So my last post was about saying it is OK – this parenting thing…I mean sometimes you can rock it, Instagram post’n’all and other days it is Facebook stalking in your front room while feeding the baby (heaven forbid that you are not gazing lovingly at your baby each and every time, the whole time, you are feeding them!).
But what about the times when it is actually really bad…and those parents who actually really struggle…like really can’t breathe struggle?
Most women do experience something that we know as ‘the baby blues’, which happens between five to 10 days after the birth. It’s really common to feel overwhelmed with everything that has just been experienced and everything that is now felt to be expected of you. Not only are you coping with more demands on your time and energy, but it is coming at a time when you are more exhausted than you ever knew you could be. For most mums this stage is just that, a stage, and is fairly manageable. I remember being so tearful about day 5 because I was finding that the most natural thing in the world did not seem to be coming naturally at all!
However, according to MIND, 10-15% of new mums develop a deeper depression known as Post Natal Depression (PND), usually about six-weeks post. And did you also know that PND can also be suffered by the new dad too? Recent research conducted by the NCT estimates that 1 in 3 new dads are concerned about their mental health and 1 in 10 new dads suffer from PND.
The actual experience is different for each person, but most commonly you can feel tearful, sad, low, disconnected, angry, guilty, indifferent to your child and/or partner, have disturbed sleep, no appetite or concentration. Lets be honest though, these words sometimes don’t mean a lot when you are trying to work out what the hell you are feeling.
So, I asked a friend of mine to share her experience of PND and this is her searingly honest account:
“PND is sneaky. PND tells you that it’s just baby blues, even six months down the time. Most of all, it tells you that you are a rubbish parent and that you should just give up. Go and curl into a ball in the corner because that’s all you’re good for. And when you’re out and about you just go along with whatever anyone says to you. It’s easier than explaining that you feel like you just can’t go on. *Most* of the time these ladies don’t hide their feeling out of shame. They’re just too tired to face their own demons.
When your new mummy friends are all gushing over their little bundles of joy at baby group, declaring that they would have another baby tomorrow if they could (8 weeks postnatal!), you feel utterly perplexed at the very idea! ‘They’re all mad’, you think to yourself. ‘I don’t even like having *one*!’.
The fog that fills your head is like driving in pea soup. You can’t see where you’re going and you can barely remember what it looks like behind you. It’s frightening, draining and quite often pretty debilitating. It’s like being in a soundproof bubble; you can see out of it, but can barely hear anything going on around you – it’s really isolating.
Hopelessness is insomnia’s best friend in the middle of the night, when you feel that you made the biggest mistake of your life, thinking you could cope with a baby. How silly of you?! You want to yell at those people who said having a child would be the best feeling in the world; because they lied. You wish with all your heart that you could agree with that statement. But all you want to do is turn back the clock and tell yourself not to go down this route. Or worse, just take your little person back to the hospital. But you know they don’t offer returns.
This all sounds very drastic, but these are real thoughts, from a real person going through real mental health problems.
And men can feel the exact same way. Just because a man didn’t give birth, or have all those hormones flying around, it doesn’t mean that he won’t feel like he can’t cope. Sadly, many GP’s will not accept that men are susceptible to PND and will just label it as bog standard depression (funny how it crops up upon the arrival of the baby though, hey?).
PND is become more widely discussed these days which is great. It means that people don’t quickly move away from you when you tell them that you’re not loving every minute. Telling people that you’re not OK is the first step to recovery. Tell your family. Tell your friends. And tell your GP. Whether you have counselling, or decide you need the help of medication (or both!) there will be light at the end of the tunnel. At some point all those negative feelings will be a distant memory and you can finally start to enjoy those things that PND stole from you.”
I am so proud of my friend for coming through one of the hardest fights of her life and regaining her joy in motherhood, so I want the takeaway from this epic post is that the most important thing that any new mum (or dad) can do if they should feel like this is to talk to their health visitor, GP, family and support network. They can help provide advice and support to ensure that the experienced is managed and the mum is supported on her journey to recovery. And what can we do, their support network? Be exactly that – there for them. Check in with them in the months after the baby arrives to see how they are doing and how they are feeling and allow them space to either talk things out or reach out for more help if they are struggling.
Find out more here:
The NHS Post Natal Depression Information
The Royal College of Psychiatrists Post Natal Depression Information
And MASSIVE thanks to one Vintage_Gem!