Mental Health Monday: Anxiety about having more children after PND

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When I was a 14 year old, my dream for my family life was to have twin girls (Lily and Olivia) and then a boy (Henry). I don’t think i need to go into the whys and wherefores about how that changed, but it certainly did.

Following the birth of Olivia, I suffered with Postnatal Depression for the majority of her first year. Having also had antenatal depression and just not being in the best mental state generally, I sort of knew that I would suffer with PND, though I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was or to last as long as it did. Whenever I think back to her being a baby, it makes me sad. I didn’t enjoy her being a little baby because I was under so much mental stress at the time. Of course, I can think back to happy times as well as times when I was in the middle of a breakdown, but on the whole, reflecting on her baby stage just makes me feel angry at myself, and terrified it will happen again.

Like I said, I no longer want twin girls and a boy (and my plan for having the twins first has gone to pot anyway), but I have written previously on the blog about why I don’t want any more children now and why I never want to be pregnant again. The PND plays a huge part in that.

I carry so much anxiety with me from my experience of having Olivia that things would be the same again. I honestly could not face that same depression again. It was quite crippling in many ways, and 2 years after Olivia was born I am still dealing with the aftermath and the guilt.


There’s a great twitter chat hosted by Rosey at PND & Me which has covered this topic before, and I liked reading the comments of people joining in and their very mixed experiences…

Some had PND only with the 1st child, some with both, some only with the 2nd or subsequent. I suppose, the point is, that everyone will have different experiences and every pregnancy will be different.

But we knew that already! So…

What are the actual statistics?

  • PND affects more than 10-15% of women within a year of giving birth (that’s about 35,000 women!)
  • Up to 1 in 10 fathers also suffer from postnatal depression following the birth of a baby
  • 33% of mothers who experienced depression in pregnancy then suffered with PND
  • A history of depression makes it more likely that you will suffer postpartum depression
  • Mums who have had postnatal depression with one child are more likely to suffer again with subsequent children

I’d like to think that I’m not the only mum who worries that this would happen again, after all, there are so many of us who have suffered with it once, twice or however many times.

My husband and I often look at each other when Olivia does something unbelievably cute, suggesting another one, but he knows that I don’t want anymore and I feel guilty for that too. But at those times when we think “aww, look how cute our baby girl is,” I do wish I could bring myself to have another child. I wish I could do it knowing that I would be able to enjoy the baby stage like I couldn’t with Olivia, but there are no guarantees, and really, I don’t think I’m cut out for doing it all again.

In my moments of weakness (as I call them) when I think I want another baby, I feel so conflicted because as much as I would love to have another child, I can’t face feeling like I did during my pregnancy and feeling all of the guilt afterwards of not being able to bond with the baby and feeling like I’m simply inadequate!

I know that things are really quite different now – I have none of the external drama going on that I did during my pregnancy with Olivia, so maybe because my life is more stable now, my mind would be too. If I do end up having another one I’ll be sure to let you know 😉 but, for now, Olivia is more than enough, and I am enjoying being her mummy. I can’t go back to what I was when she first arrived, so I’ll carry on being the best mummy I can be to her and we’ll just see what fate has in store for us.

Have you survived PND and gone on to have more children? How were things a second time around?

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8 things I wish I knew would happen postpartum

Before Olivia was born, I didn’t give very much thought to what would happen postpartum. The extent of my worrying into that period was limited to my mental health, as I was already suffering from antenatal depression. But, actually, there are a lot of things that I wish I had known about what I would experience in the days and weeks postpartum. Warning, some of them are gross, but childbirth is gross so I’m not apologising!

1. The first poo
Sorry to start off on possibly the most cringeworthy one, but holy mother of Christ… the first poo is a bitch. I tried to go for days. Days of needing it but not being able to get it out… it’s such a glorious and magical time… not.
A friend of mine who has just qualified as a midwife and was training at the time recommended that I try Lactulose (a liquid laxative). Hey, presto! It worked! But it takes a few days to kick in – so if you’re expecting, get some in the house ready for when you need it!
2. The first wee
I promise these aren’t all toilet related…
You may or may not know that you will be expected to produce a certain amount of wee in a bowl and present it to your midwives. However, if you’ve just been stitched up down there, and even if you haven’t, it bloody stings! So for your first wee, I recommend sitting on the toilet backwards and leaning forwards over the tank so as to angle the wee away from your very sore lady parts.
3.  You’ll be expected to leave the hospital ASAP
It’s no secret that the nhs are in crisis and need beds to be available, but sometimes it can seem like the midwives are simply trying to discharge you as quickly as possible. It didn’t make a huge difference to me either way as I wanted to go home the following day, but if you are struggling with any aspect of your postpartum physical or mental wellbeing, breastfeeding or your newborn’s health, then STAY IN THAT BED! Don’t move until you get help from someone. They cannot kick you out before you’re ready (unless you’re obviously taking the piss), so make sure you’re comfortable to leave those hospital walls because once you do, assistance is that little bit further away.
4. Don’t wash your hair
Thankfully after giving birth, my midwife could tell how much pain I was in and I was still pretty weak and shaky from throwing up throughout my labour. So she, being a wonderful kind soul, gave me personal wash down so that I didn’t have to go and brave a bath just yet. That being said, I did take a shower the next morning… and I washed my hair… with shampoo. Am I an idiot? I’d like to think I’m not, but it was pretty stupid to think that as I washed the shampoo out, I would form a magical protective bubble around my vagina that would prevent any shampoo going near my stitches… Think again!!!!!
5. Maxi dresses are your best friend
I wish I’d had more, because that first week, at least, postpartum, is so painful downstairs that you need to have absolutely no pressure on the area. A maxi dress will also conceal the hairy legs you’re 100% not going to shave and is just the most comfy thing that you can possibly wear after just giving birth.
6. Stock up on maternity pads/mats
For the car journey home from hospital I had to borrow maternity mats from the ward to put on the seat of the car. I say borrow… I didn’t give them back, don’t worry! I hadn’t even considered that. Even more shockingly – I hadn’t even considered that I might need them for when my waters broke on the way into hospital! They didn’t (they broke over a midwife’s hand instead), but it is still a possibility and you really don’t want to be cleaning that out of your car when you’ve got a newborn.
7. You will need separate bags
I don’t think I was quite realistic about the hospital stay. I assumed my birth plan would be totally accurate and so only packed one outfit for me, far too many for Olivia and absolutely nothing whatsoever for Jamie. Obviously, he then had to leave me with Olivia’s godmother in the hospital while he went home for provisions. Put whatever you want in your bags, but do pack separate ones for each of you!
8. Finally, it will go too quickly
All of the pain you feel and the sleep exhaustion will make the days and nights seem never-ending. But I promise you this, I wish I had known that it flies by in what feels like a blink. I don’t even remember my baby as a baby – she is a completely different child in both appearance and personality. I’d give anything to go back to having my tiny Olivia again and at the same time I love the way she is now (except the tantrums). For all of the stress, emotion and being so physically and mentally drained, it is worth it, and you’ll realise that all of those people who really pissed you off by saying that in your last weeks of pregnancy we’re absolutely right.

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5 reasons why I never want to be pregnant again!

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Babies are great… Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves… They CAN be great, when they want to be. But most of the time they’re either sucking the life out of you (LITERALLY) or shitting on you (AGAIN, LITERALLY) and I swear they enjoy every second of it!
 
But anyway, they can be great… I mean, who doesn’t love babies? Pregnancy, however, is a whole different kettle of fish, and my god do I never want to do that again.
 
Here are my 5 reasons why!
  1. For someone who already had a lot of emotional issues, the heightened emotions of pregnancy made things even harder to cope with. It’s actually pretty shit crying over silly things, or for no reason. And even if you feel like you’re crying for a legitimate reason, other people don’t take you seriously because you’re pregnant, and they blame it on the hormones. Even if it is due to those nasty things, that doesn’t make your feelings any less legitimate. Even if I was crying because the vacuum broke…
  2. As soon as you’re pregnant, other people feel like they can dictate to you what to do. Mainly your midwife. I was a veggie and my midwife did not respect that, and asked me to start eating meat, saying that the baby would be iron deficient if I didn’t. Eating meat changed nothing except to make me put on more weight, and I still had to take iron tablets. But it’s not just the midwife, it’s all of your non-pregnant friends! One friend literally breathed down my neck about me eating mayonnaise, and said I didn’t look pregnant, just like I’d had a big lunch (I forgave her for that and we laugh about it now, but hello?! Heightened emotions!!!!!!). AND THEY ALL WANT TO TOUCH YOUR BELLY AS IF IT SUDDENLY BELONGS TO THEM.
  3. Following on from that one… In the last few months when the baby is running out of room: at night, if you lie on your back, the baby’s movements look like something out of Alien. You can visibly see their backs turning or their feet protruding and as well as being uncomfortable, it freaked me the hell out. And guess what? If I didn’t like seeing and feeling it myself, I also didn’t like other people touching my belly and setting the whole “let’s kick mummy to shit from the inside out” rhythm off!
  4. It’s not nice having to bare all to a large number of healthcare professionals – whether it’s the stretch-mark covered belly or your vagina, I didn’t quite get used to having it all out there until I was in labour and quite frankly couldn’t give a crap either way at that point.
  5. Post-pregnancy, I’ve had all these ridiculously annoying baby hairs sticking out of my forehead making me look like a baby lion. It’s not nice. My daughter is now 2, and I still have these! My hair, skin and nails didn’t glow while I was pregnant and now I’m stuck with this mega hair growth that’s so pitiful and annoying all at the same time! I can’t even wear my trademark mum bun for more than 30 minutes without the baby hairs pointing up and making me look like a tit in public. And god forbid it’s a windy day! Windswept would be an understatement…
Are there any reasons why you’d prefer not to go through pregnancy again? Let us know in the comments!

Mental Health Monday: Dealing with your past demons as a new mother…

Personally, I’ve suffered with depression since the ripe old age of 12. Back then, it got really, really bad. I tried to end my life twice, and ended up in a mental hospital… so, of course, when I began noticing the same signs in myself of depression during my pregnancy, you can imagine the fears and anxieties that went with it.

I’ve previously talked about how to recognise antenatal depression, and I truly think that, had I not been depressed throughout my adolescent years, I wouldn’t have recognised it in myself while I was pregnant.

There can be so many things that trigger depression or any other mental illness, but for me it was a multitude of past demons that were resurfacing. They were resurfacing because, very soon, I was going to be a mother myself, and that was the most terrifying thought of all.

Not because I didn’t want to be a mum – I’d always wanted children. I grew up with 4 younger siblings (2 of whom I raised in part) and from the age of about 9 I had known what my children’s names would be, because, OBVIOUSLY, I was going to have twin girls (Lily and Olivia – I got one at least) and a boy (Henry). I had it all planned out.

But nothing goes to plan.

Instead, by surprise, I was pregnant in my final year of university, and had to deal with that pregnancy completely alone except for a couple of very amazing and supportive housemates. By the time that my pregnancy was nearing the 7 month mark, I had essay deadlines looming and was about to move back to Kent to prepare to have my baby, and become a mum. It was what I’d wanted so why did I feel so incredibly anxious about it?

It may sound cliche… but I was so petrified of turning into my mum. Of being the type of person that could cut her children out of her life as and when she pleased, or the type of person that would prioritise her vanity and her boyfriends over her children’s wellbeing. I came out of those 15 and a half years living with her so emotionally damaged, and I was terrified that my own daughter would feel the same way. I didn’t want to lose my baby before I even had her, and I felt like it was an unchangeable fate that she would end up hating me.

Those feelings of inadequacy before I had even given birth to my daughter were so difficult to overcome, but I did overcome them. It took counselling, peer support, regular GP visits, medication, and a round of CBT for me to get to the point that I am at now. I’ve felt the ups, downs and in betweens, and I still feel them, but the downs are becoming fewer and farther between.

No matter what demons there are in your past, they won’t stop you from being a good mother. It took me a long time to come to that realisation, and I have tried so hard with everything that I am to be the complete opposite of the woman that my mother is.

I have tried so hard to give Olivia everything she deserves and more – everything I deserved as a child but never thought I was worthy of. All I can hope for is that it will be enough, and as long as I’ve put my all into being the best mum I can be, then I’m sure that it will be more than enough.

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Mental Health Monday: Antenatal Depression

Recently, postnatal depression has been receiving a lot of media attention and greater awareness as a result, which really is fantastic! But… other topics not so widely spoken about are the reams of other postpartum mental illnesses, in addition to antenatal depression and anxiety.

Amy has spoken about her experience of postpartum psychosis on the blog already here, hopefully raising awareness of the fact that it’s not always so straightforward in relation to postnatal mental health! Today, I want to focus on antenatal depression and what it can look like. Similarly to postnatal mental health worries, it can be difficult sometimes to distinguish between depression, or “just hormones”.

A little foreword: my experience of antenatal depression started when I was around 5-6 months pregnant – it can of course start much earlier than that – and to some extent I already knew what the warning signs were, having suffered with depression in the past. Hopefully the following list will help someone else recognise the warning signs in either themselves or a loved one, and enable them to get help as early on as possible! Also I’m in no way medically qualified, these are just the tips from a mum who’s been through it!

Symptoms:

1. Crying, all of the time

This is one of the most famous symptoms of pregnancy in general – crying, all of the time, at silly little things. BUT there is a point when it’s more than just crappy hormones making you all emotional. With hindsight I know that crying over a hoover breaking before I even knew I was pregnant was definitely just hormones, and I know equally as well that crying myself to sleep every night during my last trimester was not hormones, it was depression. This is one of those where you need to be the judge of what is normal for you! Are the raging emotions and mood swings worse than you think they should be? If so, err on the side of caution and flag it up with your GP – if they’re aware, they can help and provide you with support!

2. Obessively worrying

This is something I’m terrible at anyway, but I can always tell the days when my depression and anxiety hits me worst, because I will obsess over things to the point that I can’t get to sleep. If that’s you, still awake with worry at 4am, consult a GP. Sometimes it is normal to worry about being a mum for the first time, but if it’s constant, every night, and you can’t seem to get the thoughts out of your mind for just one second, that’s where it’s not quite okay and you might need some extra help working through the anxiety.

3. Low self-esteem

Pregnant me suffered a massive, huge, unbelievably enormous hit to the self-esteem. From about the 5th month of pregnancy onwards (when bump was starting to show), I hated my body. I did not see the miracle of life when I looked in the mirror, I saw FAT. And I hated it. I have one picture of me and my bump because of this and I regret it so so much. Again, every pregnant woman feels like a whale at some point, normally when we’re having to waddle at the end of pregnancy, but if you can’t stand to look in the mirror or get to the point where you’re crying over what you see when you do look, it’s probably depression.

4. Feeling isolated

This is a big one, particularly if you do have people around you supporting you, but you still feel alone! Firstly, you’re not, your baby will probably remind you of that by kicking you in a rib at some point. Secondly, we all need alone time but make time for friends. Make time to be with adults where you don’t have to concentrate on baby-related things. It can be difficult transitioning from a person to a parent, because you feel like you’re losing your identity. People no longer ask how you are, they ask how the bump is doing. It’s difficult to feel like you’re just the vessel and everyone only wants what you’re carrying, but it’s not true! Without you, the precious cargo would never have existed in the first place. If you do feel alone, reach out to people around you for support!

5. Sleeping trouble

The most common thing for expectant mothers in the sleeping arena is not getting enough of it! Particulary when the baby is running out of room in that womb, and still just as fidgety! But whether it’s too much sleep or too little sleep, they can both indicate depression and can really exacerbate the other symptoms. You’ll have enough sleep deprivation when baby arrives so try to get your head down when you can, without sleeping all day and becoming overtired. Find your balance, take a power nap when needed, and still make sure you’re getting out of the house every day. This is a bit more to do with self care to prevent making yourself ill, but it’s a valid symptom of depression, too.

What do I do if I think I have antenatal depression?

1. Speak to your midwife
2. Get an appointment with your GP
3. Self-refer to counselling with the NHS – here’s a link where you can find local counselling services!
4. Make your partner/family/friends aware of how you’re feeling so that they can give you some familial support
5. And, finally… take each day as it comes – some will be better than others so don’t let the bad days deter you from

These 5 steps will get you on the road to recovery, and after all, we all have to be well to be the best mummies we can be for our little babies!

Did you find anything else that helped you through antenatal depression? Let us know in the comments! Please share this post to raise awareness with the hashtag #MentalHealthMonday

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