For new parents, any sort of wellness regime can often become a distant memory! As a Doula I have been lucky enough to provide support to new mothers whilst gaining a
significant understanding of mental health. I myself suffered from Postnatal Depression with my eldest daughter (now aged 24).
I remember feeling extremely anxious from the minute she was born. I wasn't confident with breastfeeding, I didn't know how to settle her or stop her from crying, in fact any knowledge I had of babies seemed to disappear. I loved her so much and felt such overwhelming protection towards her, I was worried I wouldn't be able to look after her on my own. I didn't know anyone local to me with a baby, my only other friend who had a baby in my friendship circle lived in Battersea and I didn't have a car at the time. No family living nearby. It felt like my world was closing in and I felt trapped with a little human, I had no idea how to take care of? I was so frightened and felt extremely isolated. I rarely left the house in those first few months, as I was so worried trying to take care of her outside the house would be harder than at home. I was lonely, exhausted and anxious the whole time! This was not how I imagined motherhood to be.
Luckily for me I had a wonderful Health Visitor, who noticed that I wasn't coping very well. She told me about a local group for mums with PND and offered to refer me. I am so glad she did, because this group changed the course of my life. The group had a creche and activities for the mums to do together. It was 2.5 hours of pure joy each week. I had a break, I made local mum friends and we did lots of fun activities from yoga, to first aid, line dancing to calligraphy. We also had talks from various people, one of whom inspired me to go back to University and do another degree, which launched my very successful career in the health sector. I grew in confidence as a person and a mother. I made such good friends, some of us are still friends now, 24 years later. I was happy again and my bond with my daughter grew stronger. We have had a wonderful relationship over the years, despite the beginning being one of such extreme fear.
We didn't have the wonderful activities and baby groups we have now. There was no Facebook or social media to reach out to other mums. Society has definitely become a more 'mother friendly' and 'baby friendly' place to be.
My personal experience and my work as a Doula has made me very conscious of how important it is for mums to understand that it's OK, not to feel OK? We do not ALL sail into motherhood easily. It is life changing for most of us and it can feel daunting at the best of times. However for some of us, it can lead to anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. Postnatal Depression is not something to be ashamed of. It does not make you a bad mother, or a weak person. Motherhood is a journey that requires understanding, nurturing and support.
So if you are struggling, please tell someone. It can completely change your life, it did mine!
Perinatal mental health does not always start postnatally, it can happen at any point in your pregnancy or in the first year after your baby is born. If you or a friend or family member is suffering, there are some wonderful groups and organisations that can help.
Here are a couple I recommend to my clients.
Equally speak to your G.P or Health Visitor, they will support you.
Just remember it doesn't matter who you are, or how successful you are in your career or other aspects of your life, it can happen to anyone, it happened to me.