How I Identified my Postnatal Depletion
I want to share my past week with you in a little more detail on the Blog because I think it's an important topic to raise awareness about.
Last Wednesday, I threw my hands in the air and said I'm done! My brain was burning and my one designated work day had come and gone with yet another empty page and a scattered mind.
Why was I feeling so paralysed?
I’ve been digging deep trying to figure out all the ‘baby brain’ I’ve been living with. I changed my sleep routine, exercise and nutrition to try and seriously just function and feel like a ‘normal’ functioning human being.
After a release of oh so many built up emotions and left feeling utterly exhausted, we put the kids to bed and followed suit at 6pm.
I headed for the bookshelf and pulled out “the Postnatal Depletion Cure” by Dr. Oscar Serrallach. A Complete Guide to Rebuilding Your Health and Reclaiming Your Energy. For Mother’s of Newborns, Toddlers and Young Children.
Have your heard of it? Or read it?
I truly believe in divine timing and this is yet another example. This book was delivered to my door by a beautiful mama friend Michelle, who thought it could help me, after seeing me share some struggles last year. It had been sitting there to be read but my study always took priority as it waited patiently.
I kid you not, I couldn’t put it down. The fatigue, exhaustion, ‘light sleeper’, struggling to keep up with self-care, loss of confidence, sense of isolation or lack of support. I realised what I have been experiencing is Postnatal Depletion.
I have attached the questionnaire below for any mamas wanting to check-in on themselves.
I felt this massive relief. What I was feeling was shared by others and is very common.
The following days I took time out. I literally just rested, played with the kids and let the emotions roll in, and roll out.
So what is Postnatal Depletion you might be thinking and holy geepers, could you have it too? Do we share the same rash or is it contagious.. Haha no! No rash and not contagious as far as I know.
Dr. Serrallach says ‘At its core, postnatal depletion is the understandable outcome of a series of less-than-ideal events leading to depletion of a women's wellbeing at multiple levels. There are 3 primary factors at play here:
The nutrients given over to making, incubating, and birthing the baby are enormous, and this depletion continues after the birth for women who are breastfeeding.
Bone-gnawing exhaustion can occur from sleep deprivation - the result of never having a good, refreshing night’s sleep.
The drastic change of a new mother’s role is often accompanied by social isolation, which can have a deleterious effect on a woman’s psychological well-being.’
I might add, this isn’t just for new mum’s. He says even mothers 7 years post-birth are found to be suffering from Postnatal Depletion! Yep crazy huh!
In the very early pages of the book, Dr. Serrallach talks about why Postnatal Depletion is so common in Western societies and gives examples of postnatal support in other cultures around the world. China, Korea, India, Nepal, Tibet, Southeast Asia, Zimbabwe, our very own Aboriginal Australians and Native Americans, to name a few, all have some kind of post-birth support system in place. Most embrace rituals, confinements, deep nurturing of the mother and allowing this time to heal, bond, nourish and rest after labor (they don't call it labour for nothing!)
Take a moment to let that marinate.
Did you rest, heal, bond and nourish after birth?
If I’m really honest I did, but heck I also didn’t! For Jesse’s pregnancy I struggled mentally and emotionally. I cried everyday for the first 4 months. I do look back, and my expectations on myself whilst pregnant were huge! I also felt like my external world had huge expectations of me too. Each day and everyday felt HARD! I know many mothers reading this will reflect on their own hard! I see you and I feel you, it’s incredibly important to know your feelings are valid. Your feelings during pregnancy and post pregnancy are SO valid. Let them process and heal at your own pace.
After birth in the Western world now days with camera phones and social media, we can literally see what other mothers are doing following the birth of their baby. I’d even go further enough to say, it’s a heroic thing if your out for coffee or a brisk walk the day after.
I vividly remember being ones of those mamas, trying to have it together but actually just peeing my pants.
Jesse was 3 days old, we had been home and decided to get out for a few hours. All was fine, I did the baby wearing thing to keep him safely asleep. As we returned home I had the urge to use the bathroom. I literally hopped out of the car in our garage but because I literally birthed a baby 3 days prior, I couldn’t hold on. I stood there in all my glory. Not even my adult sized nappy could help me. It’s pretty funny! You can totally laugh.
I think back, as a mother who just gave birth I should have said yes to the extra help, got out of the kitchen when visitors came over, rested when my baby rested.. I have no regrets just many lessons learnt. I do worry that us as Westerners are missing the mark post-birth, and this is leading many of us to postnatal depletion on top of the internal stuff that needs time to re-balance and heal.
For the next 12 months, life went on. I returned to studying 3 months after birth and Pete worked 6 days per week down the coast for the first 6-7months of Jesse’s life. It was full on, and fast paced as we scrambled to find our feet as a family of 4.
The truth is, life today is a complete beast, the thoughts, tasks, mealtimes, and wake-ups can feel like you’re on a roller-coaster that doesn’t stop.
I want to share some honest personal key elements that I believe has ushered me in this direction:
Saying yes to things I think I should do, even when it leaves me feeling exhausted afterward. I can’t count the number of times we’ve got home and wondered ‘what were we thinking?’ (ahhh girlfriend, you’re not thinking!).
Not going to bed early enough. This is the Pitta in me, once 10pm hits, I get my second wind and I start doing ALL the things.
I feel like since being a parent it has opened up huge amounts of my childhood or early adulthood experiences. My beliefs, habits, thoughts, relationships, actions or non-action. It can feel raw as I work through it and working out what I take forward in my own life.
Nail biting. Let's get this one out of the road. My itty bitty nails have been picked apart post birth. Something that's not new to me, but also something I worked on really hard on in the past. Some of you may be thinking gross, maybe some can relate. I feel like it’s a habit much like unconscious eating or scrolling that becomes a form of escapism.
Lowered IQ. I’m glad it’s a thing! Legit, the burning brain, forgetfulness and unable to string a sentence together has science to back it. Hallelujah! The number of times I have jumped on Insta stories and had great info to share and when I spoke, it literally just didn't come out properly. I would feel deflated and confused. I had slowly been losing confidence in my ability to create, share and inspire with you all!
Self-care. I have non-negotiables which I believe has kept me afloat for this long. Nutrition & exercise. These come relatively easy to me. I will say tho, I have noticed the decline in satisfaction over the last few months. I’ve felt too exhausted to prepare myself lunch, therefore, snacking all day which doesn't serve me well. I have also neglected to book personal appointments because I tell myself ‘I should be working on that one 8 hour day!’ (Little ah-ha moments happening here for myself, hopefully, someone else too).
Isolation. When you're dying for human contact but dying to be alone. This is one I thought wasn’t affecting me as much as it is! I was a flight attendant for 7 years. I love people and thrive off their energy. Helping and supporting fellow crew or passengers has always been a natural gift.
Lastly, my darma. My purpose. Postnatal depletion has had me questioning my life’s purpose. When there are mind blocks coming at you head on, at the same time you are tackling your mission or burning desire; it has made me lose hope many times. I feel defeated but I always have faith in being exactly where I need to be.
There's always more but these are the things popping up as I write.
So.. Let’s move on! When we're feeling stuck, we need to DSD - Do Something Different!
You guys know I’m big on change and life being flexible. Let’s see what the book suggests and I’ll fill you in on my action plan!
The Postnatal Depletion Cure (I haven’t finished reading it so I don't have all the answers) but he uses the acronym SPAN. Sleep, Purpose, Activity and Nutrition to cure PD. Again, I’m being totally honest I haven't read much past here.
For me, it was this wave of appreciation and acceptance that I haven’t been feeling ok and I could now identify why. This has been a massive release for me. The massive emotional cry has aloud me to release those toxic thoughts, emotions, feelings of lack and less than.. It has opened up space in my heart, mind, and body to reignite my purpose, empowering thoughts, setting boundaries and designing the life I want to live every day.
It’s been 7 days and this is what I have changed to punch Postnatal Depletion in the face:
Sleep: Pete and I have committed to the 4 am club and go to bed together at 8:30 pm.
Purpose: My purpose hasn’t changed (refer to Who is the Mind Body Mama? here), but it has got clearer and highest priority. What I love and what lights me up matters to me. I’m working on my confidence, boundaries and my self-care. I actually got my hair cut off yesterday, it feels invigorating! My mum and I booked in a spa-day (for her 60th + my 30th birthday presents (presence)). Andddd I have a catch up/play-date with a friend on Friday. Who am I? Haha. You know when you feel rock bottom, you have to get back up and try again.
Activity: I move the bod daily and get rid of stagnant energy.
Nutrition: I’m concentrating on having full meals instead of snacking.
We revamped our home to create clear space and fewer things.
We did a budget and we are willing to cut back in certain areas to be able to increase daycare days. This will give me 2 days of space to fill or keep clear as I please. Mainly work days but also RnR as needed.
Oh, and I’m consciously doing my best to grow my nails naturally.
There you have it! I hope this has supported you to seek help, slow down or identify some things that may have you headed for Postnatal Depletion. If not, this might have sparked a thought for someone who might need your extra help.
Thank you so much for reading this week’s Blog, it has been my pleasure writing it up for you! As always, if this information was helpful, please do feel free to share this with anyone else you believe it could serve.