LLL Today #5 – Postpartum Depression

When a baby is born there are many changes in our individual and family life. We frequently have periods of fear and uncertainty where we constantly ask ourselves if the time, space and environment will be the best for raising a little one. We question whether we are able to face all the changes that are coming and the feelings that we have during and after childbirth, situations that most mothers experience as they try to ensure that their children are safe.

During childbirth some of the circumstances that surround us can affect our emotional stability, for example, if we have gone through a birth with obstetric violence. This is a birth where we have not been allowed to decide about our body and where the activities or situations that we have previously asked for have not been fulfilled.

Miriam, a mother from my area, tells us how she experienced postpartum depression.

The time has come after several months of waiting and being in labor. Finally, my longed for little one is born. I feel strange and confused. I thought that when I had her in my arms a wave of happiness and satisfaction would come to me, but I do not feel that. I thought it may be because of the fatigue and all the whirlwind of experiences I had during childbirth.

Many people told me about what to do when my daughter arrived, how I should feel and how I would be in those first days. I really did not feel that way. I felt sad, dazed, disoriented, wanting to run away from this place no matter what. My daughter’s crying made me feel irritable most of the day. I did not feel that connection with my daughter that many women told me about. I felt like I was a stranger.

Everything was better when someone else was taking care of her. I let my mother and partner spend most of the time with her. I went to feed her, but in those times when I had to be with her and offer her the best of me, I avoided looking at her directly. I tried to focus my eyes and my thoughts on other things than on her. And at the same time, I felt guilty for not giving my best to her, not being a good mother, not being able to be happy in every moment, and not looking into her eyes and melting with her gaze.

I began to have some difficulties with the latch. I don’t like to talk about this part. When I didn’t get a good latch, I felt relief. It was like an escape for me. At the same time, it caused me discomfort at that moment. My friend connected me with a La Leche League Leader (LLL), who listened to me. I don’t know how many times I called her and told her what I felt and what had happened that day. She understood what was happening and that gave me relief. I found someone who understood what I was going through without judging me or making me feel like a bad mother. (It was enough that I thought about it and felt it every day.) She explained to me that women can have postpartum depression, a topic that is not talked about much but is widespread. She gave me the tools to improve my breastfeeding. She emphasized the importance of breastfeeding as a bonding factor between mother and child.

I also had professional help to overcome this stage. After several months I was able to get closer to my daughter. We were overcoming the breastfeeding difficulties we’d  had in the beginning. One day while breastfeeding I could look at her and feel that this little girl was my everything. I was there to love her always.

LLL Leaders help mothers like Miriam experiencing postpartum depression through empathetic listening. They encourage mothers and parents to share how they feel as many times as necessary. In the LLL support groups mothers can listen to other mothers share their experiences. They can learn how other parents had help from La Leche League and were able to continue breastfeeding. It is important to let mothers and parents know that LLL Leaders are there to support them and to give them information on where to go for specialized help.

Sandra Patiño