There’s no denying that from the moment you see those two blue lines, you know your world is about to change beyond your wildest expectations. Babies are wonderful, beautiful, cute… you picture yourself and your future child laughing, cuddling, playing in the park; all those lovely scenes we see on TV and in magazines. How hard can it be?
For many of us apart from the odd sleepless night and teething issues, what I’ve described above thankfully isn’t too far from the truth. However, there’s many of us for who the above seems like a distant dream.
There has been a huge amount in the press recently on mental health. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry have done a huge amount recently with the charity Heads Together. But are these ‘it needs to be taken more seriously messages’ actually being heard? I was saddened to hear a few of my friends talking recently about conversations they had had with their GP.
He advised me to read a book..read it twice he said and I’ll feel so much better’
Laura, mommy to Ella – aged 4 months
‘I felt like she just wanted to get me out the door so she could sign of my six week check. I tried to talk to her about how I felt but she just wasn’t interested’
Chelle, mommy to Lyla – aged 5 months
‘He told me he didn’t have time to talk to me about my anxiety’
Nicola, mommy to Dexter, aged 2
What?! Are we living in the UK in 2017?
I myself never suffered on a severe level after I had Fin, but I did have episodes of irrational anxiety. I recall one night when we were away on a short break in Chester, and we were planning on going sightseeing round the city the next day. I was falling asleep and suddenly had this thought that Finley was going to be snatched from us the next day. The rational side of my brain was telling me I was being silly, but once the panic is there it’s hard to get rid of! I’ve also had the occasional bad dream about the worst happening where I’ve woken up with my heart pounding, sweating, and unable to get back to sleep. I also had reoccurring anxieties about vehicles mounting the kerb and hitting the pushchair when he was younger. From being a rational, level headed person I was now imagining the unthinkable happening on a daily basis. I’ve never felt the need to seek professional help as I’ve always felt able to cope and ‘talk myself’ through these episodes, but what happens when you feel that you do need help?
It is estimated that around 15% of new mothers suffer with depression following childbirth. It generally happens within the first 1-2 months, but can start anytime within the first year. From my own personal experience and from speaking with friends however, think it can happen at any time in those first few years!
I think it’s also the case that there is so much pressure on moms now. Social media is amazing- at any time of the day or night you can log on and more often that not you can find an answer to any question but we are also constantly bombarded with images of the perfect family, the perfect kitchen, the perfect home, happy and smiling family holidays. Many moms are also left with little choice but to return to work – around 4.9 million working mothers in 2017 – so we are left with little time to recuperate. A study from the University of Salford in 2012 reported that in fact it takes women 12 months to fully recover from childbirth. The majority of us return anytime between 6 – 10 months post-partum. Many mothers are still breastfeeding at this stage also. Are we simply expecting too much from ourselves?
Many of us live further from our families than our mothers and grandmothers may have done. We’ve lost the ‘community.’ The network of women who gather round on the birth of a child, bringing food and emotional support. A chance of a sitter when you need a sleep and a hot shower.
I also feel that with all of these pressures, a lot of moms put so much pressure on themselves – get the baby sleeping through, get them into a routine early, get my pre baby body back, when in reality these things are actually really difficult, sometimes near on impossible in the early weeks and months of your baby’s life.
At what point should you seek help? What’s the difference between ‘normal baby blues’ and something more serious? If your feelings are preventing you from doing things – leaving the house, sleeping, eating and they are with you for a prolonged period of time then you should definitely go and speak to your GP.
If you don’t get the help you need, ask to speak to another GP. If you still don’t get a satisfactory response, speak to the practice manager. Your local HV team is also a great source of help, even if your baby is older. If you can’t find all the paperwork they threw at you on your first visit (such a good time to give you important info right?!) Google your local Sure Start Centre and ask for your local contact.
Perhaps the greatest source of support for me has to be mommy friends – what would we do without them? I have my ‘virtual’ friends on a lovely Facebook group I’m on and the loveliest ladies I met doing NCT and Baby Sensory. They just get it. And they are always open to eating cake. So even if it feels like the last thing in the world you want to do, joining groups can be a massive help.
Talk to your husband, sister, mom, and take offers of help.
And most of all, be kind to yourself! You’re doing a bloody good job!