While I was pregnant my sister in law shared her concerns with me, she was worried what if I got postpartum? I briefly thought about it myself, having seen my best friend go through it and others who I had spoken with. But I began to prepare myself by speaking with others who had experienced some extent of postpartum depression and through that process I started to connect the dots and find a pattern.
I realize that expectations where connected to postpartum depression, even though, yes, a lot of it is chemical and sometimes we cannot control it because shit, your body goes through a huge transformation and the flood of hormones cruising through our body is no joke. But still, I couldn’t help but notice that expectations contributed a lot. See a lot of us women have an idea of how things are going to be or how we want them to be and when reality does not match up to those expectations, then bam it because much easier to fall into depression.
Watching my best friend experience her own postpartum depression, I noticed that when she got pregnant she had many expectations of how things were going to be. She bought into the idea that pregnancy was going to be this beautiful thing, that she was going to be able to breastfeed and she was going to have an instant connection with her baby. She had all these should(s) based on all the stories she was told. But her reality was far from that…
She had complications when she delivered that put her baby in the hospital for an extra few days, she didn’t feel an instant connection with her baby and she had difficulty breastfeeding, which led her to not breastfeed at all. Then the guilt of it all began to set in and combine all that with the change of hormones, the sleepless nights and the exhaustion that comes with becoming a first time parent and your susceptibility of becoming depressed is very high.
So I learned early on not to have any expectations about my pregnancy. Because when we have expectations for ourselves, and we fall short of fulfilling those expectations, we can be very hard on ourselves, and unforgiving. Without realizing that many times our expectations are unrealistic or too ridged. So instead we’ll fall into self pity and feel depressed. Throughout my pregnancy I knew what I wanted to experience yet I remained open and felixable enough to know that things could change- that things may not be as I want them to be.
As an example, I knew I wanted to breastfeed but I was also prepared to give formula and be okay with it- if for someone reason I couldn’t breastfeed. I also knew that I wanted my delivery to be as natural as possible, my goal was not to get an epidural. I wanted to challenge myself, see how much pain I could endure and I also wanted to work with my body, not against it. Still, I remained open to the possibility that may not happen or perhaps I would have to get a c-section. My goal and vision was to go natural, still, I remained open enough that I could flow with whatever reality I would actually be met with. When your pregnant your already off balance chemically to some extent, so something like disappointment could easily trigger you to fall into postpartum depression…
I also learned to listen to everyone but not cling on to everything people say about pregnancy or becoming a parent. Because most people are giving you their own experience and while you can learn a lot from a person’s experience, we must not make it our own truth automatically. Instead, let yourself have your own experiences without the expectations of the the could haves and should haves and what will be. Instead embrace every moment by accepting what is and working with it rather than against it.
Some people will have an instant connection with their child, others won’t. Some people love being pregnant, others don’t. Some people have morning sickness, others don’t. Some people have cravings, others don’t. Some people love the infancy stage, others don’t. Some women want to breastfed, others may not or cannot. You get the point. Don’t allow yourself to buy into the generalizations. Often times we don’t realize that the majority of people all say the same things. They buy into the generalizations of statements and unconsciously restate them without questioning what they are hearing and/or repeating which unknowingly then becomes their reality, in time.
For example, some people would tell my husband to prepare himself for me yelling at him during pregnancy and saying you did this to me etc… People buy into this, that women will be screaming at their husbands during pregnancy and saying angry things to them. (When it could be the experience for some, but it doesn’t have to be yours)
When people learned that I was pregnant with a boy their usual response was always “oh I bet your husband, is thrilled that it’s a boy; right?” (When in reality, my husband had no gender preference. He was more concerned with a healthy pregnancy than anything else.) still people assumed that because I was having a boy that my husband was automatically more thrilled about the pregnancy.
Another example is when men would learn that my husband was getting married the majority of them would say ” should I congratulate you or give you my condolences?” When they learned he would become a father, people would tell him how he was now going to get fat or how he was going to stop working out because of the stress/sleepless night that were to come. But all these are just projections- people projecting their snapshot onto your life but they’re really just talking about themselves, not you.
And while some of it could be true…
Like yes, when you become a new parent you are going to sleep a lot less. It will be difficult at times to remain sane, when you’ve reached the point of exhaustion. If you are an active and fit person, it will become more challenging to wake up and train on days you’ve barely slept. And it may even be easier to give into instant gratification (like food, alcohol, or not rushing home to be with your family etc… ) because of the increased stress and pressure that comes with being a new parent. Shit, you might even find yourself frustrated at moments with your newborn, when you are in pain and past the point of exhaustion and all they want to do is be attached to your boob 24/7. And yes, you and your partner may not have a lot of alone time at first. And you might even become irratated or easily upset with one another at some point, due to all the changes and sleepless nights.
Still, those are all temporary moments in the grand scheme of things and even though they should be acknowledge, we should not cling on to them as the basis of our story telling. Because the more you repeat something, the faster it will become true for you in your reality. Be easy on yourself, let go of all your expectations. But know what you want, visualize it, but do not cling on to it. Be open and be flexible enough to flow with whatever reality confronts you. Still, I am not saying that by having no expectations and being open you will not experience postpartum depression because you still might.
I’m not the expert on this topic as I do recognize there are many other factors that contribute to it. Still, I believe that if we let go of our expectations and ideas of how pregnancy and parenthood should be, we can minimize the severity of how we experience it or if we experience it at all.
Become like the Bamboo– “Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back even from the most difficult times. . . . Your ability to thrive depends, in the end, on your attitude to your life circumstances. Take everything in stride with grace, putting forth energy when it is needed, yet always staying calm inwardly.”― Ping Fu