This week I got to join with about 30 mums at Causeway Coast Vineyard, to share my story of and journey with PND. Following that I also shared some top tips for Maternal Mental Health, which I think are important for all us mums – first time, fifth time, PND or not. I also was able to give each mum attending a little gift bag to take away – including these tops tips and a few other little treats, more on that a bit later…
I thought I’d share some of my top tips here – they’re practical and definitely not rocket science but I guess wish I had known/remembered and practiced them, in the months and years after having Reuben.
Before starting – eating and sleeping well are key, but sometimes sleep isn’t that easy (especially in the first few months) and I don’t think I’ve too much extra to add to the healthy eating guide – you all probably do a better job than me already!
Acknowledge and share you feelings
The truth is you’ll have lots of different feeling, emotions, hopes, dreams, fears, plans, goals about becoming a mum and being a parent. Some days these might swing from one to another constantly! Some of them you might not even have expected to feel or face. You might feel joy and anxiety, fear and excitement… it can be overwhelming. I think it’s really important to share how you feel – ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Acknowledging all that’s going on in your head and heart is vital to good mental and emotional health – that way they could aren’t held captive by them alone! Find a friend or family member you can trust and allow them to listen to you. Or what about also trying or joining a group of mums online? You’ll find that you are probably not alone in how you’re feeling or the type of day you’re having and that can be a real encouragement. You might actually find it easier to share with on a forum or group, that you don’t know, as it will give you confidence to be honest. Hearing how other mums feel, think or cope can really help as your journey motherhood and you might even make some new friends. Just a wee side note, I think you should be careful what group you pick and make sure it’s one that is regularly over seen by committed admin, has group behaviour that it holds to and is confidential – that way everyone involved is as safe as possible. Here’s a few great ones that I can totally recommend –
However you choose to acknowledge and share all that’s going on for you make sure you remember that there is no blame and no shame in struggling, questioning, having a bad day, week or month. You are not alone and there is support available.
Family and/or friends support
It’s so easy, as a mum, to feel YOU have to do it all and be it all. You don’t. In fact it’s much better if you don’t try to allow others to support you. I know it can be hard to ask for help and even accept help. But it’s not a sign of weakness and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about – in fact it can feel quite great! Most people don’t know what you actually need, until you tell them – so when somebody asks what they can do for you, don’t be afraid to say!
For any of you who might be reading who wonder what you could offer to do, here’s some ideas:
- Do the dishes/unload the dishwasher
- Offer to take the child(ren) to the park for an hour, so mum can get a few moments peace!
- Suggest mum goes for a shower or a bath and you’ll take charge while she does.
- What about letting mum head to bed for a couple of hours, while you make the lunch and tidy up?
- Could you pick up some essentials at the shop, while you’re doing your own shopping anyway?
- Make mum a coffee and allow her 10 minutes to drink it, while you hold little one?
- Maybe you could bottle feed when you’re visiting? Or offer to wind and settle after mum has finished breastfeeding?
- Ask mum what house work is building up that she’s stressed about and see what you could help to tackle!
So these won’t work for everyone mum, but I am pretty sure that even the fact your offered will be an encouragement in itself. And if you’re not sure, but want to help, JUST ASK!
Taking care of you isn’t selfish, it’s vital. And let’s be honest, it’s something we quickly forget about when we become a mum. But you need time for you and it’s so key to emotional and mental health. So try to find some time, each week, to spend time doing things you enjoy and that give you “me time”. Maybe a bath, book, gym, favourite TV programme? Even half an hour can refresh you and give you strength to face whatever is next!
Get out and about!
A walk around the block, buggy or toddler in tow, time in the fresh air really can help – even in the rain! Or spend some time in the garden, park or nature trail. Even just a ‘change of scene’ can help on long, hard day! You could also considering joining a Mums ’n ’Tots group or Baby Massage class or anything else where you’ll meet other parents and their little ones. It’s easy to hide in the house all day – I know, I’ve been there! But the process of putting one some clean(ish) clothes, brushing your hair and heading out can honesty be a great thing…even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time!
So there you have it! I’m not for one minute suggesting these are ‘treatments’ for PND a Mental Health Illness – you’ll know if you’ve been following my journey that I have needed Medication, Therapy etc. But I think they are great tips, for us all to remember than can help promote good mental health and wellbeing.
What would you also add? I’d love to know…
‘Have you seen that girl?’ Gift Bags
So I mentioned that I have bags I give out, when I’m speaking or sharing at an event… here’s what they look like
- Candle – as a reminder, than even on the hard days, there is light and hope
- Treats – because we all deserve some sweets and chocolate, from time to time, right?!
- Adult colouring and pencils – I love colouring and it’s supposed to help promote good mental health
- Top Tips card – with some of what I have shared above.
I’m in the process of applying for funding, to allow me to create hundreds of these, so I can bring them to each event I am involved with – to encourage mums on their journey! In that bag there will also be a leaflet with my story of PND and pathways to help and support with PMH issues. I am very excited and hopeful that it will all work out… I will keep you up to date!