Disclaimer: I am not a medical, psychological or psychiatric professional. This post contains advice from my personal experience. Every case of PPD, Postpartum Anxiety, and in extreme cases, Postpartum Psychosis is unique to that individual. If you are suffering from any of these illnesses, please seek professional help immediately. If you feel like you will harm yourself or your baby, please seek help immediately! There is no shame in asking for help.
My doctors were extremely worried when my husband died while I was 7 months pregnant, and rightly so. With so many stories about women trying to harm themselves and their children because of postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis (Read here and here), I understand why my doctors wanted to put me on Zolof as a preventative measure. I declined the medication because although I did suffer from postpartum anxiety after my son’s birth, I knew I would never do anything to harm myself or my children. Even with the grief of losing my husband, I knew I still have lots to live for and that God has great things planned for me and my children! I told my perinatologist over and over again, “God is with me. I will be OK.” I did, however, put together an action plan because of the anxiety I wrestled with after the birth of my first child. Almost 7 months postpartum, I have not suffered with any postpartum depression or anxiety. I have been able to dodge PPD and postpartum anxiety because I was proactive. Here are a few things I did to combat postpartum depression after the birth of my daughter and while I was grieving my husband’s death.
Recruit the help of family and friends
A week after my husband’s funeral, I started looking for a new house closer to my mother and sister. I knew I would need to see them frequently for encouragement and help. Now, I live 15 minutes from my mother and sister. When I am overwhelmed or when I need a “pick-me-up”, I go to their house or they come over to my house. If you’re grieving a death after you’ve given birth, recruit the help of friends and family. It’s OK to ask for help. God never intended for us to go at life alone. The saying is true. It takes a village.
Also, I am a very private person. However, after the death of my husband, I opened my home to his friends and all of our family because I needed to be around people. It’s nice to have people around to run errands and take care of the “man things” around the house. It’s also nice to reminisce about my husband and share a good laugh. This helped greatly during the months following my daughter’s birth.
Be patient with yourself
It is very easy to fall into Supermom mode after giving birth. We want to bounce right back into taking care of the house, our families and work. However, this adds unnecessary stress and pressure during an already stressful time, especially if you’re grieving during the birth of a baby. Give yourself a break. It’s OK if the house is not pristine. It is OK if the dishes go unwashed for one night and the clothes pile up. It is OK if you don’t go right back to work. It is also OK if you have days when you cry or don’t feel like doing anything. If those days last longer than a week or two and prevent you from taking care of your baby and other children, seek professional help.
After you lose a loved one, especially a spouse, it can be easy to fall into despair. However, God will show you that life is still worth living. There are still good times to be had. It will take time, but try not to focus on the person you lost. Thank God for the good times you shared with that person. Turn your attention to what you have to live for. If you’re a new mom, look to your baby. Focus on the purpose and plan God has for your life (Jeremiah 29:11). Every day find something to thank God for. Soon you will find yourself so overwhelmed by gratitude and the goodness of God that pressing forward will become a little easier.
Make time for self-care
Wives and mothers generally take care of everyone except for themselves. If you are grieving during the birth of a baby, it is imperative you make time for yourself. Self-care is different for every person. For me, each week after the birth of my daughter, I went to the beauty salon. Some people like to go to the gym and exercise. I also view church attendance and time spent in worship as self-care. When my husband died, I knew my church was first place I needed to be. I needed to hear the word of God and encouraging words of other believers. Take time for yourself. It will rejuvenate you physically, mentally and spiritually.
Listen to positive, encouraging and fun music
Music has a way of penetrating one’s soul. In the days following my husband’s death and the birth of my daughter, I combatted the baby blues by listening to uplifting music. It’s hard to fall into despair when you listen to music that reinforces your faith in God and belief that everything is going to be alright. Music is also great because if it is fun music, it will lift your spirits. If you’re like me, you like to dance. It’s hard to be sad when you’re having fun dancing around the house. This will also help the baby and children. My daughter loves to dance, laugh and play because I set the tone of the house through music.
Talk to a professional counselor
Some Christians don’t believe in seeking professional help when facing life’s challenges. However, God heals through all kinds of methods and sometimes God heals people through professional counselors, psychiatrists and mental health professionals. To prepare myself for the possibility of postpartum depression or anxiety, I sought the help of a licensed, Christian counselor. I wanted to make sure I was grieving in a healthy manner and that I had the tools to battle PPD or postpartum anxiety if I suffered from it. The tools I received helped greatly, and again, I believe I avoided PPD and PPA because I was proactive.
Draw near to the Lord
We should draw near to the Lord at all times, but even more so after major life transitions such as the loss of a loved one and birth of a child. God is a keeper, healer, encourager, comforter and counselor. God is whatever we need him to be. He is the great “I Am.” Experiencing grief during postpartum is the time to meditate on the word day and night. It is the time to increase your prayer life. Jesus said that he will never leave nor forsake us. The word is true. I am a primary example. I know that if it wasn’t for the Lord, I would not have been able to make it through the death of my husband and birth of my 2nd child. God will do the same for you! Just trust him!
Please share this with a woman who is about to have a baby and has lost a loved one.