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Postpartum Blues & Absurd Expectations on New Moms

03 May

Question:  

I have used Belleruth's guided meditation CDs for both headaches and sleep problems with great success. I have been having issues with postpartum depression for several months now and am having trouble finding support in many areas.

Does Belleruth have a guided meditation specifically for postpartum depression, or has she considered making one? I will probably download the depression MP3, but I think many women would be very grateful for one specifically tailored to PPD issues: guilt, shame, incompetence... There's really not much out there for us.

Thank you!
Kerry

Hi, Kerry.  

Sorry you’re under the weather.  You may find this hard to believe at the moment, but this too shall pass.  (In fact, there’s a kind of cognitive distortion with depression that makes you certain nothing’s gonna pass – and who cares anyway?  That’s depression for ya…).  It will pass whether you do or don’t do things to speed it up. Your natural energy will come back as your biochemistry settles back down.  And if you live in a northern climate and have had cabin fever to boot, Spring will help too.  My guess is that you’re probably at the end of this anyway.

As for specific PPD imagery - even though what you’re going through is post-partum related, the regular Depression CD ought to do just fine – depression is depression, after all, the main features being low energy, hopelessness, lack of enjoyment, self-dislike (big time), disappointment, irritation and guilt.   Of course, you have the added burden of a new baby to take care of, crazy post-natal neurohormones running amok in your bloodstream, and all those new Mom expectations from yourself and others.  But, trust me, it’s still the same ballpark.  So try that Depression imagery – it’s a favorite and it’s useful to a lot of people for this.  

I also recommend Amy Weintraub’s  Breathe to Beat the Blues, where she leads you in a dozen brief, energizing breathing exercises designed to manually dissolve that yucky, dull, heavy grip of depression by doing stuff.   And if you like that one, you might also want to look into Suzanne Scurlock-Durana’s powerful, energy-moving work (we have 2 of her titles).  But first things first.  Don’t overload yourself with too many “helpful” CDs and even more expectations on yourself!  One is fine for starters.

One more thing I want to mention:  watching my own daughter and daughter-in-law deal with the new demands of parenting, it’s struck me that there’s been a huge weight placed on this generation of new mothers – through self-help books and experts and support groups and even my New Best Friend, Mr. Google – that bonding with that new baby is a very iffy, delicate, dicey matter, and it doesn’t take much to really, really screw things up for your kid if you don’t do things just so.   Don’t believe it.  There’s a surprising amount of room for being imperfect, low-energy, half-assed, preoccupied and “not yourself” with a baby, and chances are, that little one will be just fine.

I think of parenting as a little bit like cooking salmon – there’s lots of room for error and it still comes out pretty tasty.  As luck would have it, salmon and babies are pretty forgiving.  So cut yourself some slack.  [ And clearly you’re not so depressed that you’re immobilized – you sent this email after all – nor are you suicidal or homicidal or psychotic – that happens sometimes (rarely) after babies too, in which case, I wouldn’t be recommending guided imagery at all…]  

So try to tolerate your desultory mood and slog through these difficult days as best you can.  Trust that you will probably feel better within weeks - as soon as your disoriented body gets used to this new level of biochemical commotion.  Weirdly, the more you can let go of any ideal mothering picture you have in your head, the better mother you’ll be.

Oh, and if your husband is acting like a jerk and contributing mightily to your malaise, try to get to a couple’s counselor – it could be you both have some work to do together.
 
Take care and let me know how you’re doing in a few weeks.
All best,
Belleruth

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award