Tates Mumma says…
Having a baby is: magic, special, terrifying…. a life changing event…
9 months of pregnancy can be: wonderful, anxiety provoking, exhausting and it can physically take a great toll on you…
Giving birth can be: straight forward, painful, scary, complicated, traumatic…
Having a newborn baby can be: precious, confusing, exhausting, overwhelming…
Most mummas feel some or all of these things at some point…
It’s all such a mix of emotions… And however you feel is OK!
Almost all new mummas experience baby blues in the first few weeks, due to all the hormone changes and sleep deprivation. Baby blues are normal and while tough to get through, they do fade quickly. If those feelings of low mood, anxiety and irritability don’t fade then it maybe PND (Post-natal Depression).
1 in 10 women suffers from PND, but often we do not speak about it, we often don’t seek help and we often suffer in silence.
I think it’s hard to talk about for many reasons; we expect to feel so joyful with our little bundle that it’s often hard to admit that we are struggling and I think sometimes we feel fearful of how other people will react or that we will be seen as bad mummas.
PND can occur anytime in the first year after giving birth, it often peaks around the 4-6 month mark.
For me, I had an anxiety provoking pregnancy as it was my second pregnancy following losing my first baby 5 months into the pregnancy. Physically I got off quite lightly but emotionally it was a tough 9 months.
When little man Tate was born I fell utterly in love and felt such relief and joy. I found being a new mumma overwhelming, Tate wasn’t a difficult baby, I think he was fairly usual, he was a cluster evening feeder and had the typical 5pm – 8pm crying and unsettled behaviour and was very much a babe in arms, loving to be held and not wanting to be put down. I often felt, as most new mummas do, quite at a loss to work out why he was crying and how to best soothe him. I felt inadequate and not good enough. And I felt very guilty about that, about not knowing what to do, about feeling stressed by my beautiful innocent baby’s tears. (I frequently cried with him.)
I felt very unprepared for how much of a 24hr role being a new mumma was; I found it hard to find time to eat, wash, sleep. It felt nonstop ALL DAY EVERY DAY. I found all the changes to my life overwhelming. I loved being a mumma and loved Tate so much, but I didn’t always recognise myself or my life.
I lost confidence in myself.
As a new mother, you may find you can’t go out without the
baby, and that you may not even want to. Neither can you
leave the baby alone in the house. Suddenly your own freedom
to come and go as you please has disappeared. When you do
take the baby out, the pram or buggy turns familiar routes into
obstacle-courses, and buses and shops are suddenly hard to
use. All too often, you may find yourself alone in the house,
with no adults to talk to. And you may feel totally exhausted.
All this takes getting used to. Becoming a mother involves
many losses, not only of freedom, but also of income, of
independence, and of your sense of who you are.
Mind Understanding PND booklet
I didn’t want to go out, it all felt very overwhelming to take Tate out and about and to do things. And that left me feeling quite detached from my “old” pre mumma self. If we did go out I felt very anxious beforehand and didn’t always enjoy myself.
People kept telling me to have time for me, but I felt guilty about that, about wanting time away from Tate, and I struggled to feel comfortable to take any time, and with breast feeding, it always felt like my time was on the clock. I have always loved being creative, having time to make things and to write, having time
to think, daydream and reflect… I felt so at a loss to find or take any of this time for me; which in turn made it harder for me to heal and feel better.
I also felt very angry and was VERY irritable with my partner. I just felt frustrated that he didn’t see how I felt and while he helped a lot with Tate, I felt that his life had barely changed and mine had been turned upside down (in so many beautiful ways but still upside down!) He still went to the gym for hours on end and saw his friends and as I mentioned above I didn’t feel able to find or take the time to do similar things. I felt and still feel very withdrawn and distant from him.
I struggled to sleep, this become more apparent when Tate actually started to sleep through the night at 9 months… and I didn’t! I would wake very early in the morning, sometimes filled with anxiety and dread. I worried a lot about something happening to me or Tate. I felt exhausted 99.9% of the time… it was (and still is) draining.
I wanted to be a natural relaxed mumma… but I don’t think any of us are all of the time. I gave myself a very hard time when I struggled with my new and challenging role.
I didn’t have any suicidal thoughts, but it is common to have these in PND, and it’s a very frightening experience and one that is difficult to talk about.
Some mummas can also feel detached from their baby with PND, I didn’t feel like this but I can imagine how guilty and unhappy it can make a mumma feel.
Everyones experience of PND is different, my story is not a template. If you recognise some of the feelings I have written about then you are a mumma, if you recognise many of them and have felt this way for a while, then please seek some help.
My PND started quite early on, it reached a peak around the 5-6 month mark, that was when I first mentioned it to other people. When I say mentioned I tentatively spoke about how I was feeling to a few friends. It wasn’t until the 11-12 month mark that I really started to seek help. I just kept hoping (and hoping) it would get better and go away. Please note: That strategy DID NOT work!
Things that helped heal me and may help other mummas:
- Talking to close friends and other mummas, about anything and everything, talking about the joys and trials of being a mumma, it helps you feel less alone. (I have a wonderful group of online mummas who I cherish and have helped me through all the ups and downs)
- Talk to your health visitor or GP; don’t be afraid, be honest and say how you feel, access the support; counselling or medication that they can offer.
- Your health visitor should do a PND questionnaire with you within the first few months, ask if they don’t.
- Take good care of yourself, eat well, try and rest when you can. Exercise can be good to clear your mind sometimes, like a gentle walk with the pushchair…a change of environment. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
- Accept help from others, practical help looking after baby, helping with shopping, bringing food over… ACCEPT ACCEPT ACCEPT… none of us are super mummas… we all need help and that’s OK!
- Take time for you… do things you enjoyed pre baby… I now have Saturdays as mummas day off (well I take a few hours and I go and do something for me!) It took me months and months to feel able to do this… but it’s really helping, so please do it and do it early on!
- Vitamins especially iron and b vitamins can help with the tiredness.
- Make time for relaxation; reading, meditation, yoga, massages, whatever works for you.
- In regards to medications: I found making a decision about this very very hard as I was breastfeeding. Discuss this in detail with your GP and make the decision that is best for you and your family.
- Accept that you are doing the best that you can and that is good enough… your baby is loved and cared for.
- Know that you are a wonderful, loving mumma! Remind yourself of this often.
Some useful links:
MIND: What is PND
Baby Centre: What is PND
PANDA: Pre and Post natal depression support
A story of PND
Tips on keeping well physically, emotionally and spiritually as a mumma