I’ve made no secret about how much I initially struggled after having my second baby, Baby L, last year. I’ve always tried to be super open and honest about it all in order to help others, and the amount of private messages and emails I’ve had across all platforms has made me realise that I’m definitely not alone. Research from Bepanthen has shown that more than two in three (68%) UK mothers have experienced some form of negative feeling in the first month of the arrival of their new baby. A huge 48% cited feeling lonely, while 41% claimed they felt they had lost their identity and 20% say they felt abandoned. Those are some scarily high percentages.
I have noticed recently that there is a lot more emphasis on new mums’ mental health and it is great to see it becoming less of a taboo to talk about. I always thought that I had gotten all my emotions out when I was younger. I suffered from Anorexia and spent a lot of my time anxious, sad and caught up in the difficult emotions that are involved with having an eating disorder. When I had my first baby, Little I, I struggled with the usual things that first time mums struggle with – isolation, loneliness, loss of identity and not particularly liking the way my post baby body looked (!!) – but nothing could have prepared me for the emotional battle I would face after having my second baby, two years later.
My husband was deployed at the time with the Royal Navy. He was on a six-month deployment and left when I was six months pregnant. I had a pregnancy scare the month before he left, and was admitted to hospital for a week, so emotions were already running high before he went. There were a lot of uncertainties about whether he would make it back for the birth, and if he did for how long, and over what would happen if I went overdue. Navy ships are notoriously hard to pinpoint when on deployment, and labour and birth are also rather hard to pinpoint down to a specific day, so it was a rather stressful time in the lead up to Baby L’s arrival! He did manage back for the birth but had to leave when L was seven days old.
I struggled massively with breastfeeding. I already knew it would probably be an uphill battle because I hadn’t managed to feed my first baby for more than a few days, but I didn’t realise how reluctant I would be to give up this time. I had always said, before I had L, that I wouldn’t be fussed if it didn’t work out again but something took over and I became so stubborn about it all. We stayed in hospital for five days to try and get breastfeeding established but it didn’t work. I had to start expressing and I exclusively expressed for four weeks, until he finally latched. It was so draining physically and emotionally and took up so much time. I got mastitis when L was two weeks old which was rather unpleasant and painful, and made me question why my body was so against me(which seems silly now!).
To add to the fun and games of the breastfeeding problems, my mum, dad and I noticed, when L was about three to four weeks old, that something just wasn’t quite right with him. He was never settled, he rarely napped, he always wanted to be held and had the most horrendous wind and nappies all day. He was eventually diagnosed with silent reflux and a cow’s milk protein intolerance which are pretty tough things to deal with emotionally. I have spoken a lot about it all in the past so won’t go into detail here but having a baby who screams at you nonstop for three quarters of the day is pretty soul destroying. I have never gone through anything like it before and wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. It also meant I wasn’t able to have much time for myself and ended up getting into a vicious cycle of not liking the way I felt and looked but not being able to find the time to do anything about it. I’m still trying to break that cycle now!
I think all these factors added up over time and began to take their toll when L was about 4 weeks old. I was utterly exhausted and so upset all the time. Compared to my first baby, who was easy going in comparison, I felt I couldn’t leave the house with L and I ended up feeling incredibly isolated and guilty that I wasn’t getting out for my daughter’s sake either. I would sit and cry for no reason. I would get a sickness feeling in the pit of my stomach around L because I was always waiting for him to start screaming again. I would fantasize about walking out the door of my parent’s house and never coming back. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right, not even changing nappies. It was as if my brain just shut off from motherhood and it was terrifying.
I believe I was pushed incredibly close to Post Natal Depression, or Post Natal Anxiety, and if I had gotten myself to the doctor then perhaps that is what would have been diagnosed. I am notoriously bad for not going to the doctor so if you are feeling anything similar to what I’ve mentioned above then please, please, please don’t be like me. Please go and see your GP.
Some other tips that I found helped me as a new parent are:
There is also a really great website called 10th Month that has a lot of supportive articles that you can check out here. It was 100% thanks to the support of family and friends that I managed to start building up my confidence and happiness. I had to start accepting help from them and to stop thinking I could ‘handle it all myself’. Once I changed that mind set, I was on the right path again. It was a very slow process but day by day I began to take pleasure in the simple things again and I am so grateful that Little I and I were up in Scotland staying at my parent’s house for a few months. I don’t know what I would have done without them and can’t thank them enough.
I’m sorry this has seemed like a rather negative post for me but I just wanted to raise awareness of my experience of my 10th month and how you should never feel alone if you are going through a tough time as well. There is a lot of support out there and sometimes just having a chat about it all and getting it out makes the world of difference.
Did you struggle at all in the first month after having your little one?
*I’m working with Bepanthen and BritMums in a paid relationship to promote Bepanthen’s 10th Month Campaign. Visit 10thmonth.co.uk for more information, advice and support in the time after new baby arrives.