Following on from mental Health awareness week 2017, it seems like a good time to highlight challenges that some of us are experiencing, that are impacting on our mental health but not talking about. As postnatal mental health is not always discussed as much as it should be, I thought it might be useful to share my experiences.
I can honestly say I am a proud mum of a 13 month old little girl and feeling like we’re winning most of the time. However, I am aware I may not feel this way tomorrow or next week. It’s definitely a take one day at a time situation and that’s ok.
I’m just going to go ahead and say it; this parenting lark is hard, hard work.
It wasn’t the pain of mastitis, raging hormones, or the chronic sleeplessness that tipped me over the edge. I‘m quite embarrassed to admit but it was something far far less important….. the seemingly perfect other mums, who had swishy hair, perfectly applied make up and bodies which had bounced back to normal. I kept asking myself, how did they have the time or the energy? These women had it all in my eyes; they looked amazing with a perfectly sleeping baby on their shoulder, all whilst looking relaxed and drinking a cup of tea in public. I was honestly proud of myself if I managed to get the baby ready and had a shower before 4pm. So when it got to the point where I didn’t have time to brush my hair, I decided my living room was the safest place away from perceived judgemental looks from these other mums, and constant advice from relatives and neighbours, who thought they were helping but they were eroding my thread bare confidence as new parent. I was the first to admit I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I was doing my best but feeling like a failure every day.
However, one afternoon, when my daughter was about 4 month old, I found a very crumpled piece of paper that my health visitor had given to me several months earlier about a mum’s group at our local GP practice. At this point I had shunned most baby groups due to comparison to other mums, who were obviously were finding motherhood a breeze. My health visitor had said it doesn’t matter if we both rocked up in our PJs so I thought about going. I’m not kidding when I say it took 6 weeks for us to make it to the group for 10am but we got there one Monday morning; ready to leave at a moment notice as it probably wouldn’t be for us. However, what I found were seven other mums, who all looked just as bewildered as me, worried about the same things and desperately asking each other for tips on how to get the baby to sleep, feed or stop crying and laughing about how unrecognisable their lives had become. I’d found a place I finally felt accepted, bedraggled hair and all. Those women saved my sanity and made me feel normal again but most importantly they talked about not being able to do it all and that it was OK. Then all of a sudden it happened, because I now had an outlet to rant about the new stresses in my life with people who completely understood, I started to enjoy this new life, with this new little person and have some fun and lots of laughs. I also realised that the mums I saw in the early days, the ones that I kept measuring myself against, were probably having one of those magical good days when everything goes right but the rest of the time they were like me, just making it up as we go along.
So if you are a new parent and feeling like I was, I just want to tell you that you’re not alone, it’s all normal, it’s still hard some days but it does get easier. There are loads of groups to join but find the right one for you or just find one person to talk to about how you’re feeling and it can make all the difference. You’re doing better than you think you are and there is always cake.