Having a baby is a mind-blowing experience. Both times, I’ve been utterly overcome by the indescribable glut of emotions that hit me at full pelt. Even though I am completely in love with both of my children, the emotional challenges have, at times, been a bigger mountain to climb than I anticipated.
Adjusting To My New Life
After having our second child, it made financial sense for me to work freelance as a copywriter, alongside looking after the kids full-time. I found this adjustment incredibly tough. Guilt and self-doubt grew in my mind as I struggled to get the kids out of the house and keep on top of the mounting piles of laundry and general child-related mess. I’d watch my husband head to work with increasing jealousy, envying how he’d be able to enjoy a warm meal or cuppa in peace and adult conversation. With work less regular too, I was struggling to keep my head above the parapet.
Feeling Out Of Sorts
I’d heard about the possibility of post-natal depression, and, whilst my symptoms weren’t as extreme as those I’d found listed online, I recognised the need to address them before they escalated. Luckily, I felt able to open up to my midwife, who reassured me that what I was going through – ‘the baby blues’ – was very common and nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I went on to discover how common postnatal depression is, with one in ten women experiencing it in the UK. I found the midwife’s words extremely comforting; I wasn’t a failure and there were ways to make myself feel more like ‘me’ again.
Creating An Action Plan
My midwife, husband and I prioritised three things to help beat the baby blues and replace them with a sense of confidence and fulfilment:
1. Having a supportive network of people around me
This has been the most important aspect of my parenting experience. As soon as I let loved ones know about my struggles, they were all too eager to help when needed,; whether that be by tending to the children when I had a bath or a short walk, or even simply just providing some much-needed adult company.
2. Not putting unnecessary pressure on myself
This is certainly easier said than done, but focussing on what really matters is crucial. Set yourself realistic targets, such as getting everyone dressed and nipping out for some fresh air. Domestic chores can wait.
3. Putting my oldest child in preschool for a few hours a week
A few months after our youngest daughter was born, I placed our oldest daughter in a nearby preschool for two mornings a week. More affordable than nursery, it enhanced her confidence and social skills whilst giving me a few calmer hours at home, looking after the baby, working or making a batch of meals for the freezer whilst she slept.
Whatever strategies work for you, focusing on three or four will help keep your mental and physical strength in check when needed.
Parenthood is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s also incredibly challenging to say the least and can become quite isolating. But the latter needn’t be the case. If you need to reach out to people – friends, family or medical professionals – don’t be afraid or ashamed to do so!