Wednesday, 2 May 2018

World Maternal Mental Health Day

World Maternal Mental Health Day

I have started and stopped writing this countless times, because the whole idea of sharing has made me anxious and panicky.

I began to worry about how this post would be received.

I don’t want to be in receipt of a sudden surge of guilt induced sympathy and offers of help. I don’t want people to think I’m incapable of looking after my children. Or a danger to them. I don’t want people to blame my feelings upon our parenting choices, and brush off my worries as unimportant.

There is still stigma around mental health issues.

People do judge.

Loneliness is belittled as laziness. There are plenty of people out there to be friends with - what’s the problem?

Anxieties are knocked back with a brief, “Oh, you don’t need to worry about that.”

Depression is ignored because it’s too difficult to deal with, and sufferers are told to get out in the fresh air or to try this new supplement, or simply to “cheer up!”

In America, those against gun control use the argument that its people with mental health issues who are the problem.
People keep quiet for fear of being labelled dangerous.

A Bible study on anxiety that the Hubby started reading the other day informed him that worry is a sin. That it’s denying God’s sovereignty. I told him to stop reading. That it was unhelpful and untrue.

What about David, Jeremiah, Job? Were they not worried and depressed and anxious?

We judge ourselves.

How can we be so unhappy when we’re surrounded by wonderful, beautiful things?

Why are we worried about things that haven’t even happened? And probably won’t.

Postnatal depression is so utterly confusing. There’s a beautiful little baby there, but Mum feels beyond sad.

Antenatal Mental Health issues are even more hidden. We hear very little about them.
From Anxiety & I on Facebook
I am suffering with anxiety. About everything. It might be Antenatal Anxiety, or it might be the result of situations I’m finding myself in.

My anxiety is worse during this pregnancy than it’s ever been, but it has certainly been there since after B’s birth and has become worse over the years.

From the get go, becoming a mother was difficult. I never had the rosy, joyful, laying in bed with my newborn time that others seem to have.

I had 56 hours of being awake, trying to feed a screaming baby with bleeding, shredded nipples.

I had a 4 day long hospital stay where our voices were ignored, where my choice to breastfeed was belittled and sabotaged. I had a battle to get tongue tie resolved. I had 4 weeks of nearly constant breastfeeding, which resulted only in my baby starving and losing weight to the point that she looked unwell.

I had the discovery that my breasts are faulty and I was one of those rare women who can't exclusively breastfeed.

I had to learn how to use formula, how to bottle feed, how to pump.

I had to forget my Earth Mother dreams and hide my shame at giving bottles in public.

I had to time every outing to fit around bottle feeds.

I had to breastfeed, then top up with formula, then express for forever to get what looked like nothing. Then sterilise. Then change nappy, feed to sleep, hold B while she napped, and repeat.

I didn't bond easily.

There was too much to do. Too much at stake. We had a rocky start.

Along came M - all those fears and emotions from first time around were there. She had tongue tie. Another hospital stay; another round of people trying to sabotage our breastfeeding relationship. Jaundice and weight loss. I missed B.

I hoped that feeding would be different this time. My hopes were shattered.

Breastfeed with the SNS, express, refill, change nappy, feed to sleep, nap, repeat.

B didn't cope well. Our already weak bond was weakened further by this new arrival and her needs. Bonding with M was also problematic. There was too much to do.

And then I had A. And a haemorrhage. Tongue tie too. Here we go again.

I was prepared this time. But still had another hospital stay. I wasn’t prepared enough. I missed the girls. He had jaundice. And then the arrival of paediatricians and my fight or flight kicked in, forcing my blood pressure up. Still in hospital and they didn’t want me to go.

I fought. I won.

But then we got home.

SNS. Refill. Nappy.

Feed to sleep? Not this one. He wanted rocking. Singing. Patting. Napped on me.

M struggled. She was angry. Demanding. Rough. B moved a bit further from me.

There were too many people to please.

Too much to do.

Too hard to get everyone up and out of the door. Timing outings around feeds. Anxious about feeding whilst trying to stop M from running off.

93% of mums are lonely at some point each week #ShoutieSelfie

I was lonely. Struggling to bond with A and to connect with any of my children.

I was overwhelmed by the sense that there must be something wrong with me. Friends with the same or more weren’t drowning like me.

It was supposed to be easy.

Find a tribe.
Carry baby.
Feed baby.
Pass baby around.
Never feel alone.
Support, encouragement, love.

Instead my friends were a long way away, or back at work, or struggling with troubles of their own.

People were moving on and I was drowning in children.

Too anxious to call them. Too anxious to meet new people.

No time to make the food I need. No time to pee alone. No time to drink a hot cup of tea. No time for me. No self care.

I knew I wasn’t even a good enough parent.

So lost. So lonely. So frightened.

But I survived. We all did. My mum and dad would help out at the drop of a hat. I managed to get A and myself to Mum and Baby Yoga for a few months, while Dad watched the girls. My inlaws took the girls to their clubs when they were around.

But this fourth pregnancy came at the same time as a number of difficult situations.

My parents needed to move miles away due to redundancy. My inlaws were needed to help with our nephews, born prematurely. We needed to put our house on the market so we could buy a house big enough for 6 people.

I haven’t clicked with my midwife, which has made my appointments difficult in a number of ways.

There hasn’t been a day of this pregnancy when I haven’t felt completely exhausted.

I feel angry all the time, and constantly on the verge of tears.

I suffered with nursing aversion, so feeding A became increasingly more difficult, and then my milk dried up and he stopped feeding altogether. So I had that guilt to deal with.

I don’t need to go into full details of everything, but suffice it to say that I feel like everything is weighing down upon me.
Trying, and failing, to look happy

So much to do, and no energy to do it with.

And knowing that I’m not dealing with anything that others haven’t been through before hasn’t helped. This is my situation and I am not dealing with it well.

I feel lonely and scared and constantly worried.

The more we don’t leave the house, the harder it becomes to leave.

I organise events or trips out or play dates, then spend the days before hoping that the other people will cancel. But if they do I’m left feeling that no one likes me, and that makes it harder to socialise next time.

I am already anxious about bonding with this baby. There have been days when, despite my tiredness, I’ve forgotten I’m pregnant. Poor fourth child, already neglected!

Anxiety is awful. It’s exhausting. Nodding off during the day and lying awake at night. Headaches and stomach aches. Forgetting what I was going to say right in the middle of a sentence. Angry and impatient.

Anxiety is making me unpleasant to be around, so I need constant reassurance about everything. And the smallest thing can make me melt down.

There is so much that is out of my control, that when something I ought to be in control of goes wrong I can barely cope.

#ShoutieSelfie Maternal Mental Health Week
Our #ShoutieSelfie for Maternal Mental Health Week
Being able to be involved in just a little way in Maternal Mental Health Week is such a boost to me. I see others posting their #ShoutieSelfies and I read blog posts about PND and other mental health issues, and I’m reminded that I’m not alone. No matter how isolated I feel, there are others going through the same things, and others who have come out the other side.

There is hope.

But this week is so important because it’s drawing attention to the 1 in 3 mums who suffer PND or other mental health issues. It’s drawing attention to the symptoms to look out for. It’s encouraging people to find ways to help their loved ones, and it’s encouraging people to speak out about their own struggles in the area of mental health. 

The likelihood is, if you know 3 mums, then itat least one of them is suffering in some way. Ask your mum friends how they’re doing, and try to look beyond the “I’m fine,” that is our hiding place.

If you suspect they’re not fine, offer some assistance. They might not take it, but believe me, every offer is a little reminder that someone out there cares.

And we might just end up taking you up on your generosity.

Just last week a friend offered to take B and M for a day. I was on the verge of saying no - I didn’t want her to feel like I was burdening her with my children - but I accepted. I would do the same for her, and I’m so grateful. She cares about me and that is so healing.

In the words of Bill and Ted, “Be excellent to each other!” It could be exactly what the next Mum you come across really needs.

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