Looking down at my son’s peaceful face as he drinks from my breast, I feel a sense of calm. Something I haven’t felt for a long time. Raising a newborn can be a challenge for any mother, but for me it is usually accompanied by a bout of Post Natal Depression. I struggle with emotional regulation at the best of times, dealing with depression and anxiety issues on a regular basis. Add in the hormonal changes that happen during and after pregnancy, and I turn into a blubbering mess.
At my darkest times I’ve often thought my partner and children would be better off without me. Breastfeeding challenges and family dramas added to my stress levels. At times I didn’t know if I could hold on until the morning. I spent many lonely days and nights locked away in my room wishing it would all be over.
When you are at your lowest it’s easy to forget that you aren’t alone. There is always someone out there that has been where you are, that knows the struggle you are going through. These are the things that have gotten me through.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
As women we often feel like we need to be invincible. It’s often hard to ask for help, we worry about being judged. The truth is, we are our harshest critics! Don’t let anyone make you feel inferior or incapable, there is no shame in reaching out. Help can come in many forms, from someone dropping of groceries, or a friend minding older children so you can rest. Sometimes the smallest things can make a world of difference when it all becomes too much.
2. Join a group
Wherever you are it’s likely there’s a community of mothers near to you. For those with social anxiety like me, there are other avenues to stay connected than the typical mums group. I’ve found a local group on Facebook that have regular meetings to connect local mums. Honestly these strangers have been my saviour from being a place to feel supported to advice on raising newborn.
3. Keep busy
Ok so this sounds as hard as the “sleep when baby sleeps” advice, especially in the early weeks. But, as baby gets older and more active you find yourself getting a little bored with the monotony of feeding and changing dirty nappies. Re connect with friends, find a hobby, exercise. Sometimes we limit ourselves by using the baby as an excuse. Babies like going out! Mine is usually more settled and happy when we are out and about.
4. Take time for you
Even if you can only find 5 minutes a day, take the time to do something that brings you peace. Maybe it is a glass of wine, or a hot bath. Exercise is proven to help your mood, even a short walk to the park is better than watching the TV all day. I like to visit the spa at the gym, while my partner minds the baby for an hour or so. Or do some colouring! I was a bit sceptic at first, but I’ve found that I enjoy colouring in my little book of mandalas. It can also be a good way to spend time with older kids.
5. Plan for the future
Remember “This too shall pass”, things will get better. Planning for the future keeps me focused, and gives me something to look forward to. Small goals like starting mum and baby swim classes, or returning to work part time give me something to aim towards. Anything that shifts your focus from negative thoughts and feelings is a good thing.
Posted anonymously, 4th November 2015