According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), about 10 percent of new mothers have postnatal depression, also known as postpartum depression. Up to 80 percent of new moms experience a mild form of depression, sometimes called the baby blues, for a few days after the birth of a child, according to the website BabyCentre. Sometimes, though, the baby blues can become a more serious issue if the new mother does not have a good support system in place. The saying, it takes a village to raise a child, couldn’t be more true.
In many cases, adjusting to life with a newborn baby can be an overwhelming and tiring experience. Suddenly, a child fills up your world and you find that he is the centre of everything you do, an experience that sometimes comes with isolation since you cannot move around much as before, at least for a few months.
Jane Koki, a first time mother found herself in this situation. Suddenly, she couldn’t just leave the house at will. “I had to stay put watching and nursing my baby. I became lonely, depressed and overwhelmed by emotions caused by hormonal levels and lack of adequate sleep. I was afraid of this new responsibility and felt very insecure about my ability to be a good mother. Coping was quite difficult,” says Jane.
“The hardest realisation was that I really did not have anyone to walk with me on a day-to-day basis. Yes, friends and family came by to visit once in a while and we would have a great time but most of them didn’t understand just how much I needed them.
My husband, on the other hand, was there but he would work during the day and come home in the evenings and he truly did not understand what I needed,” Jane shares her experience of motherhood as a first-time mom.
Jane’s example is a reflection of what our society has become. In the past in most communities, when a woman got a baby her mother-in-law or her own mother was there to help her out, at least in the early months. With such a system in place, the new mother would be well fed and taught the necessary skills of motherhood as opposed to having to take care of her newborn on her own during the initial child-rearing stages. With today’s emphasis on the nuclear family, which sometimes may not even exist in cases where the mother is a single parent, it is not uncommon to find a mother with little support or in some cases none at all. A mother is left to work out a system to try and support herself, her baby and her household. This, in most cases, is the cause of many teary breakdowns and depression whenever the weight becomes too heavy for the new mother to bear. Thus a support system – for encouragement and advice- would be so useful.
Getting a support system…
A support system is a group of people who are available to support each other emotionally, socially and, sometimes, financially. This system is made up of family, friends, neighbours, house helps and even peers. Like in every area of our lives, it is important to surround ourselves with others who can walk with us through the journey of life. Knowing that you are not alone is a great blessing and is especially critical when one goes through life changes like motherhood.
According to several online parenting sites, a mother needs a support system because it provides her with the comfort of knowing that she has people who are there for her as she goes through the challenge of balancing multiple roles. These roles include raising children, sometimes being a wife, a friend, an employee or businesswoman, a sister and a daughter among others.
As a mother, it is essential to share with others what you need from them so that they can better understand where you are and what kind of help you need. This will help you be better equipped to face the challenges that come with motherhood. Support systems help reduce stress, boost your confidence, as well as increase the general wellbeing of the mother and child.
“With support systems, you get a sense of belonging since you have people to rely on and relate to. They also give you an increased sense of self worth and emotional security,” says Marylyn, a mother of two who suffered depression after her first born because she did not have any support system. She however got a good support system with her second baby, something she is grateful for.
Generally, we all thrive when we are supported because we were created to rely on each other. Motherhood is thus an overwhelming experience that calls for one to juggle multiple roles. With the continuity and mundane nature of the early days of motherhood, it is easy for a woman to lose her identity and sense of worth. She can become so involved in caring for the baby and her partner that she is unable to see herself as an individual, separate from her children and husband.
So, what happens when one lacks an adequate support system? Dr. Lindsey Health, a medical blogger in the US says that without a support system, a mother is likely to get overwhelmed by her role as a mother and wife, forgetting what her passions, values and dreams are. She further goes on to add that the long-term effect of this is intense feelings of loneliness, dejection, withdrawal and depression. A mother becomes more isolated and continues to battle with feelings of inadequacy, which in turn, keep her from getting back to her life, and may cost her fulfilment.
It is of uttermost importance for a mother to guard herself jealously, not allowing motherhood to submerge her and keep her from being who she wants to be. After all, motherhood is meant to be a joy, so instead of locking yourself away with your new baby, make sure you take time to cultivate your relationships and reap from them what you need to find true fulfilment as a mother. A study done by the National Survey of Children’s Health in Kenya in 2007 revealed that children whose parents received support system, had a good social life, did not show signs of depression and their behaviour was fairly good, compared to parents who did not get any support. The results showed that when emotional support is present, mothers report more favourable outcomes for their children, including better performance in school and social competence. Ensuring that mothers receive the support and resources needed is critical for the overall success of a child. So if you are a new mother ensure that you get a good support system.