I was sitting in an ice cream shop the other night with my family and a couple of friends enjoying a raspberry chip cone and watching all the people come and go. My friend Lauren said something that stuck with me. She noticed how all of the people that were coming out of the shop were so happy with big smiles and even bigger sundaes. You never see anyone leaving an ice cream shop grumpy! She correlated it to yoga, how it makes people feel good after a class that they walk out super happy. That’s when it hit me, yoga is just as good as ice cream, possibly even better! Both are comforting and make you feel good.
In the wake of Robin Williams’ death, the word depression has become a household word. From talk shows to social media, everyone is talking about how to notice warning signs of depression and what you can do to help yourself and others. I think it’s great that there is so much more awareness regarding this serious ailment. It can be a silent disease and it affects many different types of people: rich, famous, poor, young and old. Another depression that can be silent but deadly is post-partum depression(PPD).
Before I had children I thought that PPD was something that wasn’t real and wasn’t feasible. How could you be depressed while holding your newborn child in your arms? How could you be sad at one of the happiest times in your life? How could you imagine hurting yourself or your baby? These thoughts baffled me, then I had kids.
When a woman is going through the 10 months of pregnancy, yes 10, not 9…so many hormonal changes are going through their body. Their body is being prepped for growing and sustaining a human being, a concept that still baffles me even though I understand the biology! Estrogen and progesterone are two big hormones that are present in the body throughout pregnancy. Another hormone that is prevalent in the body is oxytocin, this is known as the “love” or “trust” hormone. It’s the feel good hormone! It helps to contract the uterus during childbirth and aids in getting that baby out! It is a Greek word meaning “swift childbirth”. During childbirth if there isn’t enough oxytocin in the body to facilitate dilation, a synthetic form of the hormone is given in drug form called Pitocin. This helps to get the body open for delivery. After childbirth, oxytocin helps in maternal bonding and lactation. The sudden drop in all of these hormones after birth can contribute to depression.
This sudden drop of hormones is not the only factor in creating PPD in new moms. Add to it sleep deprivation, soreness from delivery, stitches from tearing, wounds from a cesarean, blood loss, the list can go on and on…These physical factors can affect a mother emotionally. With all of these factors contributing to possible depression, what’s a new mom to do?
My advice to new moms is to heal. Do the very best you can to heal physically and all the rest will follow. Be good to yourself and let others take care of you, let your focus be on your baby and yourself. So what if your house is a mess, let it go. So what if you haven’t showered in a few days, let it go. Now is not the time to be super woman, instead get help and more importantly ask for it. If you feel good physically your mind will follow. Once your body is healed then you can start to nourish the mind and soul. Talk with other Moms about your feelings and challenges, be as open to your partner as you can, have family and friends around to help, and again, ask for help!
Getting back on your mat after childbirth can be a scary and frustrating endeavor. This is when you really need to let go. Let go of expectations and just as you did when you were pregnant and modify accordingly. Pushing yourself too soon will only lead you to setbacks and possible injuries. Listen to your body and guide it. Your practice may be a trace of what it was but if you have patience and faith in yourself it will all come back to you. Breathe some nourishment into your body and soul! Find those feel good moments on your mat, you deserve it. My intention for new moms is to walk out of yoga class feeling good and happy, just like you walked out of an ice cream shop.