One military spouse's experience with navigating life after birth.
- GUEST CONTRIBUTOR CASEY AGAN
"My focus during pregnancy was the birthing method and the birth plan I was going to follow. However, my child’s birth did not take place as I envisioned. I hoped for an undisturbed birth, with very little intervention, and wanted to stay away from being medicated. All of which I took classes for and researched throughly. I never thought about looking into what I needed after my baby was born. I knew it would be somewhat difficult because of living in a different country than all of my family and close friends. On top of that, my husband was going to deploy shortly after the birth. All things considered, I still had high spirits that it would click and I'd get everything done. It would just take longer and I would need some help."-Casey
Why is the 4th trimester rarely talked about? Nobody had any length of discussion with me regarding what it would be like after my child was earth-side. I was as prepared as I could be for pregnancy and birth, but the months after birth is what shocked me most of all. Undoubtedly, my 4th trimester was my hardest. Maybe it was because I had a long labor. 51 hrs with a hospital transfer and a few hours of pushing. The painful months of not being able to sit comfortably, breastfeeding challenges, and the lack of support I felt were main contributors to recovery, no doubt. I wish now that someone had spoken to me about postpartum depression and the many ways it manifests itself. To include showing up much later than you hear about. Breastfeeding was difficult, I had latch issues, pain, clogged ducts, and weight checks because he wasn't gaining according to the hospital chart (He's in the 90th percentile for height and weight since his 6 month check). We flew my sister in law out to help while my husband was away. Unfortunately, I don't have a relationship with my mother. My grandmothers don't fly any longer. It's emotionally difficult to not have an older, close female to talk to. (Our mom is typically that person for most women). I thought we covered our bases but unfortunately for me, I needed people around that knew me well. Be proactive in managing the house and meals while I concentrated on healing and adjusting to this new life. I needed to feel supported, loved, and understood. Unfortunately, with my husband gone and a negative person telling me I'm doing things wrong. Diagnosing my baby because "the cry sounds familiar" so it must be the same thing that their child suffered from a decade ago. Giving me mean faces, eye rolling, and insinuating that I'm lying about the level of discomfort I was in, it's not what I needed. No new mom deserves those sort of mean spirited actions. In that situation I did what I thought best; I removed myself and baby from the negative person and stayed in my room. I checked with medical professionals on her "diagnosis" and "judgements" on how I did things with my baby. I was assured that I was doing everything correctly and reminded that I know best for my baby, not her.
Looking back, it was after that visit went bad that the PPD (Postpartum Depression), started to creep in. It was overlooked by the medical staff once I was physically healed (4 months postpartum). I was honest about my anxiety and low levels of energy, but no one ever mentioned depression. It wasn't until after a year that I got my hormone levels checked and all was great in that area, that I started researching. My doctor put me on birth control which helped some and suggested a counselor to speak with. I'm still recovering from my experiences that will leave a imprint on my heart forever. Healing takes time both physically, mentally, and emotionally.
My suggestions to those in a similar situation.
Living in a country that's not your own and husband leaving or already gone. Bring someone to stay with you that knows you well, that you can be yourself with. Someone who can show you compassion, support, and be there for you in the ways that you need. Family can be great, but in my experience, not all the time. If that isn't an option, having hired help to get food prepared and household tasks done will be a weight lifted.
When my husband was home, he was amazing with keeping up with the tasks I couldn't complete. He made food, cleaned, gave me time to myself, and most importantly made me feel supported and loved. I also had new friends that elevated my spirit when they visited. They would chat with me, bring a hot meal, and held the baby. It felt good to be lifted up.
No one wants to share the physical and emotional issues that arise because we should be so grateful for this little life we brought into world but I believe we should. So we can better prepare ourselves to be parents. I think it's important to share that new moms won't and shouldn't be their "normal" selves. They shouldn't be expected to entertain like they normally would.
I suggest that if you know a new mom and want to visit for any length of time, to be of help to her. From my experience, that's what is needed most. Take a look around, are there dishes in the sink? Does the cat litter smell? Dog need walking? When did she eat last? Shower last? I'm sure there's laundry . Is there anything she wants to talk about? Most importantly don't try to diagnose anything or criticize her for doing her what she's comfortable with. Don't be that negative person, these things leave a lasting imprint. If she asks for advice, it doesn't mean she'll take it, or it'll be right for her. Respect her and support her. I feel if I had been better supported, postpartum depression wouldn't have touched my life the way it has. It's something that I'm still working through. Each new mom goes through difficult times. Let's talk about them and get through them together. We shouldn't keep our challenges to ourselves. Set aside judgments and be there for one another. We are all doing the very best for our families.
For resources about Postpartum Depression please contact your Military Treatment Facility.
Online: Postpartum Progress
About the contributor:
Casey is a licensed massage therapist from California. She's military spouse with 1 child and a super loving husband.