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  • Writer's pictureclairemariemiller1

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression - baby blues, mild depression, to deep sobbing that does not relent. 

Birth complete and the most joyous moment - your baby healthy, strong, and beautiful in your arms - may be followed by deepening sadness. Each woman, baby, family has its unique journey into life. We plan for it to be perfect and wonderful, and then it happens. Exhaustion, hormonal upheavals, and deep feelings of loss often follow. 

What is it? 

Loss of sleep, loss of self, loss of a calm life, loss that has no explanation. Strong women at their most vulnerable. And strong women do not like to show their vulnerability. We can do it all, or so we think.  

My story was one of blues with my first born. It is normal, tears and sadness. You just let go of your baby from inside to outside. There is grief in that. You definitely have less control. Older mothers laugh, “just wait till they are teenagers.” Well, that doesn’t help. 

What does help?

Other women, women who have felt the despair too. Women talking to one another. We need our tribe. I will often share this with my pregnancy massage clients, asking them, “do you have a tribe?” Find other mothers with children of similar ages to hang out with, have tea/coffee and play dates. 

My daughter and I have shared deep conversations about her experience with postpartum depression. She has a story, one that took place during the time of covid, that time of deep isolation. One where her hormones went awry. A time when the walls of keeping it all together crumbled down, and the grief she held for years surfaced. A multitude of unexplainable feelings flooding in, and yet there is a family to raise, to love, and to keep it all together.    

December 2020…

I got the call. 

“Mom, I need you.”  

“When? Now?” 

She was in tears, and I did not know fully why.  

“I am coming” and I was in the car the next day, for two days of driving from Chapel Hill to Chicago. 

I did not really have my own experience of postpartum depression. Yes, I had had some blues, but nothing like this. 

I was scared for her, and truthfully, I was scared for me, too, driving with covid looming over us all. I was careful. Even took to peeing in the car into a bottle. 

When I arrived, I was scared when I saw how thin she had become. I could see the exhaustion in her face. A quick hug and out of the cold into her home.

All I was able to do was cook and help with the other children. Help with getting Christmas set up. And try to give some massage for nervous exhaustion. Much of her story took time to unfold. For my daughter, therapy helped, and then medication was the piece that pulled her through.   

When you grow up with a mom who tries to do it all naturally - birth, baby, food, and healthcare - it can create a feeling of failure to take medication. It was a lesson in honoring that we need help and sometimes that help comes in the form of medication. For some families, getting therapy may feel like a failure, that was not the case here. Personally, I am proud that all of us, my children and myself, have been in talk therapy to grow and process our emotional and mental woundings. 

It took time for her to emerge from the darkness of postpartum depression. She did the work, she followed her intuition, and she has learned and taught me too. I would love to say massage can fix it all. No, it cannot. It can be a gift to offer moms postpartum massage with this separation of self  and support a return to wholeness. It takes integrative care. It takes all of us. 

We know that, statistically, postpartum depression has been increasing. Talking helps, medication helps, and community support helps. We, as massage therapists, can help too. Encourage your clients to receive postpartum massage. I also offer space to talk about their births, “how did it go?”  A judgment-free conversation. Grief can result from a birth that was not what she had envisioned. Having had an emergency cesarean has been known to increase postpartum depression. I honor that each woman who has given birth is a warrior who has gone to battle and survived. Warriors have their battle scars. There is a story in Childbirth Wisdom by Judith Goldsmith about a tribe in Africa who mark a woman giving birth with cries of victory, the same as a warrior who has survived a battle. Women need to know their power before birth and after birth. Women need their circle of other women. We were not designed to do this alone. Find your tribe. 

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