You’ve had a baby. You should feel like the luckiest person in the world. You should be on top of the moon. You should be beaming from the inside out. You should be unable to stop smiling. You should feel happy.
But what happens when you aren’t? What happens when how you ‘should’ feel doesn’t match with how you ‘do’ feel? What happens when raising a baby leaves you feeling lost, anxious, confused, angry, afraid, guilty and sad?
While not always, these feelings of dread can be a sign of postnatal depression. And while PND is often locked behind closed doors, hidden away from society, only discussed when a mother reaches her breaking point, it’s time to speak up and to share a few hidden truths about PND.
It’s not your fault
It’s no one’s fault. It happens. Women with PND have very little control over the way they are feeling. It cannot be cured with a special diet, a secret tea or certain exercises. Sometimes these things may help, but it is a chemical imbalance caused by hormones. It is not something you can control.
It happens to a lot of us
One in seven mums will be diagnosed with postnatal depression. And even more, will struggle through it without getting help. While you may feel like you are alone, you really aren’t.
It isn’t reserved for ‘post’ baby
Symptoms can emerge at any time during the first year after birth, as well as during pregnancy or after miscarriage or stillbirth. Most cases of postnatal depression have their onset within the first four months.
No one is immune to it
PND can strike any mother, at any age. It occurs in all cultures and all socioeconomic classes and can happen to any child-bearing women, whether it’s the first or 15th pregnancy. It happens whether you’ve had a c-section or a natural delivery, whether you are single or married, whether you have a steady income or not, whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
There are some studies that suggest there may be biological, physiological and social predispositions that impact your risk of getting PND, but, at this stage, pregnancy is the only verified common denominator.
It’s not always a depression
The first thought that comes to mind when you think of depression? Sadness. Yes, being sad (and often not understanding why) is a sign of PND. But it’s not the only symptom.
You may have trouble sleeping (unrelated to your newborn’s needs) or problems eating. You may feel anxious, or angry, or afraid. You might feel like you’re not coping like you’re failing, like you’re doing everything wrong. You may be irritable or antisocial, feel guilty or worthless.
You may feel like crying, or screaming, or simply staring blankly at a wall, wishing that the yucky thoughts would just go away.
It’s not a new condition
Each generation calls it something different. What we call postnatal depression today might have been called a ‘nervous breakdown’ 50 years ago. Sad, I know … but just think about how far we’ve come. And, hopefully, in another 50 years, society will have reached an even better understanding.
It goes away … with help
There are now a number of incredibly helpful resources to aid in the recovery. If you feel like you might be struggling, talk to your doctor, your partner, your parents, your mates. Below are just a few websites where you can find more information on PND:
It doesn’t mean you are failing
For many, admitting you have PND is like announcing you haven’t quite got motherhood figured out yet. It means admitting that life isn’t as perfect as it ‘should’ be. This isn’t the case. Not even in the slightest. And no mother deserves to feel this way. No mother deserves to feel inadequate because of something she can’t control.
You have not failed as a parent. If anything, admitting that you might be struggling is proof that you are stronger than PND. Accepting help is a sign that you’re strong enough to do what it takes to get better, not only for yourself but for your little one as well.
Yes, PND is a very powerful mental illness with a very strong hold on our minds. But mums, we are stronger. And this is what is worth focusing on.
And if you’re just home with bub you might like to read our article about the things to know about life with a newborn next.