Almost 3 years ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He is now a beautiful little monkey who never sits still and I love every minute I spend with him (well MOST minutes!)
That is not always the case and the past 3 years have been a huge rollercoaster, with plenty of ups and downs.
As a teenager and young adult I had always had moments of feeling low so when I found out I was pregnant this was something that worried me. I spoke to my partner about it and he was really supportive. I was honest with the midwives too when asked about previous mental health issues, I did everything I could to protect myself.
As the birth came closer I was starting to feel a bit more wobbly. I ended up starting my maternity leave early from my job as a special needs teacher after a chair was thrown at me by one of the students.
I had all these ideas on being a mum, I crafted and made the nursery perfect for our new arrival, I went to the breastfeeding classes and read everything I could on becoming a parent. I felt in total control, PND wouldn’t be able to get me. Right?
Once he was born everyone wanted to see him, we have a big extended family and lots of friends. It felt like there was a constant stream of visitors and I just wanted to rest and get used to being a mother. I had to speak up. This caused huge problems. I was left feeling so guilty for being ‘selfish’ and putting myself first. This was the start of many more family problems, and the start of my old ways of thinking creeping back in.
I scrambled to keep control of everything and hid away from the feelings I was starting to have. After all, I was just being selfish and didn’t want to cause more trouble.
Baby E was baptised when he was 7 weeks old, yet another pressure put on us. It was too soon and we had lots to organise and family staying again. I was stressed out to the max, all I wanted was some peace and quiet to enjoy my new baby boy.
The week after he was baptised we found out that he weighed less than he did at birth. I felt so guilty. From the start I was sure I would breastfeed and read all the breast is best propaganda out there. To be told I would have to supplement with a bottle was the same as telling me I had failed, that the one basic thing my baby needed at that stage I was unable to provide. It hit me hard. If I had to pin point a defining moment to my PND that would be it.
Time has now passed, I can see that breastfeeding is not the only way, and that formula can also do a fantastic job of feeding a hungry baby, and that doesn’t mean I failed. I can also accept that I had one hell of a roller coaster ride in those first few months of being a mum. But what is taking longer to heal is the scars that PND has left me with. The old ways of thinking that do me no favours, the old coping mechanisms that no longer work. The fear, anxiety, guilt, lack of self-esteem and confidence are taking longer to regain.
My journey to recovery, just like my first few months as a mother had been bumpy! I ended up having to leave my job as a teacher due to the politics within the school. My mental health wouldn’t allow me to carry on their every day. But now, almost 3 years later I can see what happened, why I fell, and how I can pick up the pieces again.
I have set up my own business, a sensory art studio in Manchester for parents to bring their children, relax and enjoy.
The underlying drive behind this is to help teach emotional literacy and regulation from an early age, to help the parents of tomorrow have the skills they need to cope. And, one day when I am strong enough, to offer a support group for new mums to share their fears and anxieties. But for now: a retreat in the form of the sensory space, company and a cup of tea will just have to do.
I still have a long way to go. Some days are worse than others, but at least today I can say it will get better.