04 May Maternal mental health isn’t just about Post Natal Depression.
So, #maternalmentalhealth week is drawing to a close and I’ve been giving it quite a bit of thought. Having a baby is a wonderful, bonkers, frustrating, exciting and also sometimes really boring time. Your life is turned upside down by this new tiny person and of course, you are expected to be joyful about every moment. Your raging hormones might have something else to say about that though and new mums can often end up feeling isolated, lonely and really, really sad.
My little boy Hunter was an extremely fussy baby. He didn’t have colic, or reflux, or anything else I could attribute to the constant screaming, he was just FUSSY. The majority of my other NCT mum friends all seemed to have really sleepy, placid babies that they could tote anywhere and who latched on and fed like dreams (my BF-ing journey was extremely hard, but that’s a story for another day). I felt like a total failure: I couldn’t feed him, and I couldn’t settle him: surely the two fundamental things a new mum should be able to do?
Looking back on this time, I should probably have sought some professional help, but I soldiered on, had another baby quite quickly (within 18 months), moved house and started a job that I very quickly loathed. Not a recipe for good mental health. By the time I finally went to see my GP about my horrifying mood swings and temper and the days and days of endless weeping, the hormones that might be attributed to PND were long gone and I couldn’t blame my poor mental health on that.
Parenting is tough. Some people seem born to it, with endless patience and the ability to raise their kids without raising their voices. I am not that parent. I so wish I was but I have come to a place now where I have had to accept the person and parent that I am and even more importantly, embrace my style of motherhood.
Maternal mental health shouldn’t just be about the time just after you’ve had a baby, because, let’s be honest, every single stage that your children go through can be an enormous challenge for all of us: We are struggling with our four year old little girl at the moment, who can’t contain her temper tantrums when she is told she can’t have something she really wants. She routinely reduces me to tears and judging by the mummy friends on my social media timelines, I’m not alone.
If, like me, motherhood is anything but natural to you, don’t be ashamed. Go and talk to someone about it: a friend, your doctor, the mums on forums on parenting websites. You will soon discover that you are not alone and that help and support is there for you.
When I initially went to the GP he put me in a course of anti-depressants. Within two weeks, my moods were under control and my children no longer wondered which version of mummy they would be getting that day. They saved me, those little pills, and I will never be ashamed to say that I took them. However, after a year, I decided it was time to approach my mental health in a more holistic way. I invested in some supplements I had read were good for mental health, I started exercising again for the first time since I had my children (6 years!), I overhauled my diet, drinking and sleeping habits and I have been reading lots of books on mindfulness and the importance nature plays in good mental health (it is, serendipitously, National Gardening Week this week too!). All these small changes together have made an enormous difference to how I feel on a daily basis and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
As Blur so eloquently out it back in the nineties, Modern Life Is Rubbish…there are so many more challenges in our daily existence than there ever were before, with the power of social media only adding to our collective feelings of failure (remember kids, that perfect Insta-life you’re wishing was yours is just an illusion). So, mummies, take charge of your lives and of your mental health. Make sure you enjoy these fleeting years that your children are little and don’t let the moments be obscured by sadness and depression. The only moment that matters is the one you’re living in right now. Make it count. Make it happy. Happy Maternal Mental Health week to all you mummies and never forget, you are amazing!