After the birth of my second daughter (Isla), I found myself in a place that I never thought I would be. It sounds so naive as I type this, because only the year before I supported my sister through undiagnosed PND and My career is 15 years experience as an early years worker/family support worker, supporting families through many experiences and milestones, BUT there I was experiencing what I can only describe as pure physical and emotional exhaustion, uncontrollable overthinking and very random crying outbursts. I never experienced anything like that after my first daughter (Eva), so it was extremely difficult to explain, comprehend and control. I have always suffered from mild anxiety, big events would trigger it; exams, job interview or deadlines, who doesn’t in this day in age? BUT I never could of imagined the emotions and fear that came with postnatal Anxiety. I had difficult deliveries with my both my girls due to their positioning, but the second one was particularly tricky, and caused a bad tear. I had to go to theatre for 2.5 hours after delivery and I really feel thats where the severe anxiety began. Instead of feeling empowered for getting my ‘stuck’ baby out by myself, I felt like I’d failed again, failed at having a ‘normal birth’. I had an expectation, and it just didn’t happen. The Recovery was difficult and I was physically drained and in pain for weeks after, but at the same time, I was so grateful that it wasn’t worse; the main thing is that we were both ok, right?!?! I was battling my thoughts against my feelings and it was really hard work.
It quickly became apparent that Isla had some tummy issues and as a result of that, she would scream in pain anything from 2 to 4 hours every evening, she hated being flat and she just really struggled to settle in the evening, to the point I was up every hour with her. She had silent reflux and colic and it is awful seeing your tiny baby in that much discomfort. I was Breastfeeding and my husband and I began to research how we could help her. Our research continuously brought us back to dairy, so I just bit the bullet and cut all dairy out of my diet, the difference was huge!!! It didn’t stop it completely, but we definitely saw a big improvement. The terrible anxiety that surrounded this time, literally took over my wellbeing, and mixed with sleep deprivation I was literally a walking zombie. Yet, I was so set on trying to find solutions, trying to manage everything and just get up and get on every day. I was also trying to compensate for the immense guilt I felt for my eldest daughter, I just remember constantly saying “wait a minute Eva” or “Eva can you just stop”, she was 2.5 years old and had no understanding what was happening. Any opportunity I had to just just spend time with her, I did it. I should of slept, and got some rest, but to me, giving her that time was way more important. This little baby had come in to her world and just turned it all upside down, I know I should of tried to balance it better, but I just did what I thought was best at the time and that was making one on one time for Eva. I put my own needs to the bottom of the pile.
Family wise, everything did settle down, Isla went on solids at 6 months, started to sleep really well at 8 months (we actually moved her to a bed, but thats another story) and Eva started preschool – everything was ‘rosey’ and we were happy and most of all we were all SLEEPING!!! However, I still did not feel right; my anxiety was getting worse but I was trying to ignore it. I’d been to see my GP numerous times but because I was breastfeeding, there was no help in terms of medication, just self referral to CBT. I tried everything to try and control it but it was just spiralling. Because I looked ok, I think the assumption was that I was fine. I found it very difficult to reach out because there was little understanding from anyone close. I have always been the go to person, the strong one, so it was difficult to say otherwise, plus what was I actually trying to say?? How do you explain how you feel? It was so very difficult, you just end up trying to get on with it.
My experience has speared me to create a community project that enables mums (and dads) to reach out and get some support that focuses on their wellbeing. I feel it’s so important to talk, to feel like you can talk and to know you’re not alone, but most importantly to know PND and PNA has no reflection on the love you have for your child/ren. As parents, of course we put our children first, of course we sacrifice for them, but a friend of mine made a very good comment and that was… ‘you can’t keep giving from an empty cup, you have to refill in order to be the best you can be’ it’s so true! Our wellbeing is just as important as our families, we just have to try and remember that and figure out that balance which I’m sure we’d all admit, is the bloody hardest thing to do!!!
I love the above quote. Whats the saying… it takes a village to raise a child? So why are new mums not encouraged to talk about their feelings? Or when they do talk, no one actually listens.. or passes comment like.. ‘but you’ve got such a beautiful baby’. Why are we left to get on with it after those first couple of weeks; when in my opinion thats the most vulnerable time. What is/should be the most amazing time of a women’s life, can also be the most traumatic, the loneliest and the scariest.
Lets be sure to look after each other