...for the feeling of summer that still remains.
Most mums experience some form of the baby blues post-pregnancy- but postnatal depression is a different ballgame entirely, from the severity of its symptoms, to the length of time it can persist. In a perfection-portraying society, it’s easy to overlook the fact that this debilitating condition occurs more commonly than we think, affecting up to one in seven new mothers – and just maybe, someone you know might be a part of this equation.
On speaking of her battle with postnatal depression following the birth of her son Theo in 2010, actress Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help, Jurassic World) in her beautifully penned piece on GOOP, had this to say:
“Do I wish I had never endured postpartum depression? Absolutely. But to deny the experience is to deny who I am. I still mourn the loss of what could have been, but I also feel deep gratitude for those who stood by me, for the lesson that we must never be afraid to ask for help, and for the feeling of summer that still remains.”
Receiving adequate support is crucial for a woman undergoing postnatal depression. If a loved one of yours is going through a similar struggle, these are some of the things you could do as a friend to journey with her through this difficult season:
Listen Without Advising
Each woman’s motherhood experience is different – and comparing yours with your friend’s may end up hindering, rather than helping. Instead of telling her that “a walk should clear things right up!” (something that might have worked for you), do the one thing instead that all mothers who have battled postnatal depression say was invaluable to their recovery process: listen.
Listen to what your friend has to say- to the feelings she needs to express, the tears she needs to cry out, to her self-doubt, confusion, and pain. And when the words come to a standstill, just hold her hand and be present for her- without passing judgment, and without dispensing advice.
When the time does come for you to speak up, instead of telling her: “I’m sure it’s just the hormones talking”, “You’ve just had a baby- you should be happy!”, or “It’s normal to have the baby blues”, say this instead: “You’re a good mother”, “I know how hard you’re trying and you’re doing well” and “I hear you – and I’m here for you.”
Insist On Helping Out
It’s tough enough as it is, dealing with a brand new baby- but with the added complexity of postnatal depression, many mothers dealing with this condition find themselves overwhelmed all too quickly.
Many open-ended gestures of assistance (“Just call on me for anything, anytime”), whilst well-intentioned, might not however be an offer easily taken up by a mum who might be struggling with guilt about needing help in the first place.
Instead, be concrete and consistent about your ability and willingness to help out – say, for example, “I’m available this afternoon and would love to drop by, if you’re up to it. I can help with a grocery run, or look after the baby for a bit so you can catch a rest.” Small gestures such as picking up dinner for the family, helping out with the laundry load, or taking your friend’s older kids to school, speak volumes and would go a long way towards easing her burden.
If your friend needs some alone time and space however, respect this, and don’t ambush her. Continue to make yourself available to lend a helping hand though – and when she’s finally ready to say yes, make sure to follow through on your offers to assist.
Remind Her Of Who She Is
Going through something as deeply painful as postnatal depression can negatively impact a person’s perspective about themselves. Too many mums unfortunately believe the lies in their own heads: that they’re inadequate, unworthy, or unfit to be mothers.
Remind your friend that the woman you know and love is still there – that she isn’t the sum total of what her symptoms make her out to be, and that you’re going to see her emerge again, stronger than ever, once she beats this battle. If your friend is feeling up to it, try and reconnect her with the things that uplift her and that she’s always enjoyed, be it music, a good book, or a painting class.
Recognise however that it might be a long journey before she finally sees that light at the end of the tunnel. Affirm your friend and acknowledge her efforts, even as she has her bad days, and celebrate her small steps towards victory on those good days.
Help Her Seek Professional Help
If your friend is ready and willing, help her look into the resources available to her to better understand and treat her condition. You could look up professionals in the area who specialise in treating postnatal depression, or research specific support groups or organisations that assist mothers in similar situations.
Encourage your friend if she does decide to seek treatment, and help her to shake off any misplaced stigma or shame that she might be feeling in requiring professional help or in needing to take medication to combat her symptoms.
At your end, you could also increase your own knowledge about postnatal depression: how to recognise its signs, how to avoid possible triggers, and how to best lend support.
Don’t Give Up On Her
Unlike the common cold, postnatal depression is a condition that, sadly, doesn’t go away with a handy “take [two] aspirin and call me in the morning” sort of way. It can take months, or even longer, before things may even begin looking up again, and this can get frustrating for not just your friend, but also for the people in her life who are trying to help her through this difficult time.
All too often, well-meaning friends who offer help and support during those initial few weeks fall by the wayside, as life carries on. Let your friend know though that you’re in this with her for the long haul, and keep her accountable. Check in with her regularly, send her encouraging messages, or be there to lend a listening ear when she needs it – remembering always to be patient in your love for her.
Before long, my hope and prayer for your friend is that she, as Bryce Dallas Howard so eloquently puts it, catches a glimpse of that “feeling of summer that still remains” once again.
Editor’s Note: This piece was written by a contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mummyfique. If you’re interested in joining our community of Mummy Contributors from the world over, email us today!
From courtroom trials to the trials of first time parenthood, Kimberly Lee is a former litigation lawyer turned full time employee of her boss baby. She writes about life, loss, love and everything in between as she explores her greatest adventure yet – motherhood.