Both my children were born in October, when the dark nights set in for the next few months and it’s 5months before the sun sets any time after 5pm.
That’s when I found it the hardest having a new born baby. I would try to make the most of the day light hours but to be honest when I had a newborn baby it was difficult to get dressed before midday let alone try and plan somewhere to go. I would plan to meet friends, others I had met at Nct classes we were both in the same boat having just had our babies.
But there was a nagging feeling I had which was, they seem to be getting the hang of things far better than me. I felt like a fog had descended around me and I was walking through treacle. Everything seemed to just not feel right. But I couldn’t put my finger on what I felt or why I felt it. I just knew that i wasn’t feeling how I had expected to feel as a first time mum.
When you hear about post natal depression you hear the extreme stories “I couldn’t hold my child”, “I wanted to harm my baby” or “I felt really down”.
I didn’t feel any of these but some mums do.
I wanted to feel happy inside and put on a fake smile and tried to laugh off the crying baby I was holding in my arms when I met my friends at the coffee shop. By saying “oh she’s just a bit grizzly today”. However inside I felt consumed by anxiety, I can’t bear to hear my baby crying and will do anything to prevent or stop her from doing so. I would sign up to loads of baby classes thinking she was one of those baby’s that needed stimulation all the time. My mum would see me and say I’m doing too much with her, she’s just a baby. But I knew that if I didn’t have plans for the day I would go stir crazy in the house especially the if she started crying. I bought an endless supply of dummy’s so that the crying could be kept to a minimum.
On the outside to others I would seem the calmest mother on earth! Who knew what I was actually really feeling? No-one. My husband would pick up on the subtle changes and suggest I pampered myself with a massage or manicure and, my request for wine to be picked up by him on the way home would be his only indication that my day might have been slightly stressful. But to be honest every day felt stressful. Every day I would wake up after having broken sleep due to breast feeding and /or insomnia (another one of my Pnd symptoms) and start worrying about my day. What was our plan, we were seeing friends in the afternoon but what about in the morning? How would I occupy myself and my baby? Quick I need another plan!
I would overthink things, go over whole conversations had at that play date in my head. “What did that person mean by saying that?” Why did I say that? Did that person take offence when I said that?
It totally consumed me and left me feeling utterly exhausted.
After about 2 months of feeling like this I decided to speak to my health visitor. She could see that I was finding it difficult and suggested I speak to the doctor. I found it hard trying to express exactly how I felt but after doing a questionnaire called the Edinburgh scale test I could see that I needed some help. As I was breastfeeding I was worried about antidepressants so decided on going to seek some counselling.
I was still feeling anxious. Visiting family members would be so worrying for me. They would want to hold the baby and what if she started crying? They would then give her to me and my anxiety would be at an all time high. What if I couldn’t calm her down. I would rather not go and visit but that wasn’t an option either. Imagine feeling really nervous when riding a roller coaster and know that the feeling won’t go away coupled with the feeling you get when you leave your mobile at home and all you want to do is go back and get it, gives you some idea as to how tense I was inside.
The day’s grew longer and lighter and talking about things helped, soon the summer was here and I felt stronger as a new mum. Doing things for me felt like a luxury, I would generally put myself last but I realised that for me to feel happier and get rid of these feelings I needed to relax more, easier said than done.
It took a year for me to finally feel I could laugh without faking it and smile genuinely knowing I was feeling more myself again.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I would have researched different talking therapies as I believe CBT cognitive behavioural therapy might have been the best one for me; enabling me to find ways of trying to cope with my anxieties. And researching safer antidepressants to take whilst breastfeeding too.
When my daughter was 18 months we made the decision that perhaps to go back to work might be a good option and a nursery was found for her to attend. That brings a whole different form of anxiety and then. We found we were pregnant again….