Motherhood is a hard old slog, isn’t it?
That’s not to say it isn’t magical, wonderful, the most fulfilling thing in my life, but oh boy it’s HARD.
This is the first time I have mentioned my PND on any type of social media, and in fact only a very few people know about it. My first baby, Tilda, was a challenge from day one, with colic, reflux and a fiery temperament to match her red hair! I was bewildered, stressed and upset a lot of the time, and people constantly questioned if I had PND, but I didn’t. I just had a difficult baby who screamed most of the day, every day for six months.
Fast forward two and a half years and Benji arrived. This time the first few weeks felt blissful, I was amazingly happy, walking on air. Benji was a happy little soul and slept as well as any newborn baby does. He hardly cried. Tilda loved him. But about six weeks in, things started to deteriorate. I wasn’t coping with two children, but Benji was a “good” baby (although his sleep never improved from newborn status, and to be honest now he’s one and still waking up to feed several times a night – I’m pretty tired!) so no one was asking how I was, assuming I was fine.
I’d also taken the difficult decision not to go back to work, as it didn’t make sense financially or practically for our family. I was happy with the decision but I did struggle with a sense of loss of identity. The transition to stay at home mum is difficult for most mums who are used to working, I think.
My PND manifested itself with attacks of inarticulate screaming. I used to scream and bang things uncontrollably, even in front of the children. It was scary, as I had two voices in my head, one saying “you should not do this, it will just make things worse and is scaring the children” and another, more powerful voice just urging me to lose control. I would lose it over the most trivial of things, and the worktop in my kitchen still bears the scars of a slammed saucepan.
Despite the obvious signs I wasn’t coping, it took me six months to seek help. I am not the type of person who finds it easy to ask for help or admit that I can’t do something. But the doctor was lovely, and prescribed me Sertraline, warning me that it could take a few weeks to kick in, and in fact might make me feel worse to start with. Luckily for me, the effect was immediate. Sertraline worked wonders for me. Within a few days I was feeling much better, and within weeks I felt almost back to normal. I didn’t have another screaming episode until I tried to cut them down to every other day after a couple of months. For now, I have accepted that they are something I need to take to stay well, and that’s ok.
There are other measures I have taken to help myself get well, in addition to the Sertraline. I have started running, using the Couch to 5K app which I would recommend to anyone thinking about getting fit. When I started I’d never run further than the bus stop, yet eight weeks in I could run 5k in 34 minutes. Now I can definitely feel the difference in my mood and coping skills if I’m not able to get out 3-4 times a week (it’s hard to find the time with two children sometimes).
Another life saver has been starting my own business. I felt like I’d lost my sense of identity by becoming a stay at home mum, and part of this was a loss of style. I couldn’t fit in any of my pre-baby clothes, everything had to have boob access and I couldn’t even wear any of my nice jewellery as Benji was constantly pulling at it and putting it in his mouth, and if he was asleep not on me, Tilda was mauling me asking me to play horsie.
I discovered silicone teething jewellery existed and at first I was thrilled! There wasn’t much variation in style available though, and very little that appealed to my personal aesthetic. So I decided to start making my own, and Carly Dove Boutique was born! In terms of aesthetics, I am drawn to the unusual, something that jolts the eye, but somehow works. I have a soft spot for ugly patterns. People say that beauty lies in symmetry, but for me I love a bit of wonk! I think this comes across in my work, with each piece incorporating my signature asymmetrical style.
Starting my own business has given me so much – having my own project, something that’s ‘mine’ is such a help. Before I set it up, my evenings would be spent watching rubbish TV, as I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. Now I make products, search for inspiration, promote myself on social media, research packaging, etc etc, all the things that come with running a small business. It has given me something to think about outside the children, gives me a creative outlet, and it’s been incredibly helpful in regaining a sense of ‘me’ as opposed to just ‘mum’. I’m passionate about my product and about the drivers behind it, as I think many mums feel like they’ve lost their sense of style when they have young children, and there just isn’t a great deal of choice out there in terms of what you can wear that is practical yet stylish and flattering. For example, if you’re breastfeeding and you don’t like Breton stripes you’re stuffed!
Also I probably drink too much wine, but anyone that knows me will attest that that has been the case for most of my life! 😉
Starting a business as a stay at home mum hasn’t all been plain sailing, it’s incredibly difficult to find time, and I’ve had to be strict with my husband and mark time that he has to look after the kids because I’m working. To begin with I would give up my work-time too easily if it wasn’t convenient for him, but a friend pointed out that I was actually working, not just indulging a hobby, and this was a game changer for me. It’s also quite annoying to have to pack everything away during the day so that the children don’t get into it, I”m not lucky enough to have a dedicated work space that I can protect behind a closed door, so everything has to be packed and unpacked on a daily basis. Also things like I will break my website just as my children want dinner, or someone will order something complicated when my husband has multiple jobs on and my children are ill, these are all challenges that I’ve had to deal with! I think if you’re going to start up your own business as a stay at home mum, it has to be something you’re passionate about and really enjoy doing, otherwise it will just be too stressful and you will never find the time.
I hope that my experience has been interesting to read.
Not everyone will want to run, or start a business, and Sertraline may not be a universal wonder drug, but admitting you need help is the biggest hurdle.
Thanks to Lindsay for featuring my story on her blog – isn’t she doing a marvellous job highlighting the issues around PND? Xx
Carly and I went to School together – although we haven’t managed to see each other in years, Facebook is a wonderful thing for keeping in touch!! I’m really thankful to her for sharing her story and so proud of her for all she is doing with her new business… You need to go and check out her amazing creations! You can find here her: