Postnatal Depression and Me

22nd April 2020

Postnatal Depression and Me

 

In this unprecedented times, the world around us has changed and continues to change on a daily basis into something we have never experienced before. With the uncertainty many feelings of anxiety and overwhelm can rear their heads. As a new parent, be that first time or a seasoned one it has brung around new and often frightening circumstances the we hadn’t factored into our plans.

With changes to the pregnancy care, birthing changes and even the after care. Our NHS midwives and health professionals trying to do the very best they can by us all in such crazy times. Our support networks may have shrunk, with the meeting of the new arrival having to be post postponed for all our safety and things like support groups, mothers groups and new baby classes all being on hold.

Having a baby can be a life experience  which even without all these added pressures can be joyous, amazing and special but also scary, exhausting and filled with anxiety. Having these new conditions can feel unfair, but I also think that there can be a positive spin to be taken from it. I read a study the other day which said babies are returning to the pregnancy weight faster for the first time in decades. They believe it’s because mum and baby are getting uninterrupted bonding time with none of the usual visitors and distractions. Being just you with your baby means you don’t need to worry about anything else but caring for each other and having extra bonding and family time – this can surely only be a bonus. There is not the pressure to by up and out, attending every class, visiting every family member. And yes, I know you want to do these things! I would have been the same but it will come, this is not forever and it will pass. You will get to rejoin the world and do all these things but you may have an even stronger and better bond with your baby too.

So, now all that’s been said. Yes, Im taking to you! The one reading this thinking, why am I struggling? Am I everything my baby needs? Why do I feel so hopeless? Am I bonding with them? I don’t think I am. Some of these questions and doubts are normal but if you start to feel like like they are becoming overwhelming or you need some extra support and help that IS OK!! You are not failure, you won’t be judged and you are still the perfect mother to you baby. Talk to your partner, health professional and feel free to give me a shout.

How the hell would you know what it’s like?  – was that our next thought…..

I didn’t have postnatal depression in a national pandemic but I did have it and I’ve also struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life.
Let me tell you my story;

A number of years ago I suffered from postnatal depression. When I was ill with it I didn’t want anyone to know – they will think I’m a failure, they will take away my children, everyone will make a fool of me or avoid me. I felt I couldn’t tell people what has been wrong with me. How’s things? How are you? – those dreaded questions!! ‘Yeah I’m fine’, ‘yeah not bad thanks’. LIES, LIES, LIES – I really wanted to scream NOOOOO I’m not fine, I’m having an anxiety attack just speaking to you here in Tesco because I can’t bear being around this many people. I just want to curl up in and ball and cry, I just want this darkness, rushing mind and black thoughts to GO AWAY!!

So why did I feel I couldn’t tell the people around me, the people who love and care for me? Self-Stigma is the answer for that and to be fair I really should know better! Stigma and self-stigma are horrid words aren’t they? but when depression grips you like vice, rational and self-belief get squeezed out of you.

As a young mum (ssshh!! No cheeky comments on my age!!) I found adjusting to motherhood a challenge as any mum does. When my little bundle of joy number 2 arrived, I began a rollercoaster ride that I had no idea how to get off of. Sleep deprived, running around after a, for want of a better word, ‘crazy’ toddler, cooking, cleaning, shopping, washing, living, breathing………..wow was it fun!! Don’t get me wrong, I loved my little family but I felt lost, alone and deeply overwhelmed with everything. Why did everyone else seem to be managing fine? Why was I the only failure? Why couldn’t I enjoy my babies? Why did I feel like this? Why me? Why why why……?

It took 8 months until I reached the stage where I didn’t want to go out, hated social situations, cried all the time and felt like I was THE worst mother in the entire world until my husband gave in and took me to the doctor. ‘Well Mrs Teale, it’s no big deal you JUST have post natal depression’ said the doctor. JUST postnatal depression I thought – pull yourself together you idiot. You are just a failure!! My world had become so dark that I had convinced myself I was a failure, I didn’t deserve my children or husband and perhaps this life would be better off without me in it. But with love, support and medication life became a better place to be. After a year on medication and with help from my doctor I was weaned off the medication and got back to enjoying my family. Recovery wasn’t easy but I did it and so can others. Even when life threw baby number 3 into the picture and life became chaos again, we were all ready to tackle depression head on.

As my children grew and so did my strength, I decided that I wanted to help other mums who were perhaps struggling or, at least, had the potential to. It took me many years contemplating the ideas and how best to do this.And it finally materialised into Bambeenies. I hope that our classes give mums the opportunity to get out and meet other people in similar circumstances, to know that they are not alone and to make new friendships to love and support them should they need someone to ask them ‘How are you?’ – ‘BUT really how are you?’ (side note: in theses times I am still available online, on the phone or on online classes to support and chat with anyone who needs it)

The classes have not only, I hope, been a life line to others but they have changed my life. I love my job with all my heart, getting into class and seeing those little smiley faces and the progress they are making fills me with a joy that I can’t even describe to you.

So what was the point of me bearing my soul to you, telling you all my failings and praying that everyone will understand. I want you mummies – that’s right I’m speaking to you……each and every one of you – to stop competing and comparing with one another, (social media is a blessing for keeping in touch but it’s also not real life) realise that we’re all in this together and help one another when we can. Let’s not judge each other. Because despite outward appearances, we are all going through struggles that no one knows anything about.

So my challenge for you all – It only takes a second to say a few kind words, this may be the only nice things the person hears all day. A little smile to a stranger on the street(keeping safe distance obviously) may be the highlight of their week. When you ask someone how they are next time, ask it with sincerity and wait to hear their answer even if it’s not the one you hope for, as they may well be putting on a brave face but screaming inside. In these strange times, reach out to other mothers for a chat online or via message, or over the garden fence(again at safe distance obviously). By being kinder to ourselves and each other, we really can change the world, one kind word at a time.

Are you in???

Jenny 

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