration period. For many mothers it passes after 2-3 weeks. For some mothers it lingers beyond 3 weeks, or even begins after 3 weeks. The weight of birth and loss can hit you at any time. When feelings of depression, anxiety or other mood disruptions remain longer than 3 weeks it is considered Perinatal Mood Disorder. Help is available for you and you are never to blame for how you feel. Please visit Postpartum.net for more resources for Perinatal Mood Disorders.