Hi everyone. It’s been a while!
August was a strange month for me. I sadly lost my Grandad at the very end of July and his birthday would have been in August. Alongside that work has been busier than ever too (which has been great for business but my husband and I have barely seen each other!) and my son decided 5:30am is now the time he wants to start his day regardless of what I seem to try. He's also now on the move crawling, climbing, pulling himself up, falling when he pulls himself up as he thinks letting go is really funny...and that's all a whole new ball-game and exhaustion level combined! So I haven’t really been in the right head-space to write unfortunately. But now I’m back and don't plan on being away that long again!
So we left off having talked about the 6 week survival but it’s very important to talk about those early weeks even more. Those first weeks are a full blown shock to the system. Alongside your own physical recovery from labour, which takes its own time and toll regardless of how you delivered, you’ve got a brand new screaming tiny person who’s completely dependent on you and the antenatal classes where you learned to change a nappy on a doll and bath them seem a distant blurry memory. Add in any issues like struggling to breastfeed, colic, reflux and more and well you will probably feel like an absolute mess. I did anyway!
A month in to motherhood and I had already started receiving support for my postnatal anxiety and depression. One of the tasks I had to do was keep a ‘Thought Diary’ to then review these thoughts later and basically realise why the unhelpful thoughts were incorrect. But just for a taste here’s some of my thoughts recorded when my son was 5 weeks old:
3am - baby feeding every hour - felt exhausted and drained- “I can’t do this.” Had to go hand baby to my husband as he was screaming
Noon - baby crying and husband going to work - felt overwhelmed - “I just want to run away”
4pm - baby not sleeping - felt like I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m a bad mum - “worried he’s not getting enough sleep and is overtired”
6pm - baby feeding, struggling to latch due to gas/colic - felt worried and upset- “I’m worried he’s not getting enough” “I can’t keep doing this [breastfeeding]”
7:30pm - sitting cuddling baby - felt overwhelmed - “it’s so hard with a newborn how am I going to keep going”
1:30pm - baby asleep for first time in hours - felt exhausted and drained - “I don’t want anymore children”, “I don’t know what I’m doing or how to cope”
2:30pm - mother in law came over to help and took baby out so I could sleep - felt tired and overwhelmed - “feel like a failure” “I should be able to do this without help”
10pm - baby screaming while trying to settle him - exhausted, overwhelmed, upset and frustrated - “what have I done having a baby” didn’t want to touch him, husband took him - fleeting thought of “maybe everyone would be better off without me” - vocalised this to my husband and he supported me. [A retrospective note here - I will say this is the one and only time I thought this and it was incredibly fleeting and at a moment of sheer exhaustion. My husband was there and I said it and he immediately supported me and I was lucky to never feel that way again but I included these notes specifically as this was my darkest day]
10am - baby crying - feeling exhausted, overwhelmed - “feel like everything I try to do is wrong”, “don’t know what to do” “am I feeding him enough” “is he sleeping enough”
And that’s just a snippet.
It makes for some pretty sad reading. I look back and feel so sorry for that version of me. I felt so lost and exhausted and couldn’t believe it would get better. But it did. It took time and professional support alongside the love and care of my family and friends, but it did. Looking back at those notes I can quite clearly now see the spiral of the same thoughts that always ultimately came back to “I think I’m a bad Mum” that I couldn’t see at the time. One thing I had to do in my CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which helped, so I’m sharing in case it helps anyone else, was actually list off out loud what I thought was a “bad mum”. For me that list included some really basic stuff like:
Not loving your baby
Not caring for them
Not feeding them
Not keeping them clean
Not looking after them
Not meeting their needs
Then my therapist turned to me and said are you doing any of those things. The answer was no. “So by your own logic you’re not a bad Mum!” she said with a smile. And that stuck with me. It made me realise that I wasn’t the bad Mum I thought I was. I was just a new Mum adapting to my new life. And actually I was, and am, a bloody good Mum and I continue to tell myself that. I still have days where I don’t always feel great but that is normal! But if you feel you need support please speak to your GP or a Midwife or a partner or a friend...just someone, speak to someone. Because it makes you feel a whole lot better!
And remember we’re all just bumbling along doing the best that we can. Sometimes days go well and sometimes you’re counting down the minutes until bedtime and that is normal and that is OK. We all do it!