I recently had the pleasure of visiting a couple, who are dear friends of mine. It was a very special visit because I got to meet their 3 day old baby. I believe that every baby is a blessing but for this couple, it is an extra special blessing. Their journey in becoming parents has taken over 17 years. They had come to the place of acceptance that they would never have a baby so you can imagine the joy they felt when she found out she was pregnant.
It was awesome to see a baby in their arms and for me to be able to hold the precious new life. It brought back fond memories of the first 6 weeks of my postpartum period. I remember that once I recovered from the physical demands of labor and delivery, I was able to slip in to my new role of motherhood with a peace and joy that felt different than anything I had experienced before.
I believe the support that I received from my family and friends during that postpartum period prevented an earlier onset of postpartum psychosis. If I had not received the practical, and emotional support during that period, I believe the demands of motherhood would have taken a toll on me much earlier. Although the eventual onset of postpartum psychosis may not have been prevented, in my opinion, support played a role in the unusually late onset of postpartum psychosis.
Since I had no history of mental illness nor did I know postpartum psychosis existed, I often wonder whether postpartum psychosis could have been prevented in my case. My family and I were unaware of any early warning signs or symptoms. Now that I know more about postpartum psychosis, I can look back and recognize how the pattern of sleep deprivation and eventual isolation took its toll on me. Maybe if I knew then what I know now, when I began to have unfounded fears for my baby and I, I could have reached out for help before it became a crisis situation.
As I contemplate my postpartum period and how much the support helped me, I am more sensitive to the needs of others during the postpartum adjustment period. Something as simple as friends providing meals during the first week or two can make a difference. Checking in on the family regularly to see if they need anything is also helpful.
In my case, I was far away from most of my extended family, so the direct support I received eventually did taper off. In cases when family and friends are not or cannot be there to provide support, I encourage moms to consider hiring a postpartum doula or finding other resources such as Healthy Start, which is available in most areas of the United States.
I encourage all mothers to reach out during the postpartum adjustment period and be open to support from others. Be willing to accept the type of support that will help you during this hectic time. Now that I shared some of my experience, I would love to hear how support helped others during the postpartum period and what types of support helped. Please share your comments and insights with me on this important topic.
Other Related Links:
The Benefits of Emotional Support
Practical Support During Difficult Times