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Managing PND and Parenthood

It's OK to not feel OK

Asking for a helping hand can make all the difference

I think it was the longest two minutes of my life – is it a single line? Is it definite? Watching carefully for any negative cues from my husband… what if…? Yes! It’s a positive! We’re pregnant! 

“OMG we’re PREGNANT! 

But are we really cut out to be parents – really? We hardly know how to look after ourselves if I’m honest. And how can we afford to have a baby? We can only just afford this bigger mortgage…”

So, with this much awaited and exciting diagnosis also comes unwanted, negative and very normal questions.

From my own experience, my pregnancy was uncomplicated. Yes, nausea and sickness, uncomfortable sleeping, cravings and mood swings – but these are very normal “side effects”. I remember craving pickled onions and literally drooling at the sight of them in Ian Beale’s fish and chip van on Eastenders!

I read up, of course, (Google hadn’t been invented yet – a blessing or a curse, I don’t know), and discovered that these symptoms were to be expected. I carried on working and maintained a regular exercise regime involving yoga and swimming. I hated getting fatter and secretly felt resentful that I was no longer in control of my body.

As I ballooned out in the heat of the Summer with swollen ankles and breasts, I began to get really anxious. All the questions that I had asked myself waiting for my test result started to present themselves again. To be fair, I didn’t have much faith in either of our parenting abilities and neither did my husband – we were in the dark.

I only realise with hindsight that I started showing symptoms of pnd even during my pregnancy. I remember having awful visions of driving into a brick wall or or fainting and falling in the street with no-one knowing who I was or that I was pregnant. The same sensations happened in my second pregnancy too. It was only when one of my friends at the time remarked that “having a baby changes your life, but doesn’t end it. Life still goes on.” that I realised how stressed I was.

My son arrived kicking and screaming on his due date and latched on without a problem, despite a tongue-tie.  I loved him immediately and without reservation and beheld with awe and wonder this perfect human being that we’d created – a huge relief because I was secretly dreading that I might not bond with my baby… was I a “natural” mother?

The depression started around 8 weeks after the birth – after all the interest and visitors had died down and my husband had returned to work. I wasn’t even aware I had it to begin with, I was so tired. It was just that life was difficult; my husband left in the mornings with a cursory goodbye kiss while I was in my pyjamas breastfeeding our son – and then returned 12 hours later to find me in the same room, in the same chair, in the same position, in the same clothes, doing the same thing. “How can you be tired?” he’d ask. “What have you been doing all day?” 

 I was exhausted! I fed on demand and tried to combine this with a strict schedule as suggested by Gina Ford. When my son did sleep, I’d be scurrying around like a crazy lady, trying to get on top of the loads of washing, housework, cooking and cleaning. Trying to get the house in some kind of order, dinner prepared, washing and shopping done before my husband returned. And of course I was combining this with taking my son to various appointments and activities and meeting up with other new mums for sanity’s sake.  I think “over-scheduling” and over-stimulating our children these days has become the norm.  I only realised that things were really not working out when I had to leave a spare key with THREE different neighbours because I kept locking myself out.  I remember wandering around a supermarket car park one dark winter’s evening without a clue where I’d left the car or my keys!

My husband was very particular about how he liked things to be – and I ended up really struggling with this. I am a tidy person and like things put away and I kept things pretty much under control. But it was my Dad who pointed out that living this way was impossible and that something had to give. I didn’t understand what he meant at first, but he was right. I had very little emotional support from my family or my husband – which I blame myself for to an extent, because I didn’t ask for it.  The thing that had to give – was me! My sanity!  It was the Health Visitor who explained that depression can affect anybody, regardless of social standing, wealth or education.  I felt guilty – of course… there is just SO much guilt with parenthood; and I felt a failure too – how could I not do it right? Other people made it look so easy.

Thank goodness for the new mummy friends I made along the way, via the NCT (which is why I’m volunteering for them now), and nursery groups. If it weren’t for them, I would have gone mad.

So, my advice is:
– notice any signs such as weird visions, day dreams and thoughts about death of you and/or your baby/children

– Surround yourself with support even if it’s not your family.  This is CRUCIAL!

– Put your baby in a nursery for some time out if you need it without feeling guilty (I know, right!!)

– Develop a routine to your week to make you go out and socialise with other new mums (but balance it with downtime and snuggle time at home too…)

– Manage expectations with your spouse around housework and chores – your health is more important that a show home (get a cleaner if you have to, even for a short-term; or a post-natal doula who can hold the baby while you have a shower!)

– Remember – you spending time caring for your baby is a very demanding and rewarding occupation… and somehow, the years will suddenly pass incredibly quickly. 

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