When you are pregnant, whether it’s your first, third or fifth time, you have nerves and anxiety. It’s totally normal, first time round you panic you don’t know how to do anything, second time round you worry as it was so bloody hard with just one, and so the story goes on. It’s these natural fears that make us better parents, they keep our children safe and eventually they subside in our minds and we realise that, though no one is perfect, we are actually doing “okay” at this parenting malarkey.
My fears and anxiety didn’t stop, in fact they got worse, it started with Anya not being able to feed, and good god did I try. In hospital they said it would happen when she was hungry but days passed and her weight dropped so she was given a bottle. Then at home the breastfeeding nurse came out to try again and I remember her whipping my boobs out (right in front of my brother I may add) and putting all sorts of shields on my nipples, nothing worked. I felt like I had fallen at the first hurdle.
The feeling of failure continued, and as like so many other mums I was sinking into depression, I just didn’t realise it then or I just didn’t WANT to realise it. I would look at other mothers who seemed so natural and perfect (ha, as if any mother feels perfect), and there I was with a newborn feeding from a bottle, crying from colic (which I am sure was due to the bottle) and me, a mother who didn’t have a clue. I was a mess, on the inside. People would tell me how wonderful I was doing, praise me on Anya, but it didn’t matter, this was all about my self doubt.
My biggest mistake was not seeking help, I know why I didn’t though, when you are depressed and you feel worthless one of the hardest things to do is admit that there is a problem. I already felt like a failure to my child and so by admitting that this beautiful creature wasn’t giving me the joy and happiness she deserved, it felt like it would be another failing of mine. I couldn’t even be happy when I had been given the gift of happiness.
Silly thing about all of this was that I have a history of depression, in myself and through my family. I had been severely depressed as a teenager and really have no idea why at the age of 22 years old, having my first baby the doctors didn’t see this on my records, and maybe followed it up (not that I am blaming anyone else). My previous depression had been triggered by stressful events and issues in my childhood, but living with depression (as I now know i do), doesn’t just arise after such events and can come about at even the most wonderful times. Having a baby is a wonderful joyous thing, but the mix of your hormones going bezerk and the stupidly small amount of sleep (lack of sleep being my number one trigger to send me into depression), it’s no wonder so many of us suffer postnatally.
I carried on doing my best and it wasn’t until my daughter was over 18 months old that I eventually got help, my life changed going into the doctors that day, by now I was struggling with food too and what started off as a diet to get rid of the baby weight had become something I could control (losing weight felt like the ONLY thing I was good at). The doctor took me seriously and immediately put me on antidepressants and also referred me to a psychiatrist who in turn spent many sessions working through the past year, much of my childhood and my new eating disorder. Whats quite astounding was through these sessions with him and in a group I felt so proud of myself, so the fear I had before about the stigma attached to mental illness and how I would be failing my girl by admitting my depression were so unjust and untrue. Sorting myself out, I realised, was just as important as looking after my daughter and gave me the greatest feeling of achievement.
I continued taking antidepressants until I fell pregnant with my second child 4 years later, I came off the medication gradually and under doctors supervision. At the labour of my second child, medication was on hand if I felt that i needed to start it straight away (this was the advice of my doctor). After a fairly unusual labour, I insisted on a long spell of skin to skin time, and my new baby girl shuffled down and latched on, I felt calm and at ease, the feeling of her suckling was the most wonderful thing that as a mother I will never forget (I think i knew at this point that it was going to be different this time)..
Adapting to being a mum of two was far easier than being a first time mum, and though it wasn’t that I loved my second born more, I still had all the normal nerves and worries that come with a tiny baby, it was simply that this time the chemical imbalance wasn’t present. There is no rhyme nor reason why depression creeps up on us, postnatally or at anytime during our life it can happen.
Months into being a mum again I realised how different it was this time round and how much I had gone through previously, I was fiercely depressed after my first baby and though I never neglected my daughter it was a really rough ride. I wish I had sought help earlier but it hasn’t hindered my bond with my eldest, if anything it has made it stronger. She got me through one of the toughest times of my life and has grown up into the most amazing young woman, she got herself a place at grammar school and has a huge amount of self drive.
There were definitely moments when I felt she would have been better off without me, which makes me cry even to this day, but we got through it and as you can tell she is obviously a thriving very nearly 12 year old.
All of this was over 10 years ago and now the world is a different place. Year on year our acceptance towards mental health grows (don’t get me wrong, we have a long way to go) and the internet being the way it is has opened so many doors to support networks. I just want all mums to know that going and getting help, or reaching out to someone/anyone can make all the difference. No one will judge and people WILL help, my door (or inbox) is always open and I am happy to talk with anyone. Like I said, looking after ourselves is imperative in the welfare of our children, be proud of wanting to make yourself better.