Mental health in pregnancy, birth and beyond
Eight months into being a mother, it hit me. Depression, together with its best friend, anxiety, came for an unplanned visit and as I write this months later, things are still very difficult, with the depression and the anxiety coming and going as they please, but I’m OK. I’m OK, not to be OK.
The most beautiful soul I have ever met, graced my husband and I with his presence in May of 2018 and what an amazing first year it has been. The cuddles; the late night/crack of dawn feeds; minimal sleep; bath time; nappy changes; weaning; playtime; teething; nappy changes; learning to crawl, walk and speak – and did I mention nappy changes?
How many blessings to have in one year. I have to pinch myself sometimes to check this isn’t just a wonderful dream. It is in fact reality, my reality, that this little boy is my baby boy and my absolute life’s purpose. How lucky am I? This most magical first year of being a mother, as amazing as it has been, has also brought many mental health challenges my way. I am not only learning to be a mother, but I am now also learning to accept and love the new me.
For seven out of my nine months of pregnancy, I was frankly scared of everything and anything going wrong. I made a decision that for my last two months of pregnancy, to work on just trying to worry less and enjoy this pregnant chapter of my life. This was much easier said than done but I really did have an amazing last two months of pregnancy where instead of fearing for this baby and what ‘could go wrong’, I looked forward to his daily kicks and hiccups and enjoyed this beautiful baby growing inside of me. I didn’t unfortunately wave a magic wand, I had to work very hard on ‘me’. I spoke openly about my fears, hopes and dreams; I attended Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT); I took early maternity leave to focus on me and my baby, as well as attending the mental health midwifery clinic attached to my local hospital. This internal work I was doing, together with the support of my incredible husband, family and friends, all helped me get to where I wanted and where I needed to be, in the preparation for my little man’s arrival.
I am a big believer in therapy and I hope that anyone struggling with poor mental health, gets help. It can be free, you can self-refer, you can choose to do it face-to-face, over the phone or online. So, if you are needing some help or just a nudge in the right direction, or know someone who is struggling, please speak up. You can reach out to your GP for a list of local therapies available or simply go online to see which type of therapy is right for you, whether it be CBT, counselling or other types of therapy. For employers, please check out Mental Health First Aid England, where they are helping drive mental health awareness in the workplace.
After being flagged as ‘high risk’ for mental health during my pregnancy, I thought I was going to experience baby blues (which can come in around day three when there is a hormone shift) but I didn’t, no baby blues. I thought I was going to experience postnatal depression but I didn’t. I don’t think. What did occur was I was back at work in January of 2019 and it happened. Depression. I found myself missing my baby so much whilst at work and felt like I was completely missing out on everything. My husband was daddy day care at the time and what a great job he was doing. This wasn’t a case of my baby not being well looked after, I was experiencing a sort of separation anxiety from my baby boy. But I just had to keep working long days and ‘deal with it’.
Whilst still struggling months later, I finally quit my job in order to enjoy time with my little man but also to work on myself. Self-love, self-care and mental health improvements, including daily meditation, yoga and therapy. Some days are good, others bad, others really bad – but I remain honest with myself and others. It really is OK, not to be OK. You are not a failure or ‘damaged goods’ which is how I would often label myself. You are real, showing your true colours and just going through a difficult time. You are exactly who you are meant to be for now and that is OK. All I know is that we have to truly accept ourselves and support others in whatever way we can. We need to remain an open and honest society, and most importantly please, be kind to one another.
At TheBabyChapter, we are dedicated to improving the quality of antenatal classes, ensuring soon-to-be parents are well supported and know all the information needed to make the right decision for you and your baby, in this new chapter, TheBabyChapter