If you’ve landed here – thanks for reading! This is my first post and instead of something light hearted and whimsical, it’s actually about Post-Natal Depression. Fun! I’ll try and keep things a little bit light, I promise… I was unsure whether to touch on this or not, before realising it’s actually a huge part why I felt compelled to write about life with kids. There are loads of people blogging about the minutiae of motherhood – the joyous, the hilarious and the occasional bloody awfulness. But PND is something that’s sometimes thought of as a taboo subject and a subheading under “mental health” that is often misunderstood. Funnily enough, after I wrote this first draft, I thought “well, I can’t share my blog on social media now, because people I know will see this”. I then realised just how ridiculous that was, when I’m saying no-one should be ashamed of PND. Surely it’s a more relatable tale if someone you know has been through it? Everyone’s experiences of life with a baby is totally individual. I believe I was lucky – to escape the more severe forms of post-natal depression, to have amazing family and friend support and to live in a time where doctors are far more understanding of the condition. So…here’s my experience.
For the first two weeks after my daughter was born, I was in a bit of a bliss bubble. My husband was on paternity leave and we could split the responsibility of our 21 month old son and newborn daughter. The first solo week with the two of them ended on a high – I did it! I looked after a hyperactive toddler and projectile vomiting baby! We’re all alive! Fast forward to week 4 and my thoughts started to slide towards “oh my god, I have to do this every. single. day” and “I can’t do this”. Or maybe, in fact, I just didn’t WANT to do it. I wanted to call in sick and for someone else to take over. I was stressed by feeding schedules, tantrums and every room in the house looking like a shit heap. I cried every night when my husband got home, then felt guilty because I felt I should have been so grateful for my two babies. In all my previous jobs I have always thrived on feedback but, despite the kids being more demanding than any boss I’ve ever had, they were CRAP at telling me I was doing OK. Also,for some insane reason, I had decided the toddler would have no TV anymore – he’d gone without for a couple of weeks and had stopped asking for it, so I thought this would be an excellent way to get him playing on his own a bit more (’cause, you know, 21 month old toddlers are great at plugging away silently at a puzzle for 45 minutes). Of course, each time the baby demanded a feed it caught me slightly off guard and I’d be shh-ing and bouncing her whilst trying to open iTunes on the slowest laptop ever and play an audio CD for my son. He would see the chaos and start whirling around the living room, knocking over breakable items at speed.
Alongside all this commotion I was trying to “reclaim” myself. I decided I would run three times a week. I started a free online creative writing course. I joined a book group. And, three days after baby 2 arrived I was CLEANING OUT MY WARDROBE. In hindsight, I can see I was definitely heading for a fall. It came after one of my runs; I sobbed all the way through dinner to my husband that I just couldn’t do it. He summoned me to take a break for a couple of nights. I couldn’t possibly, I said. I have an eight week old, I can’t leave her. But I knew I did indeed need the clarity, so I packed myself off to my parents’ house and just rested. And it really helped. Because when I started driving home and realised I didn’t want to see my babies, I knew things were not right. That was such an awful thought to have and it’s hard to even write it now. My mother-in-law (who had been staying with my husband while I was away) gently but firmly urged me to make a GP appointment. “But, isn’t it normal to be feeling like this?” I wailed, through snot bubbles and running mascara. Apparently not. The GP was extremely kind and I was prescribed some anti-depressants. After about three weeks, the cloud lifted and I felt like I could cope again, even spend time actually enjoying motherhood (bits of it, anyway). And CBeebies is back on, when needed. Yes, I’d love to be one of those mothers who just doesn’t have time for TV because, well, we’re all having so much fun! But I’m not, so Thomas The Tank Engine has been welcomed back into the fold with open arms.
If you think you are suffering from PND there is support out there. First port of call should be your GP. Don’t shy away from telling them exactly how you feel, or try and minimise things. If you’re worried about taking medication, drugs won’t always be the answer – they can point you in the direction of support groups too. However, if you are prescribed anti-depressants, it’s very likely to be a short term solution. Chances are, after a year or so, you’ll start feeling like you’re ready to come off them (although this must be guided by your GP. Self weaning isn’t a good idea).
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by motherhood there are charities out there who can provide a little bit of relief, such as Home Start UK, who can pair you up with a volunteer for a couple of hours a week to give you some practical help/lend a listening ear.
Above all, you absolutely don’t have to suffer in silence.