1. Maternal mental health disorders are the most common complication of childbirth. One in seven women will develop a mood or anxiety disorder during pregnancy or in the first year postpartum, and one in ten fathers. This is a good demonstration of the fact that these mood disorders aren't just caused by hormones, but by a complex constellation of social, psychological, and physiological factors.
2. Maternal mental health isn't just the "baby blues" or Postpartum Depression. Some women (and their partners) also experience pregnancy or postpartum anxiety, OCD, PTSD, stress/adjustment issues, and (very rarely!) psychosis.
3. Scary thoughts (about dropping the baby, accidents, etc.) don't always mean something is wrong. In fact, most experts agree that a certain level of anxiety is evolutionarily adaptive-heightening a parent's instincts to protect their vulnerable infant. According to a study by Jonathan Abramowitz in The Archives of Women's Mental Health, 91 percent of new moms and 88 percent of new dads experience obsessive or scary thoughts about a new baby. That's almost everyone! However, it's when these thoughts are causing distress or are affecting your ability to go about your day that it's time to seek more help.
4. Baby blues are different than other maternal and paternal mental health issues, in that they are limited in time (only occurring in the first two weeks after childbirth), scope (the crying, sadness, frustration and irritability of the baby blues affect about 60-80% of women and resolve on their own), and intensity (the heavy feelings are often relieved by support, sleep or getting out of the house, and are interspersed with more pleasant emotions.) Anything outside of this range isn't the blues.
5. Perinatal mood disorders are very treatable and respond well to general self-care techniques (as one component of a treatment plan.) More reason to nurture yourself and let yourself be nurtured! You also don't have to have a clinical diagnosis or fit into a certain image of what a mood disorder "looks like" to benefit from and deserve more care or therapy, of course. There are as many ways to go through this evolution as there are individuals. There is no right or wrong.
Our culture is one that doesn't easily tolerate the thought that mothers (in particular) can be anything but all-loving and all-giving at all times without consequences. Complexities, grey areas, difficult emotions and general messiness are part of the beauty and struggle of being human and are also enhanced during times of biological stress and profound life transitions. Teasing apart complex feelings and finding your own way as a parent (distinct from the "shoulds" of parenting books, family advice, and Facebook threads) can be tricky, and is wonderful work for therapy. If this time feels like a fog, therapy and other forms of care and support can be the lighthouse steadying your course and leading you home to yourself. There is a great deal of meaning to be discovered in this fog, and you are never alone or as lost as you might feel.
P.S. I love this article if you'd like to read more.