How do you get out of a postpartum depression?

Today’s contributor article is by mother of two Tilda Timmers.

About Tilda Timmers

Let me first introduce myself. I am Tilda Timmers (37), a therapist based in the Netherlands. I am an experience expert on Post Partum Depression and author. I am married to surgeon Tim (38) and mother to Livia (5 years) and Emmi (2 years). I am working hard to break the taboo, that unfortunately, still lies on the subject of PPD. 

After giving birth, I felt very anxious and depressed from the start. I felt like I was the only mother in the entire world, who couldn’t handle motherhood, at all. I felt like I was failing on a daily basis and had the worse, negative, intrusive thoughts about my baby, myself and being a mother. I felt so ashamed and guilty by all of this, that I spiraled into a severe version of PPD. After months of struggling, I finally got help and started talking about this. It took almost a year for me to recover. After that, I wanted to help other mothers, like I was being helped. I started my practice and wrote my book that also will appear in English on April 14th  2020. I am fighting for all the mothers, who are not feeling well after giving birth. Whether they have a depression, feel anxious or just very insecure, and everything in between. As a therapist I see women in The Netherlands, but also in Belgium and Suriname through Skype. Mothers reach out to me from all different places in the world.

On October 10th, it is National Depression Screening Day. That’s why I wanted to work together with Kensington Mums on bringing more awareness for mothers, who are not feeling like they are on cloud nine after giving birth. 

You had imagined it all so beautifully, in advance. Before you gave birth, you could already envision how you would feed your baby in your rocking chair. Gently, you see yourself nursing your baby, while you are sniffing his or her head. You could dreamingly see yourself sitting on cloud nine with your husband and baby. While still pregnant, you did a lot of daydreaming about the future, rubbing your big belly and feeling your baby kicking from the inside.

Reality check

But then it turns out, that things are not going so well, after you gave birth. You actually don’t feel that happy most of the time. In fact: you regularly ask yourself what you got yourself into, becoming a mother in the first place. You are wondering on a daily basis: is this how motherhood is? Because, I don’t like it that much. You feel like you can’t handle it and you doubt yourself as a mother. You are not sitting on cloud nine, but you find yourself on a dark gray thunder cloud. You are tired, because you haven ’t had a normal night of sleep in weeks. Breastfeeding may not run as smoothly as you would have hoped. Because of that, your entire life is revolving around feeding, pumping, feeding even more and hoping that your baby will sleep an hour in between. In the mean time, the hormones are raging through your body and your relativizing capacity has fallen to a historic low.

How do other mothers handle all of this?

You ask yourself on a daily basis: how do other mothers do this thing called motherhood? Is it easy for them and am I the only one who feels like I’m drowning? The answer is: NO! Other mothers also struggle with motherhood. To be completely honest: most mothers just do what they can and feel like they are failing every day. Yes, really! Including, me myself and I. The uncertainties that you feel as a new-born mother are very normal. My first advice is: please start talking about it. With your partner, a friend, your mother, or the neighbor. Anyone you feel comfortable with. Share your uncertainties and fears. That will already take some pressure off. You will notice that they all know someone who was not feeling blissfully happy after child birth. The feeling of recognition is very important in your journey towards recovery.

Seek help if things don’t get better!

In addition, it is very important that if you notice that things are not improving after a while, you will seek help. Find a therapist or a coach who appeals to you and who knows what you are really going through. That is extremely important, because you have to feel safe and secure with the person that is going to help you, with all of this. Follow your intuition and do not wait for too long, before you ask for help. I sometimes see mothers in my practice, who come to me after two years of being in a postnatal depression. By then, you will have lived all this time in major isolation and will have missed a lot of the development and beautiful moments with your child. For example, I can remember very little about the first year of my oldest daughter. That remains complicated and still makes me sad. So, do not hesitate and seek help as quickly as possible.

In addition, it is evident that you continue to do your daily things and go outside the house. Often, you are inclined to stay inside, because when you feel down, you are tend to avoid going outside and meeting people or even go to a grocery store. You are feeling overwhelmed very quickly and this is also very normal. Try to break this negative cycle, within your own limits. Keep it low key and start with baby steps. Walk along the block around your house with your little one, then go to the bakery around the corner. The next time you can go to the gym, when your husband is home, and do something for yourself that you actually enjoy.  This way, you keep yourself in a certain routine and it will also keep you moving. That’s really important. The endorphins that are released during moving and exercising will help you to recover from your postnatal depression. So grab them with both hands and put them to use.

Plan some alone time for yourself

Last but not least, I would like to recommend: to plan some alone time for yourself, where possible. It is so incredibly important that you have time to recharge. To do something fun, which will remind you off the person you used to be, before you became a mother. You can read more on the importance of self care for mothers here. However, it is understandable that at first, you will find this difficult. Because, you prefer to be with your child 24/7. That is perfectly normal. Sometimes, it is good to take a break and some distance from your child, to get back to yourself again. That is not selfish at all, that is imperative! Have lunch with a friend, go to the hairdresser, the sauna: as long as it makes you happy! You really need that time for yourself. Thanks to these recharging moments, you can handle the more difficult moments of motherhood better. You are not a bad mother if you take some time for yourself. Anything but, I would say!

Join our Live Instagram Q&A

If you read this and think to yourself: I have already tried this and I am still having a lot of negative thoughts and emotions about motherhood. Then please join our Instagram Live Q&A on 9th October 2019 at 8pm. As an experience expert in this field, Tilda will know how to help you with all your questions and worries. She will be joined by Kensington Mums founder, Dina Maktabi who also suffered from depression. With our help, we hope you will start to feel confident again, sleep better and don’t worry so much about yourself, the future and motherhood. 

For  all things motherhood, check Tilda’s website and her Instagram Page.