I have always enjoyed pregnancy. Obviously, as I have had seven pregnancies over the last 14 years. There is nothing quite like the thrill of feeling the first fish-like flutters of your baby's movement, watching your body bloom as our baby grows, the way food tastes absolutely amazing when you finally get that craving satisfied. It's as if every sense is on high alert — which can either be wonderful or torturous.
It's also hard, don't get me wrong. I have the aches, exhaustion, heartburn, morning sickness, and stretch marks just like most everyone else. I'm realizing, though, just how hard it really is after pregnancy. Not only right after birth as our bodies heal from birth itself, but the entire first year as we heal from pregnancy. Contrary to common belief, our bodies do not simply snap back into place — inside or out. Our organs, emotions, hormones, weight, mental space, all have to go back to where they started or adjust to an entirely different place. Motherhood changes us in every way, and it also can be draining in every way.
At its worst, recovering from pregnancy can feel like life has been drained from you. I've been in that place a few times, having succumbed to postpartum depression and anxiety (PPD/A). Each time has taught me something new about myself, and my late-arriving PPD/A with my last baby once again helped me learn something new. Though I felt amazing in the initial postpartum period, I began to feel myself slipping around five months post birth. The joy melted from me right into the hot summer air, and I became a type of bitter mom I never wanted to be. I was angry at every little thing — the messes the children make, their loud squealing in delight, or their arguing — which only caused more guilt, which lead to more anger at myself, which I then took out on my kids. It was a vicious cycle. I also felt trapped. Trapped by motherhood, trapped by the fact that I couldn't just leave and go to work like my husband each day as a break (ha!). I felt trapped within my walls, yet I didn't want to leave these walls of safety either because going places with five young kids is even harder.
I went to a doctor thinking I would get medication, as that's what most of my momma friends were told to do when they approached help. As a more natural-minded mom, I was thrilled-yet-skeptical when she instead suggested supplements. She explained to me that pregnancy and nursing — especially nearly 14 years worth of it — can cause such a deficiency within us moms. We give and give and give to our babies our own nutrients, and are left lacking for our own selves!
What I attributed to as being normal new-mom exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, and weepiness was actually more than just postpartum depression and anxiety. In truth it was my body screaming at me for more nutrients. No wonder we are struggling to keep happy moods, not having strong hair or teeth anymore, and a lack of energy. We give it away! We drain our own selves.
It's all for good reason, of course. We love our children and we would do anything for them. But here's your reminder that you also need to take care of yourself to fully be present and enjoy our kids.
What can you do about it?
Get blood work done. If you are feeling extra tired, extra cranky, sad, losing a lot of hair, nails are chipping, and other physical symptoms that are leaving you feeling off — I strongly suggest getting blood work done. My doctor has seen a connection in her new mom patients between nutrients being depleted from pregnancy and the correlation to mood. Personally, she found that I was low in vitamin D, vitamin B's, and folate — all of which are connected to mood. She also discovered that I have a gene mutation called MTHFR, which means that I need a specific type of vitamin B and folate so that my body can actually absorb it. While I was taking supplements during pregnancy and after, it wasn't being processed! She also checked my thyroid and iron levels, as those are associated with mood and fatigue as well. Blood work gives you a simple place to start exploring the root cause of our mental and physical health.
Take fish oil. My doctor said that we spend our pregnancies giving lots of fatty acids to grow our baby's brain, which then affects our own brain if we don't replace those. Fish oil is an excellent source of needed fatty acids, but there are studies showing that EPA fish oil specifically is shown to help mood.
Go to counseling. When we've been stuck in our bad mood, our thoughts turn against us. We blame ourselves, we call ourselves bad moms, we may feel unworthy. Counseling helps us undo those thought processes and learn coping techniques. This has been hugely helpful in my past PPD/A experiences!
Self care. My doctor also urged me to allow myself breaks and time away from my kids to recharge myself. She suggested I join the YMCA and utilize the free childcare daily even if I simply sit there and read a book. Self care can look like so many different ways for people. However it looks for you, it is needed. In the past, I focused on the "fun" aspects of self-care, like taking time to write, read, craft, each chocolate, but this time taught me that the physical aspect of our health is just as important. In fact, they go hand in hand!
Since starting to replenish myself after feeling drained physically, I absolutely feel the difference. I feel more confident in my mothering ability and stopped having panic attacks. I felt capable and energized to take everyone grocery shopping once more. If I miss a few days of my supplements I feel it: my mood goes sour once again and that trapped feeling comes back. That to me is proof that replenishing nutrients is what my body and my mind needs to stay in a happier mental state — which only benefits my entire family.
If you are feeling drained in every way right now, make an appointment with your doctor and see if there is an underlying cause. It's time to refill what has been drained from within us and feel better!