Baby Blues: I Had ‘Baby Blues’ Before I Had PPD

rainbow orangeBaby Blues is a column about raising my daughter in the windstorm of postpartum depression. Though discussing the dark spots of postpartum depression, I also share my successes.

Though this series is called Baby Blues, I know firsthand that the “baby blues” are very different from postpartum depression. The baby blues, says Mayo Clinic, is a short-lived emotional rollercoaster that the majority of new moms experience, while postpartum depression is a longer, more severe form of depression. That’s one way to describe it.

But that’s not exactly how it was for me. I did have the “baby blues,” for sure. But when my daughter was born, I didn’t just feel blue–I felt like every shade of the rainbow, all at once, in explosive Technicolor on LSD times a million. Those period-related mood swings I had back in the day had nothing on this. This was, somehow, deep sadness and elation all at once.

I was a blubbering mess after reading about a mom whose infant son was hit by a truck and launched out of his stroller (he survived, so you know, in case any of you are going through baby blues right now and you’re about to jump off a bridge because you just read that sentence). But I also broke down every time I looked at my sleeping newborn’s dainty little lips, or her microscopic fingernails, or her chest rising and falling in uneven breaths.

Baby blues hormones didn’t just mess with my mind, either, they messed with my body. I was constantly warm. No, I’m sorry, not warm, but burning the hell up. Pouring out sweat like some inane SNL character. And this was in December. Having my daughter’s body glued to me didn’t help, either. I got many a stink eye from strangers for not putting pants or socks on my newborn even though she was right against my body in a Mei Tai carrier. They didn’t understand! My daughter would overheat and DIE if I put socks on her feet! I wanted to go up to these strangers and grace them with my surface-of-the-sun presence, send a few Fahrenheits their way so they’d direct their meanmugging elsewhere. Instead I just obsessed over it all. Questioned my mothering and vented to my husband. Blubbered some more.

I have good news for most of you, though. The intensity off the baby blues tapers off. There finally came a time when I could read a depressing piece of news somewhat objectively, when I could appreciate my daughter’s beauty without breaking into tears. There even came a time when I could sell outgrown baby clothes to the secondhand store without feeling like I’d just sold one of my own vital organs!

But a new feeling settled in, a feeling I now understand to be postpartum depression.

The difference between baby blues and PPD, for me, was the feeling of going numb. If baby blues was like ecstasy, PPD was a vegetative drunkenness. It was like my real self had taken up residence somewhere in the sky and was sleeping while my body carried out daily tasks. Make a lunch, drive to the park, unload baby. Smile here, nod there. I used to bring my daughter to my grandparents’ house every Friday, where we would all gather with my mom and eat snacks and chat. At some point, I became nothing but a baby-delivery vessel. My family was probably interested in my life, in what I had to say, but I wasn’t.

In retrospect, the main thing that triggered my PPD was my attempt to live a lifestyle that didn’t suit me. Essentially, I was trying to be my mom. Where my mom was creatively fulfilled putting all of her time and energy into motherly tasks, I could only feel fulfilled putting that energy into my writing. To me, motherhood wasn’t an opportunity to perfect my sewing skills or develop interesting crafts and games. It wasn’t a career, it was a role—something that would always be an essential part of my life, but not something to build a career around.

I’m not a doctor, and everyone’s personal situation is different, but in my experience baby blues was just a short-lived acid trip of emotions. And I can verify that baby blues goes away on its own. But depression doesn’t, and if you think you may have PPD, you have to make changes. That may mean seeing a therapist, getting more alone time, or resuming work again. Whatever coping mechanism you choose, it may not fix everything, but I can assure you from the other side that it’s definitely worth a try.

(photo: fairy_tale / Shutterstock)

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  • Valeri Jones

    I had some pretty wicked baby blues, too. And OMG, the sweating!!!!! My son was born in November, and while I co-slept, I never had to turn the heat on. I’m pretty sure that anytime I got up out of bed, you could still see my soaking-wet body print in the sheets and pillow. Ugh.

  • Justme

    This is a great article that demonstrates the distinction between Baby Blues (totally normal and very common) and Postpartum Depression, which is more common than you think but something that is persistent and possibly requires medical treatment in some for or fashion.

    My daughter was about 10 weeks old when my husband started cluing in that my behavior wasn’t normal and might be something bigger than the average new momma syndrome.

  • Cassy

    I had a horrible time with the baby blues. I was terrified of my baby, actually, and especially of being alone with her. I was SAD about everything. I cried over everything. But, as you said, unlike PPD, my baby blues did eventually go away, particularly after I began to get more sleep. As someone prone to anxiety, I don’t always feel great, but from reading your column, I can tell that PPD on a different level. I hope things continue to level out for you.

    • Amanda Low

      Thank you love :-) It’s kind of weird to look back on those early days of baby blues, isn’t it? I remember being so miserable, but now it’s actually kind of funny how everything could set me off crying. And not just crying, but blubbering, like ridiculously.

  • nagehan

    Great post!

  • Véronique Houde

    I have to say Amanda – with time, I see you develop such clarity and articulateness for what you are going through! I see you developing and growing as a person, and I hope that I am right in feeling as though you are coming out of your PPD, one step at a time. Your description of the difference between baby blues and ppd seemed very vivid and I loved your analogies. Keep up the good work!!!!

  • Nicola

    Yes I had a terrible time with Baby Blues & PPD as well… My sons dad left & had other women (plural) during my pregnancy. Behaviours that I of course did not find out about until I was pregnant. Then he celebrated the birth of his son by leaving the hospital and messing around with a woman named April from Edmonton. Why did I stay with him so long after our sons birth after I found all this stuff out? Because I thought he would follow through with his promises to change? Because I wanted the family life. I wanted to have another baby but I was so hurt by his actions, I didn’t. I could never trust him like that ever again. The hard part is, every year on my sons birthday, the hurt is still there! I want to forget his actions and what he did in celebration of my sons birth yet every year on my baby’s birthday, I am still heartbroken and the memory is still there. I left him in February over a year ago and during a 5th birthday party my ex held with his new girlfriend I had a huge meltdown. Apparently our son called him a “f–ker and I had no idea how my son learned that word. Then his dad blamed me and had the nerve to call me an idiot. I no longer love that man, but I still have so much rage towards him. I was in such a hurt place for so long. I have to say the only thing that really got me through that time is going for my runs, hikes, paddles when I could and working out.