Having A Baby is an incredibly special time in a woman’s life. During pregnancy our bodies go through so many changes. As a woman there is nothing more empowering than giving birth. It truly is a miracle. It was amazing to think that I was growing a tiny little human inside of me. For nine months I focused on staying healthy, eating right and exercising. I looked after myself during my pregnancy better than any other time in my life. My pregnancy, labour and birth went well and to be honest I never gave much thought to bringing the baby home other than all the necessary bits and bobs I needed. I certainly never thought about my emotional wellbeing until I wasn’t well.
I expected a movie like experience post birth. I was waiting for an overwhelming rush of love to engulf me and literally sweep me off my feet, once the epidural had worn off of course! The truth is I felt quite numb. It took a while to sink in that this little person was my responsiblity and I became quite nervous. He was so tiny that I was even afraid to bath and change him initially. I coped quite well though in the beginning as I had great support around me. I managed to eventually succeed with breastfeeding and the love I felt for James was simply unconditional. I’d sit and stare at this perfect little boy and I knew I had been blessed. However a couple of months after that I began to feel loanly and isolated. I cried all the time and couldn’t even change a nappy. I’m a single Mum and I put enormous pressure on myself. I went back to work far too early. I was exhausted, worried, anxious and became very sad. I mourned for my old life and felt incredibly guilty about this. Having suffered from depression before I knew I needed help. I went to see a doctor and my road to recovery began. I was very anti-medication but came to understand that James needed me to be present and I also wanted to get better for James. I changed my diet and began to exercise but most importantly I also began counselling which has been and continues to be the most important part of my recovery.
What I’ve learnt, is that when you become a parent there is a huge period of adjustment. We put so much pressure on ourselves and each other these days and are constantly bombarded with images and happy stories from celebrities who pop back into shape and both look and feel great. I did lots of shoots and put on a brave face but underneath it all I felt scared and sad. Through counselling I began to understand my fears and deal with my issues. The right kind of therapy and talking about your feelings has a huge part to play in the fight against depression of any kind. Holding it all inside is like waiting for a time bomb to go off. It causes stress, illness and affects your relationships with your friends and family. Early intervention with PND means that you will get better quickly. Up to 60% of women will suffer from some form of babyblues or PND during the first 6 months. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed off. It does not make you a bad Mum but you need to take care of yourself as well. When we have a baby our focus and attention shifts from us and our bump solely to the baby. We’ve gone from taking care of ourselves so well to completely ignoring our own needs. Throw in a lack of sleep, piles of washing, cooking and cleaning into the equation and it’s no wonder we feel the way we do.
Here are my top tips to help combat PND
- Try to get as much rest as possible. Sleep when the baby sleeps or ask someone to take the baby for a walk while you nap
- Try to have at least a 10 minute walk every day with the baby
- Taking baby steps is the key eg. Take a shower. I know this can be hard when you’re tired but it will do wonders for how you’re feeling.
- Keep a diary of how you feel and try and write down 10 positive things that happen each day no matter how small e.g. changed a nappy or fed the baby. When you start to see what you are doing you will stop focusing on what you’re not doing
- Eat well. A good breakfast is essential. Cut out fried, fatty and sugary foods.
- Join a local mum and baby group so you can ask questions and learn from other mums. (www.meetmums.ie for listings in your area) It’s also great to get out and about.
- Talk, talk, talk… tell someone friend/partner if you’re not feeling well or go online and talk to other mums (www.rollercoaster.ie) and ask questions
- Trust in yourself ‘mum knows best’ and know that you will return to the ‘real you’ soon
- Talk to your GP about your options and if necessary find a good counsellor
- As women we need to support each other more and try to be a bit more open and honest. If you feel your friend needs help try and talk to her