As it’s the end of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, this feels like a good time to share my postnatal struggles. And it’s part of the reason I started The New Parent Company.
I thought I had it all sussed out! I had a background as a nanny and in training maternity nurses. I understood the physiology of newborn sleep and had even trained my body to cope with the lack of sleep after supporting other families with nights.
But nothing prepared me for… me! I had always felt my mental health was in good health, but so much affected me postnatally. And because I wasn’t prepared for it (and people were only just starting to talk about these things out loud), I struggled (and still do sometimes) with recognising it.
For me, I started noticing around 6 months postpartum. The picture I have shared sums up that period. Lying on the playroom floor (because the pain in my body, particularly in my joints, was so intense I couldn’t sit up), extreme fatigue like nothing I had ever felt before, bruises on my neck because I was Lexi’s comfort toy, so when she wasn’t breastfeeding, she was pinching me. Overstimulated and touched out with no respite. Crying without knowing the reason. Anxiety levels high and in a constant state of fight or flight.
When I finally decided to see my GP, I was sent for blood tests and referred to rheumatology believing I had an autoimmune condition (and was under this team for 18 months without finding anything).
Not once did anyone (including myself) look to my mental health and how there could be something going on there, triggering all the symptoms I was having.
The biggest trigger for me ended up being stress. Financial stress, 24/7 without help stress, back to work early stress (and so packing as much into my mat leave as possible on a budget, so burnout too).
All of this manifested itself as body pain. It then turned to rage. Red hot, feeling my body boil rage. Which came out of me by shouting at my child (something I had never done in my 20 years of being around children). So then set in more mum guilt and shame and I was in a never ending spiral of misery.
I didn’t recognise this person anymore, so I had to make many lifestyle changes and realise that my mental health was in ill health and needed help.
Lockdown came at the right time for me to shut myself away and work on me. And not put everyone else first.
It was when I recognised PTSD from my postpartum period. It’s when I took up running for my mental health. It’s when I started my journey of training to get to where I am today. Where I have learned from some incredible people who supported not only my education, but also my healing too.
It’s also when we decided that The New Parent Company was needed.
Maternal Mental Health doesn’t just fit into a box of ‘I’m ok’ or ‘I’m depressed’. It changes, sometimes daily. It’s more complex and fragile. It can feel lonely and isolating. But it doesn’t have to. Understanding that you are not alone and that there is support out there is the first step.
Parenting is bloody hard. We were never meant to do this alone. So please reach out to a partner, friend, relative, your perinatal mental health team, other professionals, mental health helplines if you feel you need some support.
What to know more?
‘Why postnatal depression matters’
by Mia Scotland for further reading or listening.
Click here to buy your copy.