Postpartum depression (PPD) is the sort of pain that sneaks up on you. It's the sort of pain that you can't see from the outside, and to anyone that's never experienced it, finding the words to describe how truly painful it is can be difficult. I know. I've been there. I've also come out on the other side as a better woman and a better mother thanks, in part, to some of my mom friends. Mom friends can help a woman suffering from postpartum depression, arguably, more than probably anyone else can. Even if they don't have it themselves, they understand the eternal struggle that is motherhood.
The struggles of postpartum depression come with so many feelings of discontent. Guilt, sadness, and confusion are just a few of the daily emotions a woman suffering from postpartum depression may be faced with. In my own case, the guilt was the worst part. It consumed me. It was like an uphill battle that I would fight every day, and when I would get to the top of the hill and think that I was finally OK, something would happen that would send me all the way back down the the bottom. When I finally hit that bottom and looked at the hill I would have to start climbing again, I felt like I was drowning in guilt.
Postpartum depression can be terrifying, especially for someone who doesn't yet understand that what they're experiencing is out of their control. That's the scariest part. Though being diagnosed with postpartum depression is both disappointing and scary, it's also somewhat of a relief, as there is hope for those suffering from it. Part of that hope comes in the form of friends, especially mom friends. So if you've got a friend who you think may be suffering from PPD, here's how you can help her:
Acknowledge Her Feelings
I tried for weeks to ignore my feelings after I had my son. I assumed that I was just experiencing the new parent exhaustion that every mom encounters at some point and, eventually, I'd adjust to my new role. But I didn't, at least not before I realized that I was showing the signs of postpartum depression.
It was harder for me to acknowledge my feelings than it was for those around me to notice that something wasn't right. In fact, I probably wouldn't have sought help at all if it weren't for some of my mom friends telling me that they thought that I might have had more than just the "baby blues." Turns out, they were right. Sometimes it takes an outsider's perspective to steer us in the right direction--in my case, to the doctor.
Don't Judge Her Feelings
Postpartum depression is accompanied by some very glum, very ugly feelings. Feelings that no one wants to admit they're experiencing for fear of being judged. If you have a friend who you think might be suffering from PPD, it's important that you don't judge her for her feelings. She really can't help them, and she's probably hiding them for the very fact that she's afraid of what others will think of her and her abilities as a parent if they know how she really feels.
Do Some Research About PPD
It can be hard to understand how postpartum depression affects a woman if you've never experienced it yourself. Doing some research can definitely help, though. Understanding the causes of postpartum depression, the things that make it worse and the things that might offer some relief, could help you to get a better grasp of how your friend is feeling and how you can help her out.
Offer To Help Out
When you've got PPD, trying to clean a house or wash dishes or do laundry or cook meals when even getting out of bed seems like a task and are literally the last things on your mind. Still they, unfortunately, still have to be done. Offer to cook supper for your friend, or to come over and wash some dishes or straighten the house up a little. Having everything around her in order will help to lessen her anxiety.
Offer To Watch Her Kids While She Takes A Break
This is a big one. When you have PPD, being around your baby is sometimes, well, the last place you want to be. I started to resent my son when I had PPD, because I was constantly worrying about taking care of him, instead of myself, despite how quickly my feelings were causing me to sink. I remember having a friend who I hadn't seen in a long time over to our house and telling her that I just didn't feel right, that I was even scared to be around my baby sometimes because of how I was feeling. Instead of visiting with each other, she took over caring for my son while I took a shower and a nap. You don't realize how far gone you are until you get to the point that brushing your teeth and taking a shower seem like special events.
Share Your Own Struggles With Her
We all know that motherhood is messy sometimes, but we don't all talk about it. Maybe it's because our society pressures women to do it all and to "supermom," but regardless, we need to start talking about the ugly side of motherhood more often. If you've ever experienced some aspect of motherhood that made you want to scream or cry or run away, talk to your friend with PPD about it. I can't tell you how much that could aid in ridding her of her guilt about how she feels. Knowing that she isn't the only one who is struggling will make her feel like she's not actually the complete failure that she assumes she is.
Get Her Out Of The House
Parenthood can feel isolating for everyone, but especially for a woman who has PPD. Personally, I never wanted to show my face in public when I was struggling, but having friends who made me get out of the house definitely motivated me to stop sulking. I hadn't yet mastered the art of getting out in public with a baby, so when one of my best friends who also had kids invited me out for lunch, I hesitated. I didn't want to have that kid that was having a meltdown in public, but she assured me that I would survive and that she would rescue me if it got too bad. She was right. Practice makes perfect, and damn, she was a good coach.
Let Her Cry
I remember crying and having absolutely no idea why when I had PPD. I was embarrassed by it, but letting the tears flow made me feel better. It was odd, yes, but it worked. If your friend just needs a good cry, turn on The Notebook and let her cry it out. Sometimes, a girl just needs an ugly cry.
Let Her Vent
Talking about the darker side of motherhood and postpartum depression, the feelings of rage and numbness, isn't exactly easy. It feels like bleeding out, but we need to talk about postpartum depression. Women suffering from it need an outlet, and we need to put our feelings on the table without fearing the possible judgment.
Let your friend vent. Let her rant, and no matter how ugly some of those feelings might sound, let her get them out.
Pay Attention To Her Behavior
Sometimes, it can be hard to tell the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression. At first, I assumed that I had the baby blues. It took months for me to realize that my feelings were far more serious, and even longer to get treatment because I was afraid to admit that I had postpartum depression.
No one enjoys admitting that they're feeling sad during what's supposed to be the "happiest time of her life," so it's important for you to pay attention to your friend's behavior if you think they might be showing the signs of postpartum depression. Sometimes, it takes a friend speaking up about how we're acting for us to even realize that we've got a very real problem.