Today I wanted to speak out to all those new mums who at this moment are feeling tearful, lonely, beyond exhausted and perhaps slightly scared that they're going to get post-natal depression and I wanted to reassure you that what you're feeling is normal and that it will pass.
When you're pregnant you spend all this time anticipating the arrival of your baby. You feel so excited and can't wait to hold him/her in your arms. Everyone tells you about this incredible bond that you'll feel once the baby is born and it all sounds so perfect and in so many ways it is. However, no one can really prepare you for the huge spectrum of emotions that you'll feel in the early weeks and some of them can take you by surprise and be quite hard to deal with.
In my own case, I experienced:
1. Exhaustion: After a long and complicated labour I just wanted shut myself away to sleep and recuperate and found it very hard to deal with having a tiny baby to look after when I felt so utterly crap. I felt selfish and guilty for having these feelings but nevertheless, I did have them.
2. Fear of my baby: In many ways I was petrified of Poppy in the first few weeks. She was poorly when she was born and I was scared of how tiny and vulnerable she was and that something bad would happen to her. It seemed crazy to be scared of a tiny, helpless baby but I was.
3. Loneliness: When Mr UFM went back to work I felt intense loneliness to begin with. I couldn't wait for him to get home each night and counted down the hours. Things improved as I got the confidence to go out and meet up with NCT friends and eventually started to fill our days with little adventures. Getting out of the house is so important!
4. Fear of Post Natal Depression: The heady mixture of hormones and exhaustion can make you feel very down and teary. My experience of 'the baby blues' made me fear that I was getting post natal depression. It turned out that I didn't get it and that many of my fellow new mamas were experiencing exactly the same anxieties about PND. (I must add that if you do think that you've got PND there is SO much help and support out there. Don't suffer in silence...tell your GP/partner/health visitor and they will help you get through it. There's nothing to be scared of).
5. Bonding doubts: I was obsessed with the thought that I wasn't bonding properly with Poppy. So many people had told me about this instant and magical rush of intense love that I would feel and even though I instantly loved her with all my heart, it took time for me to really feel the bond that I had so much anticipated when I was pregnant. It was only when the Health Visitor assured me that I had bonded with Poppy that I began to relax about it and feel it.
6. Doubts in my ability as a mother: It took a month at least to have the confidence to believe in myself as a mother. After being successful in my career I was now doing the most important job of my life and felt like I had gone into an exam without doing any revision. I soon realised that this was something that I would need to learn on the job. Being a new mum was the biggest learning curve of my life but I eventually got the hang of it :0)
I haven't written this piece to paint a negative picture of being a new mum but in fact to reassure you. The thing is that all of the above emotions passed. They were overwhelming at the time but as the days went on everything became easier and more manageable. I also must stress that amongst the fear and exhaustion were some of the most beautiful and wonderful moments of my life.
So, if you're a new Mama and everything is feeling quite frankly a little bit shit right now, remember:
1. What you're feeling is totally normal.
2. Go easy on yourself and don't put pressure on bonding...it will come in it's own time
3. Everything will get easier soon. You'll soon be an expert in this mummy business
4. This difficult stage really does fly by. In fact, in a matter of months you probably won't remember much of it.
5. When you're ready, try and force yourself to go on little adventures with your new baby. Meet up with NCT friends, join a class, go to your local Children's Centre. Some cinemas even do special mother and baby screenings. It really helps if you're feeling a bit lonely.
6. Don't fear post natal depression. If you do think that you're getting it, ask for help. It CAN be sorted.
7. In a few months you'll start feeling a bit more like 'you' and less overwhelmed.
8. You're doing a great job...even if you sometimes don't feel like it!
9. This time next year the tiny creature you're holding in your arms will be toddling around and making you giggle with his/her clowning around.