Postnatal depression, also known as "baby blues" is very real.
It can make you feel moody, temperamental, emotional, lonely, or even have negative feelings or be apathetic towards your baby.
In more severe situations, it might cause the mommy to feel helpless or even harbor suicidal thoughts.
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If it's your first pregnancy or you have just given birth recently, I would like to lovingly tell you that it's okay.
It's okay to have negative feelings towards yourself, your baby or your family members.
Just as how the change in hormones had given you mood swings during your pregnancy, the hormonal changes that take place postpartum also affect you.
Rest assured that it's a phase that will pass.
Most importantly, you are not alone.
I gave birth to my first baby at the age of 26. Even then, I was the first among my peers to get married and have a baby.
Our extended family was very excited about our firstborn, just as we were. When the baby finally arrived, many of our family and friends came to visit us at the hospital. We were showered with so much love and well wishes.
Having just gone through my first delivery which had me in bed for almost 12 hours before the baby finally arrived, the novelty of the experience and the adrenaline rush even after the long labor kept me hyped up and eager to share my birth story.
After the various tests and checks done on my newborn, the pediatrician and obstetrician were ready to discharge the baby and myself after two nights. I was given the option to stay on for another night if I needed help with getting used to latching my baby.
The nurses had assisted me in latching my baby during the feeds, a lactation consultant had come round to teach me how to have a good latch, and I had also attended the breastfeeding class at the maternity ward.
My baby was sucking well and I was told that I had a very good supply of breastmilk. As such, I was feeling pretty confident and was very excited to bring my baby home. Therefore, I declined the additional night stay at the hospital.
Little did I expect that the first night home was a complete nightmare.
I moved back to stay with my parents for confinement as I didn't hire a confinement nanny and my mom was willing to cook and care for me.
I grew up in that house for 25 years and never had issues with sleeping without air conditioning. Yet the first night home with baby from the hospital proved to be a real discomfort.
I was perspiring so much from the heat that I couldn't sleep. (Increased sweating is one of the ways the body expels fluid retention occurred during pregnancy.)
Worse still, my baby was crying so much through the night and I had to nurse him practically every hour! It was exceptionally stressful because I was worried that my brother couldn't sleep with the noise and he had to work the next day.
My parents and my husband were also woken up by the cries and kept asking me questions like
"Is baby hungry?"
"Is he cold?"
"Did he have enough milk?"
"You want to try feeding him again?"
"Did you check his diapers?"
I've done everything! But nothing seems to work! I've nursed him and he unlatched himself so doesn't it mean he's full?
He had been sucking for the past 20 minutes and then fell asleep. Why did he wake again in less than an hour and cried, and when I nursed him, he latched again?
Why could he sleep for 4-hour stretch at the hospital but he couldn't even sleep for an hour at home? And please! The baby is not cold! He's as hot and sweaty as me! Maybe that's why he can't sleep!
It was an absolutely frustrating and exhausting night, and I totally regretted not staying another night at the hospital where I could just leave him in the good hands of the nurses.
This became quite a typical night for the next few weeks. I was nursing practically every hour from midnight to about 6 am.
The baby would wake up, cry, latch for 20 minutes and fall asleep. I would snack in between (because breastfeeding makes you very hungry!) or try to quickly get back to sleep before he woke up in another 40 minutes.
Thankfully, I was staying with my parents so they could help me care for the baby when he woke again at around 8 am. By then, I would be zombified from the night and would finally sleep for a stretch of two hours before the cow needed to be milked again.
It was a blessing to see how much joy my parents had, carrying the baby, rocking him, or simply watching him sleep. We also had relatives and friends who visited during the time that the baby and I were at my parents' place. I would be too tired to entertain the guests and took those times to rest or retreat in my room.
The guests weren't there for me anyway. I was haggard, unkempt and constantly smelt of milk. (Oh how I dislike the lingering smell!)
Everybody was there for my baby. Nobody cared about me. Nobody cared how tired I was, how sore my nipples were from the constant latching or how lonely I felt.
Because I was staying at my parents' place, I didn't have much personal space. I felt cornered and the only space I had was in my room. Yet there was always somebody who wanted to pop in to see my baby.
My parents would take turns to rush in to check in on him when they heard him cry. As much as they were concerned, I felt stressed out as if they didn't trust that I could care for my baby.
I felt I wasn't good enough as a mom.
Everybody around me was showering with the baby so much love and they were trying their best to help me take care of him.
A part of me was relieved each time the gramps carried the baby out of my room to let me catch up on some rest.
Yet another part of me felt fiercely possessive and wanted to keep him all to myself even though I was completely exhausted from the long nights.
I constantly felt moody and was highly irritable. I remember I lashed out at my brother when he came home one day after work. He was excited to see his nephew even though I was changing my baby's diapers. My baby cried and I blamed my brother for it. I was being really unreasonable.
According to the Chinese confinement practices, the new mom shouldn't head outdoors in the one month of confinement. I felt so cooped up at home and I begged my husband to bring me out for a short walk barely two weeks into the confinement.
It was a breath of fresh air to be outside. Even though I still felt physically weak as we walked around, being out of the house really lifted my spirits.
My husband was the most patient with me and did his best to cheer me up by texting me in the day to provide some company, and even surprised me with a bouquet of flowers on the third week after I delivered.
I felt exceptionally lonely because I had no other friends who were moms to confide in or seek advice from.
I felt that nobody understood what I was going through. A part of me also didn't want to let others know how horrible I felt because I wanted to be a good mom. I didn't want to come across as weak or incapable.
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If you are going through the same emotional roller coaster as what I did, I encourage you to share it truthfully with your husband. If he is a first-time dad, he may also feel as lost as you do. But it's important that he understands what you are going through so that he can support and encourage you.
It would also be very helpful if you have a community of mommy friends who can relate to you.
Most importantly, know that you are not alone.
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