"Such a good age": Why eight months postpartum can feel like anything but
EIGHT MONTHS POSTPARTUM.
A time also known as: Oooft, Dear Lordy, WTF, Why? What is sleep? and alternatively, Send help.
By far, no question, without a doubt, 8 months postpartum was the hardest time for me. This is the primary reason why my single session/SOS doula day service extends beyond the newborn period to when baby turns two years old!
I’m not the only one, and I can see why so many hit rock bottom at that age. Here’s what’s going on for many mothers and birth parents in Australia at that time.
The depletion of an unsupported postpartum has set in, and the impacts of birth trauma and postnatal mental ill health may be ongoing. Your child is starting to get on the move and needs constant supervision for safety. Any help you did have early on has evaporated as everyone else’s life goes on, so you are providing round-the-clock care largely solo. Baby is also teething, “leaping” and miserable often.
All your paid leave (if you had any to begin with) has run out, bills are breathing down your neck and return to work is happening either now or coming up soon, often before you feel like you’ve got this “mum” thing worked out. Child care is a whole new thing to worry about, pay for and look forward to getting sick from. Your partner (if there was and still is one) just doesn’t get it, and you don’t get why their life hasn’t changed while your world just got tipped upside down. Overwhelm and resentment fester, and it’s probably hard to remember the last time you wanted (or at least initiated) physical intimacy.
In the midst of it all, the 8 month sleep regression hits - a period of 1-2 months where your baby sleeps worse than they did as newborns while their brain rewires towards more mature sleep cycles (yes, it does get better, but at the time feels like you have never slept in your life and will never sleep again).
You look in the mirror and see a shell of your former self. So much for bouncing back, you are beyond flattened.
As you traipse the supermarket aisles in a sleep-deprived haze, a stranger tells you “these are the best days of your life”. You feel like an ungrateful failure.
Someone asks when you’ll give your baby another sibling, with an air of expectation in their voice that yes there will be one, and it will be soon. If there’s one on the way already, they’ll like tell you that you’ll “have your hands full”, yet offer no help. Either way, you do your best to keep a straight face while dying a little inside.
8 months is a bloody hard age. You expect it will be getting easier by then, and the shock of it getting harder instead smacks you in the face. For those who have been struggling previously, it can feel like a kick while you’re already down.
This is a time when many of us look for support and get told by well-meaning friends or medicos to sleep train or wean. But these are not the answers. We can’t override biology or the realities of infant developmental timelines. The answer is support, and lots of it, at a time when it’s largely dropped off the radar.
Just because our babies aren’t newborns anymore, our need for help doesn’t magically expire.
If you're in the thick of it now, I see you. Here's how you can help yourself, or someone else, through this time.
- Check in on your friends at 8 months like you did at 8 days. Help them however they need. Maternal suicide risk is higher at 9-12 months post-birth than early on, so it’s important!
- Talk about your situation with a person you trust and utilise peer support groups, online or in person.
- Remember support services and helplines like PANDA aren’t just for newbies.
- Drop the “shoulds” and expectations, and rest wherever you possibly can.
And above all else, know you do matter, you are loved, and this too shall pass.
National Support Services
Lifeline 13 11 14 – 24/7 crisis support, suicide prevention and mental health support services. Phone call, text message and online chat. https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Suicide callback service 1300 659 467 – 24/7 crisis counseling (phone + online chat) for people at risk of suicide, carers for someone who is suicidal and those bereaved by suicide. https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au/
Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) 1300 726 306 – 7am-midnight eastern time, 7 days. https://panda.org.au/
Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636. Phone and online chat available 24/7. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Gidget Foundation –Private psychology sessions and group peer support programs during pregnancy and the first year post-birth. More info at www.gidgetfoundation.org.au
Australasian Birth Trauma Association - Resources and peer support at www.birthtrauma.org.au
1800RESPECT - Support is available for people experiencing violence and abuse. For phone counselling 24/7, call 1800 737 732. Resources and web chat at www.1800respect.org.au This number is included as partner violence massively increases the risk of depression, which in raises risk of suicidal ideation. A recent study from Victoria indicated around 20% of women are abused by their partner in their postpartum year.
- News (33)
- Post-partum (53)
- Breastfeeding (16)
- Sleep (11)
- Food (6)
- Partners (13)
- Rehab (1)
- Parenting (32)
- Birth (12)
- Pandemic (13)
- Research Update (5)
- Decolonisation (2)
- Covid (14)
- Education (6)
- Motherhood (29)
- vaccines (2)
- Children (7)
- self employed (1)
- government policy (2)
- feminism (6)
- abortion (1)
- lockdown (2)
- infancy (1)
- gentle parenting (6)
- infertility (1)
- parenthood (3)
- isolation (1)
- village (3)
- Pregnancy (1)