Interview with Postnatal Depletion Specialist Christiane Panesar
What is it you do?
I specialize in helping exhausted moms overcome Postnatal Depletion so that they can ditch the fatigue and become the mother, the woman, and the lover they want to be.
What led you to doing this?
After I overcame my own health challenges, I wanted to help others and founded Heart-Food Holistic. But when I became a mother for the first time, I hit a totally new wall of difficulty. While I prepared myself diligently for pregnancy and child birth, I had no idea what would expect me in the so called ‘postpartum’. I realized pretty quickly why: Talking about what women go through in postpartum was quite taboo. Only once I started sharing about my experiences as a new mother with others, they opened up to me in return and I was shocked to find out how many moms are going through extreme hardship in the period after birth and many never really recover.
I remember the time when I was being woken up every 45 minutes to nurse my baby. While I love her like nothing else in the world, I thought I was going insane! In a moment where I was breaking down on the floor crying with my baby in my arms, and my husband came running asking: What’s wrong with the baby?! I found myself yelling at him: ‘The baby is ok! I’m not ok! I need help!’ All of the sudden it became crystal clear to me: That there was something not quite right here and that I needed to change something. It’s a funny thing in our modern society how little young families are prepared or supported in this most vulnerable time of their life.
However, I could see that I had a choice here: I could let myself be defeated and stay in a victimhood mentality, or I could stand up for myself and my family and turn things around. I literally had to hit the floor to see that if I don’t help myself, I won’t be able to be the mother I want to be and that I will lose that intimate connection with the man I love. That was the thing that made me go get my health back.
And by the way, our baby was ‘colicky’ which is usually seen as ‘incurable’ and that parents just have to wait it out. However, there is actually a lot we can do to eliminate colic at its root, which I’ve learned in the process. So if your baby is ‘colicky’, don’t accept that there’s nothing you can do and you just have to deal with it, months and months of crying. Just come talk to me, because babies don’t just ‘grow out’ of colic, but rather grow into new symptoms and health conditions.
After this experience, I felt a strong urge to speak up for moms who have been putting themselves last and their health on the back burner for far too long. I decided to dedicate my career to helping mothers overcome their Postnatal Depletion. And I realized that I didn’t have to choose between my own well-being and that of my child. The truth is, that when the mother thrives, the baby and the rest of the family thrive as well. The two absolutely work in sync with each other. This is how it’s meant to be.
So many mothers are asking themselves: Why do I feel so terrible even after a year in postpartum (or 3 or 5 or 7!)?
Yes, we hear mothers ask questions like this all the time:
Why am I feeling so dead tired? Why am I struggling to think or remember anything? Is this ‘mom brain’ ever gonna go away? Why am I feeling overwhelmed by small issues and why can’t I recover from a minor stressful situation for the rest of the day? Why is my body aching everywhere since I gave birth - I feel like I’m ‘old’ now… Is the ‘baby weight’ gonna come off ever? Are my hormones ever gonna stop boycotting date nights? Is it possible to have postnatal depression even years later?
So why is that? Moms struggling with these issues sounds like it’s more than common, but this isn’t really ‘normal’, isn’t it?
Exactly. This is not ‘normal’ at all but more than common. It’s estimated that at least every second mother is affected by this, and that’s not only new moms but also moms with older children. And this is called Postnatal Depletion.
Okay, what is Postnatal Depletion exactly? We’re familiar with the term postpartum depression or postnatal depression, but Postnatal Depletion?
Postnatal Depletion is a syndrome that’s touching all spheres of a mother’s life - physical, emotional, mental, relationships, work, home, sleep, energy, hormones and the list goes on and on. Typical symptoms are severe fatigue, being exhausted on waking, digestive issues that have worsened since childbirth, a medical condition that has arisen during pregnancy or after, levels of anxiety that are above your norm, feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, a sense of guilt or shame around your role as a mother, Postnatal Depletion is only slowly getting some attention in the medical world now.
Many mothers think at first that this is all in their head, as they’re being sent home from the doctor’s office with a prescription or two and the recommendation to just ‘wait it out’. Or the well-meaning advice by friends or family that they should ‘just enjoy this time, because one day they will miss it!’
So, why is Postnatal Depletion happening?
There are many factors at play why Postnatal Depletion happens. First of all, many women are already depleted and maxed out as they enter pregnancy. Then, after they grow and nurture a human for 9 months, they go through a major transcendental and taxing experience called ‘child birth’, and in the period after they’d actually need to heal and recover, they are fully occupied with taking care of that baby human pretty much 24/7. And while they’re breastfeeding they keep on growing their baby from their own resources (just outside of the body). During pregnancy and child birth, sleep, hormones, and digestion take a major toll so that women easily turn from feeling capable, confident, and ambitious - to helpless, anxious and unmotivated.
Did you know that moms literally give pieces of their body to their baby? During pregnancy a woman’s brain shrinks 5 - 8%!! Because baby siphons off building blocks to make his own brain. No wonder the terms ‘baby brain’ or ‘mom brain’ exist.
Postnatal Depletion may include postpartum or postnatal depression, but it’s much wider, and it might not get to a full-on depression, it might be more low grade depression, fatigue, mommy brain, overwhelm, anxiety, lack of motivation, mom guilt, not being able to get rid of the baby weight, digestive trouble since the birth of the baby, low libido, low self esteem since having kids - and mothers can be on different ends of the spectrum.
That’s terrible. Why do so many moms not act on getting their health back?
The thing is, all this is totally being normalized and moms are supposed to ‘just suck it up’ since ‘they’re a mom now’ and since ‘they were the ones who wanted the baby.’
The good news is: It doesn’t have to be like this. Moms don’t have to suffer like this, they deserve better and there’s a way out of Postnatal Depletion. I’ve done it and the amazing moms I work with are just rocking it.
They now wake up refreshed and ready to conquer the demands of motherhood with ease, without having to rely on coffee and junk food that just rob more energy. They sleep peacefully knowing their baby is healthy and well. They enjoy chasing after their kids again and pick up their favourite activities like dancing or hiking. They wear clothes again they love, without having to count calories or follow some fad diet. They’re falling newly in love with themselves, their kids and their husbands.
Amazing! And what happens to mothers that don’t take care of this?
Countless mothers who keep on putting their health on the back burner are still struggling with fatigue and Postnatal Depletion even 3, 5 or 10 years after the birth of their youngest when Postnatal Depletion easily has turned into a chronic health condition they have to deal with for the rest of their lives. Absolutely heart breaking.
What advice can you give to moms who struggle with Postnatal Depletion or a colicky baby?
Don’t accept ‘deal with it’ or ‘wait it out’ as an answer. You won’t get that time back. And - it usually doesn’t get better on its own and you just end up dealing with worse problems by not taking care of it. Don’t believe there’s nothing that can be done. You can absolutely conquer your fatigue, so you have energy for date nights even beyond your kids bedtime (instead of collapsing in front of the TV). By taking care of yourself, you’re taking care of your kids and partner at the same time. You don’t have to choose. The two absolutely go in sync with each other. Because when you thrive, your family does too.