It’s just so confusing…
For the past year I’ve been seeing a counsellor for anxiety and panic attacks. I knew I wasn’t depressed so didn’t want to go down the medication route and after months of counselling only now do I understand the root of the problem. But when you become a new mum, it’s a whole different ball game.
In the run up to Mia’s birth, the pressure of my day job added to my anxiety. I regularly considered whether I’d made the right decision ending my career to become a blogger. I always have to be ‘switched on’ and ‘performing’ and let’s be honest, I’m always being judged. I didn’t anticipate spending my first year as self-employed being pregnant either (although obviously I’m thrilled that that was the case). While I love what I do there’s no denying that it can also be quite isolating. Therapy has helped me address some of these issues and more and helped towards finding a cognitive behavioural solution. But being pregnant too, it set off a host of new emotions. And stresses. And anxiety.
Would I cope as a new mum?
Will I be a victim of post natal depression?
Will I subconsciously isolate myself to the point of loneliness?
Do I accept help?
Will I ask for help?
Am I always going to feel a failure with such responsibility?
During pregnancy I centred a lot of my energy around deciding how I’d structure my day when my little girl was here. What would Mia’s space look like? How could I help Mia develop? That work definitely prepared me somewhat for motherhood. But flash forward to having a baby and now I know. There are some new mums who sail through early motherhood unscathed and others who struggle with baby blues or post natal depression (or both). Whilst I’ve always kept one eye open, conscious (fearful even) of falling into a depression, I admit I still get confused between ‘baby blues’ and what could be classed officially as depression. Call it an ignorance or a general lack of identification… either way, I often feel very, very down. And I often see other new mums who appear to also feel very, very down.
I sat in Starbucks, Mia about to wake up for her feed, laptop open typing up a post for SassyintheCity.com. I looked across the room and saw a group of four mothers with babies. They were chatting about life, nurseries and teething. Suddenly I was overcome with dread. Should I be over there chatting? Should I be making the effort to introduce myself? Gosh, I’m over here in the corner by myself enjoying a white chocolate mocha with shed loads of cream (forget that new mum diet) with my little girl asleep in her pram. I must go make some friends! I’m still relatively new to the area. I know nobody, especially people with babies. I sat there frozen, alone with my thoughts to the point where I worked myself up into such a frenzy that I convinced myself to pack up and leave. It actually made me want to cry. Feeling a hot flush and holding back the tears, I wheeled Mia out towards the car and headed home. Is that depression? Or am I just missing my family and friends?
Sometimes I feel I don’t have many choices. I feel so enormously under pressure to ‘meet other mums’. I don’t have a girlfriend really close by, no one who can understand and pop over when Mia is screaming from 4pm to 10pm. I have nobody to come around and hold her for 2 minutes. It sometimes feels I have no relief. I know though that unless I proactively create options for myself (which is what many new mums have to do), I’m set to spiral downwards. I just feel so grateful that I have my in-laws 15 minutes away!
Since having Mia I’ve learned that whilst it may look like some new mums are coping on the outside, their reality can be somewhat different.
Sure I feel under pressure a lot of the time but can that really be classed as ‘post natal depression’? It’s confusing. I still have a health visitor that comes to visit, she hasn’t signed me off (not even 3 months later) because I’m still ‘at risk’ of PND. I was honest and admitted that no, I don’t feel the same enjoyment going places as I did pre birth and no, I don’t feel the desire to leave the flat a lot of the time. But on the flip side I love my baby girl more than my heart can facilitate. I wake up throughout the night just to listen to her breathing. I look forward to spending the day together and to the time my husband is off work so that we can be a family unit.
But whilst I feel this, I also feel exhausted. I have a persistent feeling of sadness sometimes. Although it sounds vain I also see my body totally differently too and whilst my husband hasn’t changed towards me in the slightest (just more love), I notice the little stretch marks on my hips and go out of my way hide them. Even though I know they’re vanishing.
I have times where I lay wide awake at night wondering what the hell I’ve done growing this tiny beautiful baby inside of me. And pushing her out. Sometimes I feel unsupported and end up resenting a toy because it’s not good enough in pleasing my daughter. I lay awake and wonder about my future. I stress when a friend pops over for wine and cheese but I spend almost 2 hours in another room trying to ease Mia to sleep. I think excessively about how to structure my week to please us both. But in the end, I let Mia do as she pleases and live by her schedule because lets be honest, babies need what babies need at that specific time and I don’t begrudge her that one bit.
Highs & lows…
Motherhood is a total haze of confusion. There are immense highs, a few lows. There are days you’ll get 8 hours sleep and other times where you go 4 days having only had max. stretches of 4 hours night time napping. And even though it’s so piercingly obvious to you that you haven’t had enough rest, your husband and loved ones will still be none of the wiser and expect a little too much from you. Sometimes all you want is just two minutes to go to the loo. To spray on some deodorant or (heaven forbid) take a shower… Sometimes you might just need that extra 20 minutes lay in on the weekend before the cycle of bottle washing, feeding, changing and burping commences. Sometimes you might just like that little gift or that little gesture that shows you’re appreciated.
For anyone reading this who is expecting, or who has a baby, remember. It’s all about the help. If someone wants to bring you that chicken soup, let them. If they want to run you a bubble bath, dear Lord encourage it. The other day I almost cried when after an emotionally charged evening with my husband (translation, a night of bickering), he woke me up the morning after with croissants and flowers and simply asked, “are you ok?”.
No I’m not. My baby is 3 months old and in no routine whatsoever. I need more help. Her constant crying shakes my nerves to their very core and I feel a failure not always knowing what’s wrong. I miss working, I miss earning, I miss being able to spend what I want. I’m struggling to structure, struggling to hold her and struggling to lose my baby weight. I’m concerned about the lump I’ve just found on my groin and whilst I’m confident it’s just a swollen gland (normal after forcep delivery), what if it isn’t?
I feel pressure from everyone. I’m cold and our home is a mess. Sometimes she cries and I feel like the worst mum in the world because I can’t satisfy her. I still haven’t gotten over the trauma of giving up on breast feeding and I don’t feel appreciated. Her room isn’t finished, our coffee table has too sharp edges and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to holiday ever again. My body hasn’t healed as it should have, I still pee myself a little if I’m desperate for the toilet and quite frankly I’d quite like to get my nails done at some point because this Shellac I’ve had on my toenails since July is starting to infect my feet.
But that said I know I have a healthy, amazing baby and right now she’s here being kind and supportive in her own way. As mother and daughter we’re finding our way through this together. I adore when she pauses feeding to show me a smile. I well up seeing her interact with other babies. She is my world. So when I struggle with the notion that it’s all my fault and that I’m a bad parent? That I feel like I’m going mad and at some point run the risk of losing my baby? I simply take a moments breathing space.
Am I suffering with, or on the brink of post natal depression? I don’t know. But what I do know is that everyday is an achievement, a struggle and a new hormonal story. I know that whilst I struggle, new fathers are also at risk of PND. So in turn I’m also doing my best to support hubby too.
To read more about baby blues and post natal depression see here.