Postpartum Happiness: Myth or Reality?

I was shocked when my own mother shared that one of the happiest times in her life was after she gave birth and was home taking care of  her newborn.  She also stated that it was one of the hardest times in her life.  This confused me.  As we spoke more, she clarified that yes it was the hardest, but she was the happiest.

I struggled to believe this.  It was so different from my experience.  And if this is true then somehow I got robbed.  I find that mothers who experience a negative postpartum adjustment of any kind, me included, want to believe that all new mothers are lying if they say they are really happy.  Are they in denial? Do they have a live in nanny, a chef, a baby nurse, and a super hero husband?

So, here I was, home with my new daughter, unhappy.  What went wrong?  Why wasn’t this as easy and as smooth as my mother’s experience?  I was so depressed and embarrassed to let anybody know how I truly felt.  Not happy at all.  The whole experience of having a new baby was overwhelming, exhausting, and not at all what I had hoped, anticipated, and expected.   
I realized that I needed to get help.  I attended postpartum support groups offered through the Community and the hospital where I delivered and unfortunately they didn’t give me the help that I truly needed. Then, I found a really great therapist who not only helped me personally to overcome my postpartum depression and anxiety, but also helped my marriage by improving our communication and supporting me in asking my husband for help. Research shows that it is the first year after having a baby that is the hardest on the marriage, not the first year of marriage. Additionally, support groups that were offered through my therapist allowed me to meet other mothers that were experiencing similar feelings. I felt such relief in learning that I wasn’t alone.

If left untreated, postpartum disorders can last up to two years.  Postpartum depression and anxiety can be so cruel because of the timing; a time in a mother’s life when she really could be the happiest. In hindsight I wish I had sought help earlier.  I now know that postpartum happiness was mine for the taking.  As a licensed therapist I am committed to doing just that; helping mothers find their happiness. 

*Marissa Zwetow is a licensed marriage, family therapist, owner of Postpartum Happiness in Orange County, CA.