I thought given that it was Mental Health Awareness Week I would share my experience of the highs and lows that came with becoming a new mummy for me.
In my opinion, when it’s your first baby (or second, third…I can only comment on my experience) you start the journey with a certain level of naivety. I was so very desperate to get pregnant and start a family with my husband James that I heaped a tonne of pressure on myself months before Reunah was even a poppy seed in my tummy.
Before trying to conceive and throughout my early twenties I hadn’t really put much thought into how it would feel to be pregnant, I just always assumed it would be that glowing, life affirming experience people talk of and broadcast all over social media. In reality it was a stressful time, full of fear and worry that something would go wrong, as well as a load of self doubt and pressure at the thought that for 9 months I was the sole carer of this baby, and that all my actions and feelings directly impacted his wellbeing. Is he moving to little? Is he moving too much? Is his heart rate too slow? Is he growing properly? I wouldn’t even take a paracetamol for fear of it harming my growing bundle…
I think whilst the title is post natal depression, the build up to becoming a new mummy and the stresses and strains that can be associated with that definitely contribute to how you react to becoming a parent and ultimately how you feel emotionally post birth. For some, pregnancy is a breeze (I’m not saying that means you wont experience the low post birth, like I said I can only talk about my experience), but for me it was woven with worry, made worse after a bad bleed just after our first scan at 13 weeks. In the latter weeks of pregnancy I was in and out of hospital for heart rate checks as I was so paranoid about movement, until we finally reached our due date – which for us was at 39 weeks on a set day as we were booked in for an elective C-section.
I think new mums often feel they can’t talk about post natal depression or even just the lows they experience as they think people will associate it with not loving their baby. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. For me, those first few weeks of motherhood were utterly overwhelming and sometimes really hard. I was overjoyed to have delivered a healthy little boy and totally in love, whilst at the same time experiencing incredible pain from my section and struggling terribly to master the new, and very difficult (for me) skill of breastfeeding. In what other environment would trained medical staff force you to hone a new, technically difficult skill whilst recovering from major abdominal surgery (or after pushing a baby out you vajayjay for that matter!). I’d never had a major operation before either (other than having my tonsils out age 9 which I have no memory of other than being made to eat toast, I mean how cruel!) and the pain was awful which ultimately, in hindsight, must have got me down as not only was I unable to live out my dream of strolling down my local street, baby in tow, waving at passing families with a knowing look now that I was in their gang (turns out that knowing look does exist but it’s more of a sympathetic gaze that comes with the experience of raising children as you know what they are likely going through in the early days!).
Those first few weeks at home involved me taking each day as it came and trying not to burst into tears every five minutes (I’m not sure I managed this). Even now, 5 months on, I feel like I need to tell anyone reading this that even though I found the beginning hard I totally and utterly love my baby – cos I do really feel that people think that I may not just because I care to admit that the first few weeks were fucking difficult and that at times I thought to myself “I hate this”!
There were moments, in the middle of the night when I would just cry and cry and cry and feel totally and utterly miserable. He wouldn’t feed, he wouldn’t sleep, I was exhausted, I was recovering from surgery, I was hormonal…I mean is it any wonder we suffer emotional strain at such a stressful time of life!!! I fully believe that this time of mental strain and hormonal volatility leaves you far from your normal self and we really shouldn’t beat ourselves up for the feelings of self doubt and despair that in my opinion come part and parcel with rising a child.
Whilst it didn’t happen to me I can 100% see how these early struggles could lead to the feeling that you aren’t bonding with your baby. You have all these hopes and dreams when you are pregnant and imagine what life will be like when they arrive, then when it doesn’t end up being like that you look at this little tiny bundle and ask them why they are making your life so miserable. Why are you crying, why won’t you feed, why don’t you sleep – at times all you get in return for your round the clock care is endless screaming which even for the strongest of characters can be extremely testing and traumatic.
Now, I haven’t written this article just to talk about the shit bits, which for me were short lived in the scale of life, and I am fully aware that this story may seem mild on the post natal depression scale, but I just wanted to share the fact that I didn’t find it all peaches and ice cream! I’m (probably too much so for some) a really really open book, so talked to all my friends and family about this, in particular the new mummy ones (and my mum), so soon came to the realization that my feelings were all pretty normal, and given that all my friends babies were born at different stages, took solace in the reassurance from others that this phase would pass and I’d soon get the hang of it all.
I also recognize that I was far from depressed, just overwhelmed and adjusting with some very natural low points teamed with some equally natural highs, but that some women do experience severe depression at a time they pictured to be the best of their life. Without trying to preach or sound like an expert (I’m just a person writing my opinions), I just wanted to emphasise the need to talk about your mental health and feelings as opposed to jumping on the bandwagon of pretending early motherhood is a breeze just so as to maintain a facade of control.
I can guarantee that you aren’t the only one feeling that way, you aren’t the only one that thinks they can’t cope and you aren’t the only one that sometimes wonders when they’re going to be the happy mummy they always imagined.