This is me.….Married, Mum to a fab little lady, sarcastic, tired, matron to an awesome team of nurses.
I look happy right???
I am; I have an awesome life- my dream family, an amazing job and some fab friends. I’m also on anti depressants, I know my head isn’t entirely organised, often paranoid and over emotional.
If I’m totally honest I’ve probably experienced post natal depression; but it certainly took me more than the ‘post natal’ period to recognise that I was struggling.
I remember the midwife and health visitor doing the required mental health checklist; and telling me I was high risk. Apparently ‘older’ mums that are previously successful and career driven struggle with the transformation to ‘mum on maternity leave’.
I totally get it! You go from being a functioning and productive adult; to a tired Mum who finds it difficult to leave the house by midday.
Also the mental effect of IVF seems greatly underestimated. It has changed me forever! As a woman I feel my main role on this earth is to Mother; and I felt that was stolen from me. After going through years of fertility treatment, pregnancy then feels like a great pressure, and parenting an IVF miracle even more so.
Comments that I’m really lucky to be a Mum, that I should be grateful to have one child, and not be greedy in wanting more! No one says these things to the fertiles!! (more on this in a separate blog).
I remember feeling emotional, unable to cope, frustrated- I felt like a ‘beginner’! I felt I was crap at motherhood- from leaving work as a confident and skilled nursing sister- I felt that I was failing.
But …. I didn’t want to admit it.
Dorothea had some early weight loss- it took weeks and weeks of a tiresome breastfeeding, plus expressing and top up feed routine to get her weight up. I blamed myself – felt my milk wasn’t enough; luckily I had a great health visitor who supported me well.
Dorothea also suffered from reflux; if you’re a Mum of a reflux baby you’ll know the emotional effects of this. Reflux means everything takes more; more time, more patience, more washing, more packing, more understanding. Constant small feeds, followed by extended periods of sitting upright and winding, followed by a mess! Followed by numerous Muslins, outfit changes for both of us and daily loads of washing. Not to mention cleaning of carpets, furniture, the dog! Where spillages had also occurred- it felt endless.
Of course I blamed myself– also second guessed my choices and actions. Should she be going to the Drs, should she be on meds, were the meds making it worse, should I go dairy free, gluten free, spice free, should I stop breast feeding….. the list went on!
With both things I convinced myself they’d get better with time; and they both did. But in the meantime I judged myself- lots
I also had the return of my rheumatoid arthritis to deal with. Throughout pregnancy my condition went into expected remission- and I experience 9 wonderful months pain free. I actually felt more healthy when pregnant than I had for a few years prior to this. I struggled to deal with the pain and stiffness, on top of being a tired new mum.
I returned to work when Dorothea was 9 months- initially part time (using my holiday allowance to wean myself back on). I enjoyed this- felt it was a great balance! I loved being at work 2 days a week- I felt it gave me great purpose and helped me feel like a contributing adult again(being on Matty leave and heavily reliant on your partners wage makes you feel pretty shitty too). But it also made me realise and appreciate how much I loved being a mum! I missed my little lady when at work and always couldn’t wait to see her at the end of the day!
Three weeks after my return to work a tragedy struck; my friend and boss died suddenly! A major shock; a 31 week pregnant healthy mum to be, amazingly her angel daughter survived this. Obviously this was a emotional time; personally and also career wise. This meant increased pressure on me at work; both emotionally and workload wise, and I’d lost a friend and my biggest career cheerleader. Emma had great belief in me; and always supported me- she was a fabulous boss and made going to work much easier! This also made me look at life differently, as these things always do, wanting to live life to the fullest as you never know when that life can be taken.
When Dorothea was 15 months old I made the difficult decision to stop breastfeeding. Difficult; as I truly believe breast is best, and after my body failing me with infertility I actually felt feeding was something my body had succeeded with. But my body was failing me in other ways- my rheumatoid has returned with vengeance, and I felt my ability to be a ‘good mum’ was being affected. I therefore had to start on some new medications- medications that were not safe to breastfeed in. Again- this made me feel pretty shitty!
Let’s be honest at times I was bloody exhausted; Dorothea has never been a good sleeper, and pretty much woke 2 hourly until she was about 1. Even now ‘sleeping through’ is rare- and when it happens my body doesn’t adjust and I wake up anyway!
So to sum that all up! I struggled; I’m still struggling. I felt an enormous amount of pressure, that in reality I really only created myself. I judged myself, I felt inferior, I didn’t feel myself, I felt lost, I felt isolated, and I felt anxious.
It all came to a head last summer when myself and my partner (now husband) we’re having relationship difficulties. We were both having difficulties- and instead of opening up with each other and helping each other we fought. During one of the many arguments I admitted I was struggling.
I felt sad, not a bit down, but inherently sad and anxious everyday. And my biggest feeling was GUILT! I felt guilty, that although I finally had the family (and an awesome career) I’d always wanted, that I still felt sad. I knew I wasn’t right. So off I trotted to the GP (although in practise it felt a major accomplishment to admit I needed help- so not a ‘trot’ at all).
I’ve now been on antidepressants since August- upped doses and a drug change. I’m feeling better, I’m feeling okay, but still not feeling back to being ‘me’. And that’s okay- I’m still on a journey.
So the point of this blog? Quite selfish, a little therapeutic for me, helpful for me to get it on my head and on paper. But hopefully a message for you too- it’s okay to not be okay, it’s okay to admit you’re struggling, it’s good to ask for help, and it’s necessary to be honest with yourself and your support network.
TALK, ask for help don’t see it as a weakness but a strength.