It’s Not That I Can’t Handle It, It’s Postnatal Depletion

I recently had a baby born during this COVID-19 crisis. While labor and delivery are challenging the real reality set in once we were home. At home, we are a family of five with a fur baby too. My husband and I have a five-year-old, three-year-old, and a newborn. Having children so little is challenging but parenting during a pandemic doesn’t have a handbook and sometimes it’s overwhelming. Little did I know that postnatal depletion would set in.

First, let me say that I’ve been incredibly blessed to have a spouse that is truly my partner in everything. He picks up the slack when “I just can’t”. He listens to me in my postpartum mood swings. But, the postpartum hormones, weight, breastfeeding, and so much more are all my own.

I started this blog post writing about parenting in a pandemic and how I was multitasking and failing at everything. That’s when I saw a Facebook friend post an article about Postnatal Depletion. It rang so true to me and made me change my perspective. It was an excerpt from a book, The Postnatal Depletion Cure by Dr. Oscar Serrallach.

I began reading about three factors of postnatal depletion

  1. Depletion of nutrients

Essentially, the toll pregnancy, then labor and delivery and followed by breastfeeding (if that’s your choice) take on you. Not to mention, making healthy nutritious food or even eating at all is difficult.

2. Exhaustion

You know the constant feedings, diaper changes, and an inconsistent sleep cycle of the newborn stage.

3. Social Isolation

No doubt so many people are experiencing social isolation due to the pandemic. But, for moms who rely on a village to help raise our children, this has only been exacerbated right now.

Different levels and severity

This isn’t a one size fits all, the author discusses how there are levels, a spectrum from mild to severe for this syndrome. These are the main contributing factors to that level of severity.

  1. Stress Factors

Modern motherhood is no joke. The expectation of mothers is that we can do it all. Working, motherhood, friendships, marriage or partnership, family, and maintaining all of that flawlessly. With the newborn stage, it’s a constant need 24/7 of changing diapers, feedings, and sleep deprivation. Then if you have other children besides your newborn, take that into account.

Physical stress factors, I mean obviously, your body has just undergone a miraculous event. Growing a Human! The physical toll that it takes on our bodies is enormous and we don’t take the time to truly let ourselves heal.

2. Social Factors

Everyone is excited asking how the new baby is, but we need to focus on mom too. At your follow-up doctor visits, you’ll be screened for postpartum depression but that’s very different from postnatal depletion. Postpartum depression is its own condition but a rather differentiating factor is the “inability to find joy or pleasure from something that previously gave joy or pleasure”. Postnatal depletion does not include this.

Others experience social judgment from those in their inner circle. If the baby isn’t gaining weight, you’re not breastfeeding right. Have you tried, “insert unsolicited advice here.” Some well-intentioned, others meant as judgment for how you should care for your newborn.

3. Predisposing Physical Factors, Primarily Inflammation

If you had a predisposing condition before, it can be exacerbated by pregnancy and childbirth. Whether that’s age, a thyroid condition, or something else. Inflammation begets inflammation. When it comes to postnatal health gut health is at the forefront because of inflammations that can happen.

When you add the stress of motherhood and the ability to only grab quick bites of food it can lead to physical sickness.

4. Environmental Factors

Environmental factors including pollution, food toxins, etc. We are very aware of these during pregnancy because we are prohibited from eating certain foods that could expose our growing child to these negative effects. Our bodies trying to eliminate certain toxins is tasking on our bodies and requires a lot of effort. The more toxins, the more inflammation, the longer the recovery time.

Ultimately, this brief synopsis of the book, made me realize that what I’m feeling is real. It’s not simply failing at motherhood, it’s being depleted from the resources that help me to function.

My hope is that learning to take time for true self-care and getting rid of the idea of balancing it all will help me to cope. I also realize that my village will return once we can get through this pandemic. But until then, I hope other moms know that you aren’t failing, you aren’t alone, your feelings and what you’re going through is what many of us are going through. It’s a beautiful and exhausting season of life.