Embrace…Asking for Help

Why is asking for help so hard for us? I think we have it in the back of our mind that we should be able to take care of it all, we should be able to handle everything, and it feels really outside of our comfort zone to start asking for help.

So, if you are watching this, I’m guessing you probably have already done a little bit of research on the fourth trimester, you’ve done a little bit of research on postpartum and what your needs are going to be, and I’m sure by now one message keeps coming through again and again, and that is you have to ask for help, and you have to be open to receiving it.

So, I’d like to talk a little bit about why that’s hard for us.  Now, our ultimate goal is how to have a happy and healthy fourth trimester.  So, this is a transition, especially when it’s your first child, to going from being a fully functioning capable adult, you got all those adulting skills down, but now all of a sudden we’re throwing parenting into the mix.

Right.  So, Ergobaby asked me to talk a little bit about how to have a healthy and happy fourth trimester, and I think they knew I’d be into this because this is what I do, it’s what I help people with, and I’ll talk a little bit about that at the end if that’s okay.

But first, let’s talk a little bit about why.  Why is the fourth trimester hard for parents? In the extreme we see perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.  By now I’m sure you’ve heard about postpartum depression and hopefully you’ve also heard about postpartum anxiety, which is even more common.  Things that you may not know about and may not be expecting is postpartum anger and rage.

So, I’m not super big on diagnosing and labels but I am big on being prepared for what could happen.  I don’t want to be doom and gloom, I do think you should know that one in five women and one in 10 dads and partners experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder but I want you to know that there’s things we can do to prevent it.

I also want to talk, not just to the one in five that will have clinical depression or anxiety as well as OCD, postpartum stress, like I talked about, the anger and the rage, a lot of things that could go wrong, and we’re not going to really get too freaked out about it, what we’re going to talk about is how we can make it better.  So, the things that I want to give you make it better not just for the one in five, but for the other three or four.

So, remember, I talked about how one in five develops postpartum or perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, the other three or four just feel like they were hit by a ton of bricks.  This was my experience; I really had no idea how hard it was going to be.

As a first time parent, I had already been a mental health professional for, I don’t know, maybe 15 years at that point, and nobody even told me and I had no clue how common anxiety and depression symptoms were.

I had all this training, I’m sorry, all this screening from my OB-GYN.  They were checking my urine, they were checking my blood sugar, they were looking for signs of preeclampsia or gestational diabetes and those aren’t even as common as mood or anxiety disorders and nobody was really asking me how I was.

I was shocked after delivering the baby when my OB said, “See you in six weeks.” I just was like, “Shouldn’t you check on me? I think physically things are happening,” and in reality in my story I actually had symptoms that were not normal and not good, and I didn’t even know that they were outside the range, and I didn’t know I should ask for help.

So, physical symptoms as well as just anxiety, frustration with the breastfeeding progress, so there’s a lot going on.  So, how can we talk about embracing the new mom, holding the new mom, I’m talking directly to you because I want you to be the one to create this network around you.

I think if we live in a traditional society that’s in place, if you live in a village or a multi-family compound or a commune with lots of people around you, there’s lots of people who are there to help pitch in.  What we see in traditional societies is, typically the first 40 days, the first six weeks, it hovers around that time, the new parents are not expected to do anything but care for the baby and bond.

So, this means that someone does their cooking, their cleaning, their job responsibilities, and both parents are there, and the whole village is surrounding them and taking care of them.  So, I live in America, don’t get me started on paid family leave, definitely a big topic, and definitely needed for so many reasons.  But if you, like me, are living here or in a country that doesn’t support you, how can you create that system of support?

So, the things that I’d like to talk about is creating your community and creating your village.  So, I’d like you to maybe get out some paper and start thinking about who can you draw on for meals.  If you already have a baby who can help you with caring for your toddler, who can help pick up these certain responsibilities that you might have, and so start thinking about who can you draw on for your village.

So, let’s talk about how we can make this bonding time with your newborn really your sole responsibility in addition to self-care because you have to be taking care of yourself in order to be in the best place to take care of your baby.

Unfortunately, this is going to be a really challenging time for taking care of yourself if you have delivered a baby and many of these messages are going out to parents who are becoming parents through any method for adoption, through surrogacy, but this one in particular is for the parent that’s given birth.  If you’ve given birth, that’s a massive physical experience that you’re recovering, belly births take even longer.

If you have had birth trauma, if your birth went different than you expected, and to me that’s trauma, trauma is having an experience that’s not what you expected and at any point or at any point feeling worried about the safety of your infant or even your safety, so if those moments happened at all, and for many of us it does if there’s any acute experience, if there’s any unexpected experiences in the birth that are life threatening, then that’s very scary and that’s something that we’re going to have to cope through.  I’m going to have some water because I tend to talk a lot.

Okay.  So, when we’re asking for help, if you are the kind of person that has it in your head that, “Okay, therapy is fine for other people, I’m not at this place where I have this so much stigma that I think you have to be crazy to see a therapist or to ask out for emotional support, but I shouldn’t have to have it.” I hear that all the time.

I hear so many people say, “There’s nothing wrong with going to a therapist but I don’t want to have to feel like I’m the one that has to do it.” Ask yourself this, this is the thought that you’ve had, what does it mean to you to say I need more support? What does it mean to you to say maybe I’m not okay?

I want you to know that it is okay to not be okay.  It’s okay to ask for help.  You still not with me? Okay.  I’m going to give you something to think about.  Okay.  Think about a corporation, who’s at the top? Who’s got it all together, high functioning? The CEO.

Do CEOs demonstrate weakness when they delegate to someone else? Does the CEO do everything in their company? If your household is moving and transitioning from one or two people to more, it is growing, you’re expanding, there’s got to be a little bit of restructuring going on.  Now, does the CEO do it all? Absolutely not.  Do they delegate? Do they ask certain people, “You do this, you do this.” Does a CEO know when to bring in a consultant?

Yeah, they do, and so think of a therapist, a psychiatrist, a support network, a support group, as being consultants.  Absolutely, get those lactation consultants and don’t wait, do it the first week because that’s when it’s really crucial, and the same goes for your mental health.  Don’t wait.  Don’t wait until you have a diagnosis or don’t wait until it’s really bad, everybody deserves support.  This is a major transition.

So, if you feel like, “Hey, I should have it all together,” think about the CEO and think about how empowered you are to know when to bring in outside support, to bring in consultants, to bring in another opinion, and they are guiding you.  I know myself as a therapist I’m not there to tell you what to do or to label you, I’m there to offer out a buffet of suggestions and then you can decide what resonates with you and what could be most helpful.

So, those are some of my ideas on how to take care of yourself in the fourth trimester and how to really connect with your newborn so that you need to be in the best place, so then you can bring yourself, it’s a relationship, if you are in a serious relationship, you’ll know that you can’t necessarily have the best discussions and conversations with your partner when you’re crazy tired, hungry, not in your best place, not thinking clearly.

So, that’s coming, that’s coming in the postpartum stage, and then the same goes with your relationship with your newborn.  It’s okay to have mixed feelings, it’s okay to say, “This is really hard and I really hate that the baby’s crying again and I have to get up.” You can even have thoughts of hating the baby or hating your life.  You can also enjoy your baby and love your baby and move forward.

Finally, if you ever do have any thoughts about suicide, please reach out for help sooner rather than later.  I’m going to make sure they have the link to a suicide prevention call line, and have it out there and know that you can get support.

So, let’s see what else can I leave you with? Oh, I’ll tell you a little bit more about what I do.  So, I do have an online video course designed to prevent postpartum depression and so it’s mostly, well, not mostly, so there’s a lot of me talking to the camera and providing educational topics on specific topics that help you prevent postpartum depression.

So, I have a whole school, the first course that is already out is called prevent postpartum depression.  It’s designed exactly around this, like how we can have a healthy and happy transition to the fourth trimester, how we can minimize depression, minimize anxiety, and a little bit on improving relationships, there’s even more coming out on relationships this fall, and so if you want to check it out, that’s preventppd.com.

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Abby Burd

Abby is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist at Burd Psychotherapy in San Diego, CA. She specializes in Perinatal Mental Health, which includes mood and anxiety disorders, trauma and loss. In her free time she occasionally blogs at Baby Bird’s Farm and Cocina, where she shares adventures in natural parenting, urban homesteading and seasonal cooking. She is the proud mama to two girls, born in 2013 and 2011.

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September 18, 2019
September 18, 2019