I can vividly remember screaming down the phone at my husband, “I’m not coping, I’m not coping, I can’t do this” and at the time I really meant it as well. I had that swollen ball of anxiety inside me, a mixture of self doubt, exhaustion and sheer blind panic.
You would think this was after I had my first baby, or perhaps my second child but no this was after my third. When I should have been a seasoned pro. I knew the drill, I could literally feed and change a baby in my sleep, this wasn’t the problem. It was looking after myself. As a mother your focus is your children, are they happy? Are they healthy? etc etc but at what point do you sit and ask yourself the same questions?
Your first child is hard enough but when it comes to 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. you are treated very differently. It is assumed you know what you are doing and if you don’t you know who or how to ask for help. For me this was not the case, well apart from the screaming at the husband who I’m sure sat in his office miles away in central London felt pretty damn helpless.
I like to think of myself as a relatively hardy person, I try to knuckle down and get on with things, “survival is the key” is my mantra but sometimes the wheels come off and I just want to climb under my bed and take a little break from this adult world I am now entrenched in. The one thing you and everyone around you must understand is that this is perfectly normal. Dealing with the Mum guilt of feeling as though you are neglecting the existing children and the tiny vulnerable newborn, all because your older children don’t yet know how to put the fish fingers in the oven or have a bath themselves means you are constantly having to think about 100 things at once before you have even added into the equation, your good self!
Feeling so tired you could fall asleep standing up, zooming with hormones and trying to return both your mind and body back to its pre-birth self is damn hard work and I for one found that everyone enquires about how the baby is? How the siblings are coping with the new arrival? You get very forgotten about.
I was so scared of being labeled with post natal depression that I avoided speaking with my Dr. or health visitors. 3rd child down, I’m also a seasoned pro at appearing to cope, humour is usually my coping mechanism so when I mentioned to a friend of mine I had recently started taking anti-depressants and I was going to look into finding someone to talk to she was completely shocked. It was when I spoke to her in a very frank and honest way she said she wasn’t surprised as I had so much on my plate, so much going on and so little time for myself that I started to feel less guilty about ‘not coping’.
On a side note: when I actually did get the courage to speak to my GP she didn’t know of an anti-depressant that I could take whilst breast feeding, she even asked that as my son was 7 months would I be able to stop breast feeding him in order to take them. I know….shocker that maybe a new Mum who is breastfeeding may have to take an anti-depressant but after some research we managed to find the right medication. I have found through all of this breastfeeding Monty has been a massive help to me, a moment of calm and cuddling in a usually hectic day as well as the science behind it!
I am by no means over my anxiety but I feel like now I am making progress and taking one day at a time. I am also a lot more open with my other Mum friends about how I’m doing, never underestimate how helpful it is to know other people are going through the same shit. Its can be a lonely place being a stay at home Mum, so find your tribe and find support. Don’t feel embarrassed or a failure by saying “Hey, I’m not OK”.
I am planning to make some changes to my everyday life to take better care of myself. A more holistic approach appeals to me, eating healthier and getting some exercise when I can. I am going to try and worry less about the little things and make some time to do something for myself because if the wheels come off Mummy, we really will be in trouble!