Experts and postpartum women themselves have long been aware of the interrelationship between postpartum distress and some individual predispositions. We cannot make any claims of direct causality, nor do we have research to back it up. What we have is tons of anecdotal evidence that postpartum women are doing too much.
Women who describe themselves as “Type A” or “perfectionistic” seem to be particularly at risk for postpartum depression and anxiety. Responding to the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a newborn can catapult vulnerable women into hyperdrive, kicking off a compulsive response to conceal how they really feel or think. Efforts begin to focus on making sure they look good and appear to have everything in order.
The effort it takes to put forth this pretense that all is good, if they are severely stressed or in need of immediate support, can be grueling and unsustainable. And yet, the fear of making a mistake or doing something wrong, keeps women locked into a no-win scenario while constantly bombarded by the uncertainties and unpredictability of new motherhood.
But here’s the real problem: Most of these women who are, by nature, doers, high-achievers, accomplished women who have limited insight into how their successful attributes also put them at risk. In addition, they often go unnoticed by friends and family as being in trouble or needing support.
Therefore, women who are pregnant or postpartum and have self-identified as perfectionistic by nature need to place close attention to how they are feeling and how they are doing. Literally. Sometimes, I will listen to a client describe her day and be slightly surprised by her lack of awareness that she is wildly overbooked and obviously exhausted. Often, the mention of this is met with disbelief or denial. we understand that these situations are complicated by imposing variables and intricate dynamics, but the bottom line is this:
Postpartum women are doing too much. And it is making them sick.
While we could launch into a discourse on the impact of our oppressive postpartum culture, let’s just focus on what moms can do today to help themselves.
Take care of yourself while you take care of your baby.