(click link to read this really important piece on thecut.com)
I’m lying awake, gazing at the gentle rise and fall of my 3-month-old’s chest. He’s a delicate infant, constantly surprising me with his smallness, like his sister did when she was born four years earlier. In recent weeks, my son has begun stretching out the number of minutes between nursing sessions. He can go for two hours without eating now, or two and a half if I’m lucky. This means I have more of a chance to sleep, at least in short spurts. But every time I drift off, I jolt awake in a sweaty panic.
I am on high alert all the time these days. I tell myself that this panicky feeling is normal — I have a new(ish) baby, after all. But it doesn’t feel normal. I have constant visions of my son suffocating in the night. I think of waking up to his cold body. I spend nights imagining a thousand unlikely, tragic things that could happen to him.
The baby blues aren’t just the domain of birth mothers: fathers, adoptive parents, and nonbiological mothers are also at risk.
Postpartum depression is a condition diagnosed in mothers—birth mothers, specifically—coming home from the hospital after giving birth and feeling that something is off. That the joy they thought they should be feeling is nowhere to be found.
While hormonal changes associated with birth can play a role, according to the Mayo Clinic, hormones are just one ingredient in a stew of risk factors that also includes sleep deprivation, lifestyle, and environment. All of these other factors can affect any new parent. And they do.