There’s nothing like a new baby in your world, is there? I mean, not your new baby, someone else’s baby! A new squishy for you to hold, snuggle, sniff and love. A new squishy to hand back to Mama when she starts squawking, fussing or crying. It’s magical, beautiful and one of life’s incredible gifts when one of your nearest and dearest friends has a new baby, isn’t it?
But, we all know how difficult Motherhood can be. No matter if it’s your first, second, third or ninth (yow!) baby, a newborn completely changes your world. Sleep deprivation, recovery from birth, hormonal shifts and the all-consuming feeling of inadequacy can often overwhelm new Mamas. We all know that. And, if you’re anything like my friends, you show up with support, love and compassion.
We bring coffee, pizza, cinnamon buns, trail mix, a salad, wine, peanut butter cups, ear plugs, a sleep mask and a kobo gift card because 2am feelings get boring. We have no idea what our friend is going to want or need so we just bring everything to support, lift and love our friend. We show up. We help out. And now, in this day and age, we get to also help our friends by guiding them through their postpartum months and a big role we get to play now is to watch for signs and symptoms of postpartum depression.
Yes, it’s our job now. Or dammit, I’m saying it is from this point on!
I was diagnosed with postpartum depression when my son was six months old. In the nine years since my diagnosis, I am thrilled with the increased awareness surrounding postpartum depression. Nobody talked about it when I was diagnosed and nobody really knew what to say. So, I didn’t tell anyone (except my bestie) and got through the darkness with time and exercise.
But, Mamas…it isn’t like that any longer. As her friend, don’t just sit there and listen to her tell you how she’s not sleeping “but it’s okay” or that some days are pretty overwhelming “but it’s okay”. Don’t just watch her go through this. Don’t agree that it’s “normal” to feel these things (I mean, it is…but you need advocate for her when she can’t advocate for herself).
Ask questions. Dig deeper. See if there is something going on that she may need help with. Don’t be shy. What I wouldn’t have given for someone to say to me “Linds, I think you have a problem. You’re amazing. But, let’s see if we can’t get some help”. I. Would. Have. Given. Anything. And I did…when my bestie told me to get to the doctor. What a relief it was to have someone say those words to me. I tell you, when you’re in it, you think you’re crazy, selfish and oh-so-alone…but then someone says “Houston, we have a problem”…and that ball of worry in your tummy releases just a little.
So, watch your friend. Sit with her. Take her baby when he’s fussing. Tell her to sit down and relax. To breathe. And start a conversation.
Here are some questions you can ask to see if your friend may be suffering or heading towards postpartum depression:
“How’s your body feeling?”
“Are you getting any sleep?”
“Are you eating properly?”
“Newborns can be so hard, are you getting any rest?”
“Do you find yourself getting snippy over little things”
“Are you getting out to visit friends?”
“Have you gone out and ______________ (insert activity she typically does?”
“How does it feel to be Mom to ____________ (insert name of new squishy here?”
“No honestly, how are you feeling?”
“Have you ever thought about harming yourself? Your squishy?” (This is a suuuuuper difficult question to ask, but ask it, it could save a life).
These questions can all be asked in conversation. If she’s a good friend, don’t accept off the cuff “It’s so great!”, “I love Motherhood”. You know your friend…is she being truthful? Also, don’t bring this list and fire off all these questions at once. Ask because you want to know the answers. Listen to what she’s saying. Listen to her voice. Watch her face, her hands and her body. You’ll know. You’ll see a change.
The most important questions you can possibly ask: “Are you ok? How can I help? Do we need to go talk to someone?”.
Don’t be afraid of pointing out your concerns to your friend. If anything, it may come as a relief that you’re acknowledging her feelings, that you’re taking control in a world she feels like she has little control of at the moment and that you genuinely care about her and her well-being. Ask the question, Mama.
“Do we need to go talk to someone? I’m worried about you, my friend.”
As you sit and snuggle your friend’s new squishy, here’s what you’re looking for in your friend:
- Mood swings
- “Excessive” crying (any crying, really…just be aware)
- Withdrawing from family and friends (hence the reason we ask if she’s getting out)
- Change in appetite (too little or too much)
- Serious fatigue and loss of energy
- Insomnia OR sleeping too much
- Fear of being a terrible Mama
- Feelings of overwhelm, angst and worry
- Serious anger and irritability
- Thoughts of harming oneself or the baby (this is a scary one, but needs to be addressed head-on…don’t be scared, ask the question)
Now, this isn’t a complete list, but it’s as complete as I can get right now. You know your friend. Talk, talk, talk and watch, watch, watch. With love and compassion. No judgment. And when the time comes to suggest that she may have postpartum depression, offer to take her and her squishy to the doctor. Offer to go with her. She may or may not take you up on your offer, but ask. Then, check back. Don’t just bring up postpartum depression and let it float in the breeze. Follow up and make sure your friend is getting the help she needs.
You’re a good friend. So stay strong and ask the difficult questions. Be a pillar of support and compassion as you navigate postpartum depression with your friend.
And, if YOU are reading this and any of the above rings true for you, please reach out to your loved ones and let them know you’re struggling. Someone will take your hand and help pull you out of the darkness. If you don’t have anyone, please CLICK HERE for a list of resources and reach out to ME…and I will help you crawl out.
We’re a united team, Mamas. We stand tall and battle for one another. Be strong. Be powerful. Be there.