Hi Mum, congratulations on your new addition to the family!
But instead of being happy and fulfilled (and no doubt tired), do you feel sad, angry, and lonely? Do you have troubles bonding with your baby? Are most days a constant struggle? And you may even feel guilty because of that?
I can tell you, you are not alone! I am (like many other mums) feeling the same. Being a mum is hard work, physically as well as emotionally, especially with a newborn or a young baby, when you have to adjust to each other and your new life together. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen the way you thought it would.
I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was
Mum life did not start the way I thought it would. I usually like to be in control and be prepared. This goes for my job as a freight forwarder, so naturally, I had planned ahead for every challenge my new life as a mum had to offer.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I started to read pregnancy and baby books, did prenatal exercises and attended the hospital preparation courses.
But after my beautiful son was born I was unexpectantly feeling very different. Yes, I was happy to finally meet my baby boy (and relieved that pregnancy and birth were over) but on the other hand, I was overwhelmed and sad. Each day was dragging on. And – I was soooooo tired. Nothing was able to prepare me for this.
I did not bond with my son at the start. And I missed my previous life. Missed my family and friends (who live overseas). And I was not happy with how slowly I physically recovered. I just felt guilty about not being the great and happy mum I dreamt of and therefore cried a lot.
I did not dare to talk to anyone about those feelings. Instead, I wrongly projected most of it into anger.
Anger towards me, my baby and mostly towards my husband. I wrongly thought: if it wasn’t for my husband, I would not have been in this situation! I hated my husband for the very first months.
On the other hand, I often thought they were better off without me, just leaving them would be better for all of us.
At this time I did not yet know that I was suffering from postnatal depressions. Only once I realised this and admitted it to myself and started talking about it, I was able to work on getting my mental state back in order and seeing the positive side of life again. Soon I started to bond with my child and working on improving my relationship with my husband again.
It is hard to admit when you are struggling with mummy life and that not everything is as happy cake as it seems to the outside world.
I hope my story will give you some relief, knowing that there are others feeling like this and giving you hope and confidence that it will get better again:
SLEEP DEPRIVATION – YOU ARE NO HELP
My baby slept only one or maximum two hours in the beginning and that only if in my or my husband’s arm, or on our chest, so we couldn’t really sleep even when the baby was sleeping. I was lucky that most nights my husband took the baby for some hours, even if after work. But – Even when my husband had the baby or the baby was sleeping, I was not able to sleep. My heart was beating as quick as I just came back from a five km run and my mind was not able to switch off. It was busy thinking: The baby will wake up every minute, if you fall asleep now, it will be even harder to get up again. The conclusion was, I became sleep deprived very quickly.
After three months Luca and I got a spot at a private Baby Sleep School for a five-night stay. They taught me all the necessary tools to become a more confident mum and Luca finally started to sleep better. With more sleep in my pocket, I was starting to think clearly again and realised that sleep deprivation wasn’t my only problem. The constant mood swings were not gone.
I WAS OVERWHELMED
Regardless of nearly nine months of preparation when I was pregnant, I was overwhelmed with the situation and all its responsibilities. The day before leaving the hospital, I started crying and it went on for days. I was sure that we would not be able to cope at home. Suddenly I had doubt in myself and my husband to be able to properly raise this little vulnerable baby by ourselves. In the hospital, we had all the help we needed from the great and experienced midwives and doctors. Sure, the change of hormones in my body, the so-called ‘baby blues’ which happens a couple of days after delivery, were part of it but this was already the start of my postnatal depression – I was still crying weeks after we went home.
I FELT LIKE A FAILURE
Back then I felt that I have failed and it already started with the birth of my baby. My plan was to have a natural birth, working together with my baby to get him into this world as relaxed as possible. For this reason, I attended a hypnobirthing course, additionally to the regular birth preparation courses offered by the hospital. And yes, you cannot plan every detail of labour, and this was the case with me, as well. Much to my regret, I had to be induced, because I had no contractions after my waters released the day before.
Labour ended up taking 20 hours, including epidural, assisted birth with twice failed vacuum and finally Luca was born via forceps. I had blamed myself for not having been strong enough, for not have given him the relaxed birth I had planned for him. And for me. I worried that he had been stressed too much during birth, because the moment he was born, he screamed so loud. So very, very loud.
NO LOVE FOR MY BABY AND FEELING GUILTY FOR IT
Wasn’t I supposed to love my child from the start? Where was the bond, the instant love at first sight when you see your baby for the first time? I felt guilty for not loving my baby but it rather felt like having a massive burden. From the moment my baby boy was born, my instincts told me to protect this little human being. But it was no love. He was crying so loud and often and long, it was sometimes unbearable and I had to leave the room and leave the baby in his cot or with my husband. It felt like my baby didn’t like me anyway and in those first weeks, this feeling was mutual.
Read also: Not Loving My Newborn. When Bonding Takes Time
I FELT LONELY – NO ONE UNDERSTOOD ME
I felt very lonely in those first couples of months. Even the connection to my husband was lost. I didn’t believe that he would be able to understand what I was going through. We were both born in a different country and therefore had no family support where we live, apart from my husband’s sister. It made me incredibly sad as I was not able to share this big new life experience with my family and friends, especially my mother. Just talking on the phone needed big effort and timing, due to the ten hours time difference from Australia to Germany.
I wanted to breastfeed for a minimum of six months but by no means was this an easy task.
I had to use a nipple shield for the first three months to get my baby to latch on correctly (and for saving my nipples). The nipple shield was annoying to use but it saved me from giving up on breastfeeding at the early stage.
I also had low milk supply and Luca wasn’t gaining as much weight as he should have. From four months on, I started supplementing with a bottle of formula and was pumping after breastfeeding in hope to increase my milk supply. This was very time consuming and lots of extra work but I still did not want to stop as breastfeeding became our special time together. Regardless, I was sad and felt guilty that I was not able to produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed my son, as I had planned to.
AFTER MONTHS STILL NOT BACK TO PRE-PREGNANCY BODY
Another big factor for me was the physical change after birth. I had stretch marks, my belly skin was saggy and wrinkly like an old nectarine. Plus, I had stitches on my lady parts and diastasis recti (abdominal muscle separation) – only to name a few changes. I was fooled by social media and celebrities. Why wouldn’t I have my pre-pregnancy body back after six weeks? I just had to exercise during and after pregnancy. Well, despite the exercise, it took me over a month to be able to walk for more than ten minutes.
Read also: Why Yoga is Helping Me Overcome Postnatal Depression
MISSING MY OLD LIFE
Not only did I miss my pre-pregnancy body but also my previously independent life. It was hard to be housebound so much, staying home alone with my constantly screaming, feeding and pooping machine. So little sleep. It felt like this would never end, never get better. I missed going out whenever I wanted. Missed having time for myself. Missed going to work and having my own income. And there was the guilt again. I had known that my life would change with a baby, and I thought I was ok with it, but I was not.
IT WILL GET BETTER WITH TIME!
Thanks to my amazing GP (General Practitioner) and Maternal Child and Health Nurse who supported me all the way and listened to my worries, I am now working on battling those factors which make me depressed and holding me back from enjoying my new life.
I have also started to seek professional help. I am seeing a psychologist and see an improvement after only a couple of sessions so far.
Adjusting to this new life took a while for me but I am enjoying it more and more. Like me, I am sure you will have happy days again. And you will surprisingly realise after that you did.
With time I became more confident and the bond with my son grew more and more. I love him now more than anything, it just took us a while longer. I no longer fear to be judged and labelled as being a bad mum. This is because I now know that I am not and will never be perfect. But, I know that I am an awesome mum for my baby. All I care about is to love and protect him. Plus I want to keep him healthy and make him happy.
For myself – I am working on getting back in shape and accepting what I can’t change. Also, breastfeeding became much more relaxed after some months.
Do not be so hard on yourself. There is light at the end of the tunnel!
Nobody is perfect, and we do not have to be perfect mothers. It is OK because we do what we can – one day at a time.
If you would like to read more stories from other mums dealing with postnatal depressions or have recovered from it – check out the below websites:
BEYONDBLUE – www.beyondblue.org.au
PANDA – www.panda.org.au