Thursday, February 14, 2013
Anti and Post Natal Depression and the Lifting of The Fog
After telling the tales of my births and the feelings of failure surrounding the the first, I thought it might be appropriate to share a little bit about my pregnancy and early motherhood experiences.
I was never diagnosed with anti or post natal depression, thought I did at times wonder if I had it (see here). In fact, it was suggested by friends and family that maybe I should seek treatment. There were some very hard, very dark days but my doctor believed that while I did have some issues with anxiety, full blown post natal depression was not at my door.
Pregnancy and early motherhood are a tricky time. The stark contrast between overwhelming excitement, joy and anticipation paired with the loss of ones 'body' (read figure), career and independence make it a period of extreme adjustment.
A time that needs to be approached with tremendous tenderness, flexibility and understanding.
For me, pregnancy seems to bring out the beast within, just ask Dave. I'm like a thirteen year old girl in overdrive. Teary, shouty, impatient, irrational, tired and chubby- throw in the acne around my chin area and I think we've got a perfect match. Anxiety levels rise and any 'settled' feelings seem to run out the back door leaving the screen banging behind them.
I'm driven by a desire for complete control, cleanliness and organisation- pretty powerful forces for an average lady growing a baby. As I type this I can look down the hall into our office and see boxes strewn around, stashes of vintage fabric in piles and a disassembled cot leaning against one wall. Why, you ask? Because i'm pregnant again and there is a baby arriving in 10 weeks - a room to organise and a nest to feather. Things must be cleaned, deeply cleaned. Cleaned and tidied and organised. Everything must have a place and every place must be pretty.
This time though, the anxiety is less. It's still there, trying it's best to overcome me but this time I'm conscious of it and try to rein myself in a bit when I feel myself acting nutty (with varying degrees of success).
Consciousness is a powerful tool.
After the birth of Zeph I found myself swimming in a sea of newness, rock hard breasts and maxi pads. There was SO much advice, SO much literature, SO many 'right' ways to do things, but when it came to crunch time - it was just he and I (and the rock hard breasts and maxi pads).
Zeph was an unsettled baby and for such a long time I believed it to be an inadequacy on my part. Maybe I wasn't patting him the right way, maybe he was too hot, too cold, too gassy, over tired, not tired yet, still hungry, teething or over stimulated?
I just couldn't get him to be placid. He should be placid, shouldn't he?
On several occasions when we were out, friends would offer to 'take him for me' in an attempt to settle him themselves. It never worked. He would settle when he was ready. No amount of calm breathing, rhythmic patting or steady pacing would do it for it.
Sadly, it took me until the birth of the lady baby to realise that the beautiful boy just is who HE is. He's not my failings- he is God's creation and no, he shouldn't be placid.
He was and is an active, alert, vibrant individual. Sleep comes once every alternative has been explored and tears flow as frequently as laughter erupts from his lungs. He is full of life and a yearning to live it large.
Imagine my sigh of sweet, sweet relief to discover that it wasn't me, a dismal mother, who made/allowed her first born to cry so much. It wasn't the fact that I couldn't push him out that made him unsettled.
How could it be? If I could conceive, grow and birth two babies in exactly the same way, yet have two children with entirely different temperaments then there must be something greater at play here. Something more than my ability to feed and pat and soothe.
It seems basic doesn't it? The knowledge that our children are their own people, greater than the sum of their parents. But for me, at the time- it was groundbreaking.
Zeph was an independent creature from the moment he was born. He needs to figure everything out on his own terms. He is a deeply emotional child, busting out of his own skin with the excellence that surrounds him.
When little Pippi broke out of the womb, she was as placid as they come. Instantly at ease with her life, her big brother, her father and her mother. She slept soundly and cried very little. I did nothing differently.
She was an easy baby. Never the less- feelings of being overwhelmed crept on in.
It's not that I was miserable, it's just that being at home with two young kids is, well, hard... and boring at the same time. There is simply more to do than is possible for one person to accomplish on their own.
After about six or twelve months of feeling like I just wasn't coping, the fog lifted.
I wasn't actually achieving any more in my days - the house wasn't any cleaner, my children weren't suddenly fed on nutritious, organic, plastic wrapper free snacks and our dinner still remained uncooked at 6pm most nights - I just found the mental space to cut myself some slack.
I started to allow Zeph to watch a DVD during rest time, I would put on iview for 15 minutes before we would go out in the mornings affording me enough time to wee and put on some clothes, I let the washing pile up and the crumbs gather on the floor by choice not necessity.
I gave myself a big fat slap on the butt (with the help of a counsellor) and reminded myself that near enough really is good enough and that perfect parenting does not exist.
I took a step back from Zeph at the playground opting to watch him from afar while he engaged in his own independent play (yes, yes, yes, i can be a helicopter parent). I let him make mistakes on his own. I locked in some structured weekly activities and hooked up with the most amazing bunch of park mums any swing set has ever seen.
It was good conversation, community, a counsellor and a healthy dose of 'Emily, you really are good enough' that lifted that depression/ anxiety fog for me*. It took a good two and a half years but sometime in between Pippi's first birthday and conceiving the little bundle in my belly, I realised that I felt good. Mentally healthy 'good'.
As I approach the birth of baby three and walk the pregnant waddle for the third time, I can sense those same feelings of depression and anxiety swirling around me. Most of the time they woosh past quickly, only touching me briefly but from time to time they stick for a day or two.
I'm doing my best to be conscious and aware and know that I have the very best support system around me should I need them.
stay at home mumming and post natal depression
we found the magic
an attempt at context
birth and advice
case in point
having a caesar and being a failure at birth
*oh, you know it's still there a little bit. But it's not so crippling.