It was my third day postpartum, and I was still revelling in the excitement of having a newborn and being a mother for the third time.
Normally, I’d take a short nap when the baby is asleep as I rarely get to sleep at night. He’s still learning to adapt to his new world and constantly needs me to be awake to soothe and breastfeed him.
One day, as I woke up from my afternoon nap, I suddenly felt my chest tightening and there was a very strange feeling inside me.
I felt so empty in my heart.
I felt lonely and that nobody cared for me.
I felt afraid whenever I was alone.
I felt that my life was not purposeful and that looking at my newborn did not spark any joy in me.
These negative emotions drained all of my energy and I could sense the tension in my shoulders and neck. I struggled to stay calm as I paced back and forth in my bedroom, because I didn’t know what to do.
My husband wasn’t home, so I immediately called him and asked him to return home right away. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I started to cry inconsolably while I was on the phone with him.
My concerned husband asked me what had happened and my answer to him was “I don’t know what happened.” All I knew was that I was overwhelmed by a very strange feeling within me, and I just wanted to cry.
I also felt like running away from home. Staying home stressed me out. The crying of my baby also made me feel more agitated.
I was not my usual self at all. I knew something wasn’t right because there was nothing I could identify that could have triggered my overwhelming sadness. I felt awful inside and struggled to stay calm or happy.
I knew then that postnatal blues had kicked in. I experience the same signs and symptoms three years ago, when I gave birth to my second boy.
During that time, a similar feeling revolved around the guilt i felt for my firstborn. The guilt I harboured was so strong that I hated myself for giving birth to my second child, as it resulted in me having to sacrifice my time with my oldest child.
The anguish of missing my firstborn was too much to bear - I was constantly crying and anxious whenever I couldn’t see him, as he was staying with my parents during the first week of my confinement.
I neglected my second child to the extent that my parents had to stay in my house to keep me company. They had never ever seen me behave this way.
My out-of-character behavior was a red flag that something wasn’t right. I immediately consulted my gynecologist and told her about my situation.
I was stunned when she informed me that I was exhibiting symptoms of postnatal blues and diagnosed me with postnatal depression.
I was ignorant; it never crossed my mind to read up on postnatal depression. I never imagined that I’d have postnatal depression. All this while, I presumed that postnatal depression only happened to women who were extremely stressed and anxious!
After listening to my gynecologist's explanation, I research about postnatal depression and noticed that my awareness of the subject was almost zero! People around me never mentioned it, therefore I had the misconception that postnatal depression was very uncommon.
With my new-found awareness and the help of my family and people around me, I emerged from my postnatal blues after 7-8 days. My parents spent a lot of time with me and tried to comfort me as much as they could.
I also requested my husband to stay home as much as he possibly could. The unwavering support of my family was crucial in helping me get through that tough period.
Fast forward to my third pregnancy and armed with greater knowledge of postnatal depression, I knew many women would fall into it after giving birth.
Therefore, the moment I experienced drastic mood swings, I immediately recognised that postnatal blues had kicked in once again — and it struck earlier this time around.
Fortunately, I was more prepared this time.
Although the negative thoughts and sadness were still there, I used various methods to calm down and help myself overcome my postnatal blues.
Here are the methods that worked for me and really helped me get out of baby blues in my third postnatal :
SUPPORT FROM SPOUSE
I talked to my spouse about how I felt and requested him to take a few days off to spend time with me at home. I felt more secured when he was at home with me.
I didn’t want to be left alone. The moment that I am alone, I felt empty and suffocated. His presence at home made me feel so much better. For days that he needed to work, he ensured that he came home early.
I called my parents and asked them to stay with me for a couple of days, so that I could feel comforted whenever I felt down. I explained to my parents exactly what I was feeling and told them that I needed someone that I really trusted to stay with me.
I told them that I felt scared and empty the moment I was left alone. At first, they were very worried but I assured them that I have seen my gynecologist and that these mood swings are only temporary.
They also helped out by taking care of my older children and talking to me whenever they can.
I also talked to friends about my condition. It helped tremendously when I am able to openly talk about this subject without feeling stigmatised. I am so glad and grateful that I have so many friends who are so helpful and understanding.
Some visit and some called to chat. Pouring my feelings out really made me feel so good. I was not worried of being judged. Deep inside, my goal is to HELP MYSELF.
I know that if I do not help myself, no one else would. That’s why I talked about this topic openly and true enough there were many friends who came forward to offer to visit and talk to me.
ESSENTIAL OIL AND BREATHING TECHNIQUES
Friends recommended the use of essential oils to help calm myself. I combined essential oils with breathing techniques that I had learned from my yoga teacher. I diffused essential oils and practiced my breathing often that it did help me feel calmer whenever there were sad feelings inside me.
The essential oil that I use was not suitable for newborn, so I dedicated few hours in a day to be in a separate room, diffused essential oil and tried to catch some sleep.
I arranged for Malay traditional post natal massage daily for 7 days. Massages release good hormones that helps one feel happier and calmer. I requested the masseur to add essential oil to the massage oil. I felt very energized and good after every massage sessions.
RECONNECT WITH MYSELF
Confining myself in the house for too long nearly made me go insane! Every morning, I went out to the nearby park for short brisk walking. Getting closer to nature helped me reconnect to myself. I definitely felt more relaxed.
In some culture, it is a taboo for women to go out after recent childbirth. Culture and rules call for women to be “confined” in the house for 30 days after childbirth. I am glad that I am “rebelious” enough to go against that tradition. Still the same goal in mind - If I don’t help myself, no one would.
PRIORITIZE SELF CARE
I’ve prioritize a lot on self-care and self-love from the time I was pregnant. Therefore, I was not shy or embarrassed to talk to others regarding this subject. I know if I want to help myself, I need to get help when needed. Keeping it to myself would not do me any good. I decide what is good for myself.
There are so many taboos in our culture that does not align to my understanding of self care and self love. I made the move not to follow these and do what is BEST for me.
After emerging from the darkness of postnatal blues, I noticed that this topic is not widely discussed. Support was lacking. Awareness of postnatal depression is essential and necessary. I am glad that I have this awareness. As I was not shy to discuss this openly, I recovered quickly.
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