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.



31 comments:

  1. You are one of the most awesome bloggers there are Em. As a mum of three a decade a head of you I take my hat off to you for your insight, wisdom and sense of yourself:)

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    1. Just reread that and want to clarify - you are so far ahead of me at the same point...didn't mean I'm older and wiser nah nah nah:))
      You rock Em!

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    2. You are one of the most encouraging women there are, Libby!

      xo em

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  2. What Libby said! ....and all the rest! It's a roller coaster! xx

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    1. it is a roller coatster, thats the truth!

      In other news, you have THE most delicious blog EVER!!! your shop, kill me now- it's perfection!

      xo em

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  3. I remember after my first was born crying on the phone to my sis in law...whats wrong? And I said... Im just so happy....
    I was miserable!...
    But I now have three boys, and each time my expectations changed altered and grounded... I hear that in your words too.
    We are used to the lack of freedom, independence, space, serentiy and control....
    yet somehow it rocks even more!
    And it is so fleeting... this time.
    I love seeing watching and listening to my kids together...surprises every day...good and bad!

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    1. It is so fleeting and not to be wasted. It's all a blur of love and tears and... exhaustion!

      xo em

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  4. Perfection is the nastiest master. High fives for good enough.

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  5. This is such a great post!
    Thank you so much for sharing all of this.
    Motherhood is so hard.
    I too was struggling and while like you I haven't been diagnosed with depression, I find talking to a counsellor to be so helpful.
    It is so reassuring to lay it all out there, have someone not involved in your life listen to you, acknowledge that it is a hard road and tell you to take it easy on yourself.
    And I totally agree that being conscious of your moods and emotions makes for a smoother road...still not easy, but easier!

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    1. Yes, while it's not really 'depression' it's just acknowledging that its a hard gig and help is NEEDED. Not a luxury, a requirement! A good talk with an independent 3rd party helps :)

      xo em

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  6. So honest and raw Em, beautifully written. I think you're an inspiration. When you're smack bang in the middle of it, it IS hard to see through the fog. I have felt exactly the same way, often, over the past 5 or so years. I think consciousness is definitely the key xo

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  7. I'm just about to have my first baby, and have been thinking just how I'm going to do everything. Its post like these that take the pressure off, so thank you for sharing!

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  8. Absolutely wonderful that you are articulating all these things. Having other mothers around and watching all the children interact and grow together has always helped me understand the beauty of each of my individual children. My first one was a fussy, inconsolable, willful baby and my second, was as calm as a quiet star filled night. My 3rd has also proved that there are no rules for this equation of personality. He is who he is and I am so grateful each one is so different and unique. I also have suffered depression and anxiety surrounding the births of my boys and it wasn't until after my 3rd that I really understood what it was. Brava for helping bring awareness to this painful part of having such joyfilled gifts. Again, remember you have your own gifts, and they are unique and beautiful as well. xo

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  9. I wish I'd read this when my eldest was a tiny baby, and I was feeling like a failure for my lack of a natural birth and my inability to breastfeed, and I cried every day for weeks. I still don't cut myself enough slack. Not many mothers do, more's the pity. Great post, well written and breathtakingly honest as usual.

    Gillian x

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  10. I think a support system is an absolute given for a Mama with a newborn. A circle of friends who will come over and do stuff around the house for you while you get to know your new babe. Someone to take your others to the park and let them have a play. Instead of bringing gifts for the baby, bring over some dinner. No baby cuddles but hey, there is a load of washing that you could through in the machine for me.

    Maybe this too might help take the pressure of a bit.

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  11. Traci Sparkle DevlinFebruary 15, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    You are perfect. Just as you are xx

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  12. your honesty is reassuring. I'm welcoming my first in the first week of August (hopefully) and want to know the 'real' world not the fluffy everything will be right type of world

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    1. Thats very exciting news Peta! It's a beautiful journey, whatever way it happens :)

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  13. “Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did - that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that - a parent's heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”
    ― Debra Ginsberg
    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

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  14. I love that you shared this in such a down to earth way, like chatting with a friend over a cuppa. I've been through similar stuff, just recognising it retrospectively! (Oh so THAT'S what I was feeling back then...) Anyway, the more I share my story with friends, which at first I completely avoided doing, the more I see nodding and agreeing and hear all these beautiful, strong, creative, intelligent women, saying "me too." You just never know who you'll help by sharing. Thanks :)

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    1. isn't 'me too' just the most comforting phrase a friend can utter?

      xo em

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  15. Oh how i could've done with your wisdom as a new mum! So, so true that they are what they are right from the start and really there's not much you can do to change that - just embrace it :)

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  16. I love how you write Emily and that you share your feelings so honestly. I too have a very spirited wee boy, and have come to similar realisations as you have. I also struggled with post natal depression. I just wanted to let you know that your words have always made me feel reassured and remind me that I like you very much! I can't wait to read you over the year to come, jo xx

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  17. Thank you for sharing this. I went through an 18 month depression after having my second. Most people said that "having their third" was the hardest for them and I thought, "Well, then we're staying with 2." I have been a proud mother of 3 for 2 1/2 years now and I can honestly say it just got easier with 3. It got easier because, like you, I had a mental shift, I felt comfortable in the way I mothered, not compared to anyone else... thanks for the reminder.

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  18. Wow amazing how you write with such courage. Thanks for sharing. This place feels me and so many with joy and you create that. You are a little star. Thank you...xxx

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  19. Hi I'm Heather! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog! LifesABanquet1(at)gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
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Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em