Last night after sharing my first blog I had a little panic attack over the fact that now ‘everybody knows’.
Everyone now knows that the last 6 months of motherhood haven’t been easy, that I have struggled with many things and although this does not embarrass me or make me feel any less proud of the job I have done.
It makes me think – ‘what if people think I’m a bad mum’. I turned and I said to my husband – I shouldn’t be talking about this, people just don’t talk about this. His response…
That’s the problem people don’t talk about it and that’s why you NEED to do this.
I’m going to be honest here and tell you that before I had Eli and I heard that people had postnatal depression I thought they just needed to get over it.
I would think they chose to have their baby why would they be depressed. Oh how stupid and naive. But I think this a view of many. Let me put it out there – postnatal depression has NOTHING to do with your capability, your love for you child or your personal strength. It has A LOT to do with your personality, your labour/birthing experience and just plain biology.
Some of you may be shocked to know that 1 in 7 to 10 mums suffer with postnatal depression.
Think about how many mummas you know – one of them is likely to be struggling with this. If you know me personally and I hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t have known. If you walked passed me in the shops and saw me having a coffee date and chatting with my son, you wouldn’t have known that 10 mins later I would be in the parents room crying. Be gentle to strangers – you don’t know what they are going through.
So what is it, why don’t we talk about it, how can you help people that have it and what shouldn’t you do?
Most of these questions need entire posts to themselves, but so you understand a little about where I’m coming from I’ll give you the short version.
What is it?
It’s something you can’t describe. It’s when you’ve gone from the biggest high of loving this new little thing to the biggest low of not wanting your new baby in a week. It’s NOT the baby blues, those leave you. It gets worse with time and it is vital that you get help as soon as possible.
I knew something was not right when Eli was 7 days old and I looked at him and wanted nothing to do with him. (Please know these are the hardest words I’ve ever had to write).
Here are some things people with postnatal depression are going through. These are from experience and also the research that has been done into it. Now all mums feel some of these things at a certain point. BUT, when its a few of them and frequently, it’s time to get help.
1) Overwhelming guilt
About everything. About not loving your child ‘like you should’. About letting down your partner and your family. About letting down yourself and your future self.
2) Feeling like you can’t cope
I remember in the hospital thinking I can’t do this. I can’t even do this with 24/7 care how can I do it at home.
I couldn’t even cope with having my family visit never mind the thought of the other 100 or so people that still had to meet Eli. That is just a small example- there are so many more.
3) Thoughts of not wanting your child
I wanted to go back to hospital and get him put back inside. I loved him there after all. I wanted to press undo, rewind. I just wanted my life back. Confronting I know – but I said I was being honest.
(But why you haven’t lost anything?) I lost my old life, the one where I was in control, where I could do things the way I wanted and when I wanted. I lost the only me and you life with my husband. I lost my beloved job and I missed my colleagues and students.
I was stuck on a couch with a crying baby and not in a classroom with kids that loved me and that I loved back.
I lost a lot. BUT now I can say, I gained so much more.
5) Life felt meaningless
I am a Christian, life should not be meaningless. But it was. There was no reason. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. This was my life now.
I had failed. For the first time in my life I had failed (so I thought). I didn’t know why or how but to me it was over. I could not do this. (more so I could not get this 100% right).
7) Thoughts that aren’t your own
Now some people might be offended by this. BUT, I don’t care. If I knew that this was apart of this illness, some of the above things would have not been as severe. There are thoughts that haunt you that come into your head that you would NEVER think or ACT on. Talking to my psychologist and about the research that has gone into these thoughts, I found out you have no control of them, they are not real and they are NOT YOU and they are apart of the illness! If I only I had known that before the guilt, shame and sense of failure had taken hold of me.
8) Extreme anxiety
To the point you can’t sleep or function properly. Am I doing enough? What if my baby doesn’t feel loved? What if I am ruining their life? They don’t deserve this? I should be doing *insert here*. And it goes on and on.
There are many other symptoms of this illness that I have experienced and that you can have. If you feel like you tick some of these boxes. Please do some research and get some help. It’s nothing to be ashamed of! Some mums wait until their child is months or even years old. Don’t wait. Please read more about symptoms here.
Why don’t we talk about it?
I think we don’t talk about it because we don’t want people to think we are incapable or that we have failed.
Majority of mums that I have met with postnatal depression are your high achievers. We want everything perfect and we will do what it takes for it to be that way. If we admit that we aren’t perfect it means we failed. Which becomes a nice big vicious circle, that can only be broken by..talking about it! Finding out that as a mum you only have to get it right 50% of the time and you will still have a well attached child – changed my life! (Read more about it and the circle of security here).
Maybe it’s because we think that’s just what mums do…we power on no matter how hard and tough things are. Isn’t that right? You’re a mum now you’re meant to be a super hero. Can’t you remember your Mum had it all together – so why can’t you? Such a lie! You’re not JUST a mum. You are a person, an important person, who needs help and you needs to focus on you.
And for me- I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. To think all I wanted was attention. Or to treat me different.
I didn’t want people to think that I wasn’t able to cope and look after my child. PND has nothing to do with your ability to care and look after your child. I felt like people thought it meant that I couldn’t take care of Eli’s needs and I was worried that they would look down on me.
How can you help?
This will require an entire blog post on its own. So here are the basic points. Also these points work for just new mums in general:
- Be there if we need you. Give us space if we need.
- Be honest. (A simple – my child went through that too. Goes a long way. Opposed to have you tried….This makes us feel like we are doing something wrong! Unless we ask for advice, don’t go there first!).
- Don’t tell us it only gets worse. (Oh kids only get harder as they get older..SERIOUSLY!?!?! My 6 week old is a nightmare and you say it gets harder…That’s it I quit!).
- Don’t act like we are not capable.
- Tell us how we are doing such a great job.
- Support us when we get help.
- Hug and love us.
- Don’t tell us to get over it or that it will just go away.
I hope this has helped you understand what it means to suffer from PND and if you are a new mum who is struggling, I hope it lets you know that you are normal.
Becoming a mum is hard and to feel any of the above at some point is normal!
If you feel like it’s more – seek help from your GP or healthcare provider. I knew there was more to it and that I needed some extra support. Best decision I have ever made.
Have you ever suffered from PND? Do you have any helpful things to add? Please share in the comments below.