Many women feel low when they have a baby and feeling low is especially common after your first child.
When I had my first baby I was relatively young (mid 20s), a recently qualified midwife and new to the area, as I had moved to the town where my husband was living when we had got married the year before. My parents lived over 400km away and I was one of the first out of our group of friends to take the plunge and have a baby.
I still truly believe that nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming shock of having a baby – I don’t mean the labour and birth, that’s temporary – it’s the shock of taking the baby home – for ever! Certainly being a midwife had done nothing to prepare me although at least I knew how to bath my daughter.
Two weeks later my husband was back at work (I was very jealous of him being able to walk out of the door back to normality), my mum had returned to the North of England, I was still having breast feeding problems and I could not stop crying. When my Health Visitor (the English equivalent of the Plunket nurse) came to meet me I had been crying for 18 hours and couldn’t stop! She gave me some practical tips for crying babies – my goodness Charlotte could yell – and told me she’d be watching me carefully for post natal depression. Apparently just being a health professional put me in a high risk group!
During those couple weeks I got an insight into how it really feels to not be able to ‘pull yourself together’ and to be unable to carry on a conversation for crying. I understood how single mothers in high rise, inner city flats could throw a screaming baby out of the window.
I was one of the lucky ones though. I simply had a bad case of the ‘baby blues’. The feeling lifted and my ever so practical husband came up with strategies to ensure I got more sleep – I was breast feeding so he couldn’t do the night feeds, but in the morning he would bring me breakfast in bed and I would try to doze off again after the early morning feed. Oh the joy of baby number 1 … no such luxury when you have a toddler! I ensured that I went out for a walk every day with the pram, whatever the English weather and despite the short, dark days. I joined a post natal group, although this was not really my cup of tea and knew I was feeling happier and normal again.
I have watched many women struggle to cope with having a baby over the last 15 years. Some of my dearest friends have struggled to come to terms with post natal depression of varying severities. As a midwife I have seen women with post natal psychosis need to be separated from their own babies, while they slowly recover. Everyone I have known has struggled to some extent to adapt to this new life, which is often lonely, extremely demanding and absorbs you completely.
I have written 3 articles to cover the huge spectrum of feelings and experiences that surround the post natal period:
The baby blues – those common feelings of exhaustion and tearfulness
Post natal depression – a common condition that affects 10% of women
Post natal psychosis – a rare condition of extreme reactions and behaviours.