Isolation, Blues, Joy
Regardless of how much you were looking forward to your baby's arrival, being at home with a newborn can make a woman feel isolated. Lisa Kirshenbaum, of Cranston, Rhode Island, recalls the early months with her son, who was born in December. Because of the cold weather, she was reluctant to take him out of the house; as a result, she spent most of the winter feeling cooped up and alone. "Finally, I joined a baby group," she says. "It was a great support system, and I made some really good friends."
As Kirshenbaum learned, a good remedy for isolation is to connect with other new moms as soon as you feel physically up to it. Find -- or form -- a group by calling women from your prenatal class or striking up a conversation when you're in the pediatrician's office.
Feelings of unexplained sadness and lethargy are quite normal, especially during the early weeks. That's be- cause levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, says Margaret Howard, Ph.D., a psychologist and clinical director of the postpartum-disorders day hospital at Women & Infants Hospital, in Providence. "At the same time, there is a rapid increase in the levels of prolactin, which enables milk production. Until these hormones balance out, new moms can expect to feel down from time to time."
You may also experience a case of the postpartum blues. This is especially likely if you are a first-time mom. Quite simply, you are mourning the loss of your former life, and that's to be expected. However, if your feelings veer toward profound sadness, hopelessness, and a sense of detachment from the baby and the rest of the world, you may be suffering from postpartum depression. If these feelings persist, call your obstetrician or nurse-midwife.
The Wonder of It All
Of course, not all postbirth feelings are negative. Many women feel an unexpected sense of amazement during the baby's first months. Take me, for example. At 2:30 a.m. on my daughter's twenty-second day, I felt overcome by the fact that my husband and I had created a family. I was so full of love that, by the glow of a night-light, I wrote in my journal about how I felt. Take advantage of these surges of energy and bursts of joy by recording observations about your child in her baby book. By savoring these positive emotions, you'll be able to draw on them the next time you're feeling down.
Copyright © 2002 Rebecca Banks. Reprinted with permission from the February 2002 issue of Parents magazine.