The first time I met Lisa (not her real name) was in the hospital, treated for postpartum depression. She never expected to find herself there. When she gave birth six months earlier, she’d been young and healthy, with no history of depression. She had the support of a loving husband and family, and the resources to hire whatever help she needed, but she didn’t ask for help. She wanted to do everything on her own.
Breastfeeding turned out to be a struggle. As she nursed and pumped around the clock to try to get her supply up, she began to fall apart. She needed sleep, badly, but she was getting less and less. Over time, her joy in motherhood was replaced by a sense of hopelessness. She got to the point where she felt like she didn’t even want her baby anymore. By the time her very worried family checked her into the hospital, she was having suicidal thoughts. That’s what can happen when postpartum depression goes untreated.
This sad story has a happy ending. My doulas and I helped Lisa care for her baby while she got better. And we made sure Lisa slept. Together, we turned it around. Mom healed and in a few years was ready to welcome another baby. But this time, she lined up her postpartum doula support before the baby was even born.
For baby #2, we made a plan that would enable Lisa to breastfeed while still getting as much sleep as possible. Overnight, I would wake her to pump, taking care of all the set-up and clean-up so that she was only awake 15 minutes, never needing to get out of bed. With this system in place, Lisa was able to achieve her goal of breastfeeding without risking her health.
We all need sleep. Sleep affects everything: your mood, your well-being, your milk supply, your marriage. All of it! Some moms can handle temporary sleep deprivation well. Others, like Lisa, need the support of a trained professional. You can’t always know which kind of mom you’ll be.
Needing help doesn’t make you any less of a mother. It makes you human. A postpartum doula can help you be the kind of mother you want to be. And if there is a problem, we’re trained to see the early signs of postpartum depression, before the situation gets desperate. We know the difference between ordinary “baby blues” and PPD. We can help you figure out what’s normal and what’s not. I think if Lisa had gotten help earlier, she may not have ended up in the hospital. I always tell my clients, hope for the best and plan for the worst. And have your postpartum doula on speed dial.