Mental Health - Mums Matter
29th April - 5th May 2019 is UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness week, the third annual focus on all aspects of maternal mental health by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership.
This year's theme is Mums Matter. It coincides with World Maternal mental health day on May 1st. Each day has a different theme and hashtag. The main ones are:
Here Deb shares her journey with her mental health and babywearing x
Post Natal Depression
According to the NHS approximately 1 in 10 women will experience Post Natal Depression ( PND) within a year of giving birth.
A study found that 25% of mothers were still suffering with PND up to a year after baby was born. Approximately 58% of new mothers with PND did not seek medical help.
I’m part of the 58%.
My first pregnancy, unfortunately, ended in a missed miscarriage at 5 weeks. This is where the baby stops growing but your body continues with the pregnancy. We found out at our 12 week scan. It was a big shock.
I think this was to play a big part in my PND when I had Annabelle. When I got pregnant with her, it was not the lovely, relaxing, enjoyable time you expect when pregnant. I was constantly anxious whether she was ok. We paid for an early scan, thankfully all was well. It eased my fear for about a week until it set in again. Each scan was a nervous wait to hear that heartbeat, followed by a period of short lived relief. It was quite exhausting. I don’t think I ever let myself relax and bond with her. I never wanted to in case she wasn’t going to arrive safely.
We made it to term with no issues, and I went into spontaneous labour on New Years Day 2014. I went to hospital, so they could tell me how to birth my baby. I had no idea that my body was perfectly capable of birthing a child with nobody there, nobody to watch me, nobody to examine me, nobody to tell me when to push! Back then I knew nothing.
I was tired and I wanted to sleep but I was uncomfortable and couldn’t lie down. I took some morphine and dozed, propped up on my side for most of my active labour! I started to push, the midwives heard her heart rate dropping (I now know this can be perfectly normal during delivery) so had to hook me up to a machine, only there wasn’t one, so we had to move rooms. From then on I knew it just wasn’t working. I was pushing, but felt nothing. I was pushing for an hour before they got the doctors in to assist me. I think we had two or three failed ventouse deliveries before a successful forceps one, which resulted in my 3rd degree tear.
After she was checked over and deemed fit and healthy Tim asked me if I wanted a cuddle with her. I didn’t, all I wanted to do was go away and sleep. I’d waited all this time for a perfectly healthy baby, and here she was, yet I wasn’t bothered. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I knew deep down right then, that I wasn’t right. But I got a healthy baby right? So I must be happy. That’s the end goal, healthy baby! Doesn’t matter about mum’s journey and how that might impact her.
I ignored the feelings, I ignored them for a whole year before finally seeking help.
I was sent home from hospital in pain, unable to sit, walk or use the toilet properly. On top of that I had this tiny baby that needed me 24 hours a day.
The midwives asked me to fill in their PND questionnaire when they came, and I lied on it. I think I was just trying to pretend I was fine, like I do all the time. ‘Ignore it and it’ll go away’ only it didn’t go away. I was tired, but I had a new baby that didn’t sleep. I was miserable, but I had a new baby that didn’t sleep. I seemed to have a reason for the way I felt. I went through each day just doing what I needed to do but never really enjoying any of it. I felt like I was living in a fog. I pushed away help from friends and family. I just wanted to be left alone.
One thing that played a huge part was the fact that I knew nothing about normal infant behavior and sleep patterns. Babies should start sleeping through at 6 weeks shouldn’t they? Babies need a routine don’t they? Babies feed every 3 hours don’t they? NO THEY BLOODY HELL DO NOT.
Babies are humans, little people with their own ways of doing things. I fought for years to get Annabelle into some kind of routine, and she fought me every step of the way, why? Simply because the routine I wanted her to have did not fit with her sleep cycles and body clock. And that is ok, I know that now.
I look back now and I’m utterly shocked that breastfeeding was as easy as it was. She was obviously very determined! But I had her on a schedule with that. Every 3 hours. If she was crying and 3 hours wasn’t up, then she couldn’t possibly be hungry! So I would rock her, walk around with her, change her bum. All the while wondering what was wrong. I cringe now thinking about it. All the extra stress and pressure I put myself under when giving her boob would’ve created instant calm.
She woke every 3-4 hours at night, every night (very normal!). Sometimes it was every hour. I knew nothing of growth spurts etc until a bit later on so I used to get so worked up during the nights. Plus I had her in her own room from very early because I didn’t want her with me, so I used to go sit, awake in a chair for up to an hour a few times every night. Utterly exhausting.
I couldn’t be bothered to make decisions about days out with family and making any sort of plans. It was too much to cope with. All my energy was being used just getting through each day.
I remember Annabelle’s first sleep over at the grandparents. I woke up the next morning and felt like me again. When Tim suggested we go and get her, I really didn’t want to. I remember so vividly just wanting to stay in bed and pretend I wasn’t a parent anymore. But we went to get her and I carried on.
I had to remove the pictures from when we went travelling, They made me feel so sad. That happy life I once had was gone. I was literally mourning my old life and my old body, that wasn’t torn and stitched.
Obviously I loved Annabelle, she was, and still is a very lovely little thing. We had some good days together, but there were a lot of dreary days too. It definitely affected my early bond with her, and that guilt will stay with me forever, even though I know it wasn’t my fault. I found it very hard to enjoy her first few months. It certainly doesn’t help the mental load when you see these parents loving all these precious moments, when you’re just pretending that you do.
It took a drunken night at my works Christmas party the following year for someone to tell me I had to see the doctor. I finally did. That is another blog though about trying to access help for PND in a helpful time frame!! I was on antidepressants for a while and they helped hugely. They lifted that fog and enabled me to see clearly again. I had some counselling too.
Once I had found babywearing, I found ‘my village’.
Slings gave me so much more than helping the physical bond between Annabelle and me. I found people that parent how my instincts told me to, it was ok to do these things. There were no rods for backs, no spoilt children etc. Nobody listening to ‘those books.’ A massive group of kind, accepting people.
Babywearing led me into finding out about ‘normal’ babies and children. Led me to finding out about birth, led me to find knowledge that empowered me to have my second birth my way. It was incredible, and could not have been more different to my first.
Knowledge is power. If we don’t have it, we cannot make informed choices about anything.
If I was given information about the 4th trimester, normal infant behavior, early feeding cues and normal infant development, I think a lot of my struggles could have been prevented. Nobody that we are in touch with antenatally show you where to find this info, or give it to you. How do we know what books are the factual ones, how do we know, as first time mums, that all Gina Ford books should be used as kindling?! It’s so hard, it’s all such a struggle.
I hope that by talking more openly about this we can try to break down the stigma of it and help people like myself feel that its ok not to be ok. Ask for help, trying to ignore it like me, just doesn’t work.