Postnatal depression is a truly horrible thing. It can happen to anyone, whether you’re young or old, have been desperate for a baby or had a surprise pregnancy, has a traumatic birth or an easy one, even Dads can suffer. Becoming a parent is a huge life change and no matter how much you love your new baby (or how much you don’t) it can be a difficult adjustment to make.
I was diagnosed with postnatal depression after my son was born although, looking back, I had been depressed for much of my pregnancy too. I didn’t bond with my bump and I didn’t bond with him when he was born. As a former librarian I read a great deal about anything that’s going on in my life. I knew that not everyone falls head over heals in love with their baby the minute it was born. What I didn’t know was how hard that would make things.
When you give birth you are exhausted beyond anything that you’ve ever experienced before. Then you can’t sleep to recover because the baby needs to be fed. You no longer have any time for yourself (and if you did you’d be too tired to do anything). Everything seems to be about the baby. You also lose your freedom, you can no longer pop out for a walk without huge amounts of preparation. You can no longer make simple decisions for yourself without making sure that you’ve made plans for the baby too. All of this is bearable if you are in love with that baby. All of the sacrifice seems worth it. If you are indifferent to the baby, as I was, it feels like you have ruined your whole life and there is no way to fix it.
When he was six weeks old I broke down completely and told my Mum and my husband how I felt. I got help from them and my GP and by the time he was 6 months old I loved him more than words. It wasn’t a sudden moment, it was a slow change that crept up on me and one day realised I loved him. When he was 10 month old I went back to work part time but still felt like I needed something for me. I liked my job but I didn’t love it and I felt like the time I spent away from him should offer me more than that.
When I got pregnant with my daughter I was obviously worried about suffering from postnatal depression again. I decided that while I was on maternity leave I would do everything I could to follow my dream of starting a business. This would give me something for myself which I hoped would help me deal better with postnatal depression.
While I didn’t fall in love with my daughter the minute she was born, the bonding took much less time, I loved her by the time she was 6 weeks old. It was probably quicker this time because I’d already made the adjustment to motherhood. While it was hard looking after two children, I didn’t feel depressed. Even before I could really start work on it, knowing that I was going to be running my own business and making plans for that in the little pockets of time I found helped me to avoid feeling like I was losing myself to motherhood.
Women of our generation have often worked in high powered or interesting jobs before they have babies. They may have excelled in sports or had hobbies that they were passionate about. We are used to freedom and making our own choices. While these things are great, I do believe they make the transition to motherhood more difficult. In the end I was able to turn motherhood into an opportunity to follow my dream. I can’t imagine that I would have been brave enough to give up my full time job to launch a business if my life hadn’t already been changing in so many other ways. I love my children dearly now but I still need time to just be “me” instead of “Mum”. Running my business gives me that in a way that a job couldn’t. It also gives me the financial freedom to make my own spending choices. I don’t have to rely on my husband to buy things for me, something I’d have found difficult.
If you think you might be suffering from pre or postnatal depression the first step is talking to someone. Your Health Visitor or GP can help or below you’ll find the contact details for MIND and The Pre and Post Natal Depression Advice and Support (PANDAS) Foundation. Once you’ve take that step I would highly recommend trying to find some me time. For me it was running a business but a hobby, spending time with friends, exercising or anything else you enjoy doing can really help you hold on to your sense of self.
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