The Ands and Buts of Postpartum Depression

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Let's give something a try. I invite you to say each of the statements below. Out loud.

  1. I love my new baby, but I just don’t enjoy the responsibility of caring for a newborn.
  2. I love my new baby, and I just don’t enjoy the responsibility of caring for a newborn.

Do you feel a difference within yourself when you say this same idea two different ways? Which statement is accompanied by feelings of failure, guilt and shame? Which is accompanied by some acceptance, empathy and understanding?

It helps to know the difference between Either/Or and Both/And.

Either I love my baby or I don’t like the logistics of being a new mom” vs “I both love my new baby and don’t enjoy the logistics of being a new mom” … you see, most women who are struggling with postpartum depression or a related illness go into that “either/or” place that is inevitably associated with feelings of guilt, self-doubt, shame and failure. To these moms, either you love your baby and every minute of child care and mothering, OR you don’t like the early weeks and months as much as you thought you would and therefore this must mean that you don’t love your baby as much as you should and you are a terrible mother.

I would bet that the above statement is a belief and NOT a truth.

Language and the ways that we talk to ourselves have immense power over the way that we feel. When we use the word “but” it seems to cancel out everything before it, whereas the word “and” allows for some acceptance and a bigger picture of the truth. The word “and” allows for the important credit that you deserve. It allows for your strengths and not just your challenges. It invites understanding and perspective. It brings hope.

The word “but?” It cancels out everything before it. It shuts down the conversation. It closes down hope and it assumes that things won’t change. It creates a big wall around compromise and acceptance. And it really doesn’t serve us one bit.

So, in reality, I would bet that these are the statements that make most sense:

I have always wanted to be a mama and this is not what I expected.

My baby has these moments of sweetness and it is really difficult to tolerate it when she cries.

I want what’s best for my baby, and I don’t think that I want to continue attempting to breastfeed him.

I have always thought of myself as a strong and competent woman and I can’t do this alone.

I labored for several hours naturally and I got an epidural.

I know that I need to take care of myself, and the logistics around this seem really complicated.

I want to ask for help, and I am worried about what others might think if they know I am struggling.

So, I leave you with a challenge today, an invitation to be mindful of the way that you talk to yourself and others about your experiences. Every time you catch yourself moving towards a “yeah, but…” take a deep breath. Reevaluate. And trade that impulse for a “yes, and…” It takes practice and it also makes a world of difference.

Kate Kripke

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  1. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate these posts from Kate. Well-reasoned, matter-of-fact, and SO helpful. I can tell you are an amazing therapist for your patients. Not everyone has the privelege of having a mentla health professional to talk to when dealing with postpartum mental health issues, so I think it is fantastic that Kate is here to give some of this expert advice and support.

  2. LOVE this. I certainly did this when I was depressed. But I think I still do this every now and then when I'm having a bad day. It's amazing what a difference being mindful of our thought patterns can make. (I'm not sure that last sentence works, but I'm still pre-coffee, so forgive me, lol.)

  3. Sometimes its the simplest things that can be the hardest to correct as far as thinking goes. When you're so caught up in a web of negativity it is so easy to keep rolling with the negative thoughts and phrases.
    It took me a long time to be able to interrupt my thought process, but slowly I began to incorporate more positives.
    I really love this!

  4. What an amazing concept. Something as small as a three letter word messes my brain up. Everything you said made so much sense. Thank you!!