The breaking point of new mothers comes when a mother is finally so exhausted, stressed out and delirious that she starts believing that if she wasn’t around her family would be much better off. Some mothers at this point actually consider checking themselves into a hospital because the fear of mentally breaking down is so powerful that they fear what will happen to their babies or family if they do. While this state of mind can exist in extreme postpartum depression, it usually is a signal that the mother has had all she can take and that she definitely needs some form of a mental, emotional and physical break. In this state of mind, one day runs into the next, a mother cannot really remember what happened yesterday and her mind is so exhausted that she does not have any capacity for rational thought.
The old adage that “you should just pull up your bootstraps and forge on’ is often suggested by others who have not reached this state of complete total exhaustion.
In our experience, working with new mothers, we find several beliefs, decisions or actions that can directly affect a new mother’s outcome in creating this self-exhausting breaking point.
Here are a few beliefs that seems to add to a breaking point in new mothers:
The belief that birth and the after effects of birth are not something to be taken seriously, allowing nurturing and healing over time. A young mother’s belief that she should be able to give birth and bounce back in a week or two actually inhibits her body’s natural ability to heal. Birth is a major experience and change in the human body, and even though it is a natural process, the body requires time to heal and bring itself back into alignment. Hormones, energy, body organs, sleep cycles, relationships and new responsibilities all take time to adjust to; so healing and strengthening the human body is something that should be given top priority in those first few weeks after birth. Many new mothers find that after about a week or ten days postpartum they seem to have a burst of energy that falsely lures them into doing too much activity too soon. If the body is not allowed to rest and rejuvenate it can create other deeper problems that are much harder to work with. A new mother should be nurtured, well fed, given plenty of rest and allowed to gradually adjust to her changing circumstances.
A second belief that many mothers or even couples carry, is that a new mother should be able to do everything herself and be happy in doing it. Throughout time, mothers have naturally been taken care of by those around them in those first early weeks. They have been brought food, their infants have been taken care of by others so a mother can sleep and there have been other mothers in the community around them that have taken care of all the extra things that need done so that mothers have the ability to gradually adjust to their changing circumstances. In times past, these practices have been common place and expected with new mothers. In our modern day and age, the belief that mothers need to be taken care of and pampered during those first few weeks has taken a back seat to the belief that the new mother should be able to do it all and do it very well. This has created a loss of community and fostered a deep sense of loneliness and over-whelming guilt in many new mothers. Just adjusting to breastfeeding alone can be so overwhelming that it can cause a deep sense of failure and depression if mothers are not supported along the way. New mothers should be expected to be cared for, allowed to ask for help and not be looked down on, if they feel like they are having a hard time handling everything.
The third belief that we would like to discuss is the belief that mothers in a state of complete and utter exhaustion have to find their own way out of this very critical space. While this belief seems good in theory, it is not practical for a mother that has finally found a breaking point in her own life. At this point, there is no capacity for rational thought. The only thought that may be somewhat rational comes from a deep inner knowing that they know they need help. At this point, other supporters that have a good knowledge and understanding of how to care for a new mother in this state should be called in to help get back her balance in life. With the proper care and lots of sleep, this state of mind can be achieved very quickly.
At The Doula House, we have set up our business to cater to new mothers so that they do not hit this debilitating state of exhaustion. If a new mother does find herself in this state we are there with the support to help her get balanced once again and find her own pace and rhythm in life.