Post Natal Depression – three big, scary words. Ones that I’ve been afraid of given my past history and something I’m being vigilant about. As is my husband, as are my friends and family. It is also a subject that was mentioned at ante-natal classes, at every Maternal & Child Health check up, and discussed widely in the forum I participate in. PND or PPD is certainly much more visible here in Australia than it was in the UK
I know all my prior reading on how to read baby’s cues and how to look after them 24/7 stood me in good stead technically, but until you’re in it, you have NO concept of what it will be like. I honestly thought ‘How hard can it be? They only eat, sleep & poop!’ At 3:30 this morning when I was feeding Archie and he pooped, with an explosion in his nappy and I felt a damp patch spreading across my PJs, it was hard work! A complete strip down of your baby will wake them up like nothing else will. A complete strip down means he’s going to get grumpy when I try to wipe off poop, instead of dunking him in the bath which although also a palaver, is actually easier, (certainly nicer for him as he gets a wallow out of it too). A quick overnight feed, burp and back to sleep rapidly turned into nearly two hours of feed on one side; burp as best I can to get some air out; lay him down on the change mat and hope he doesn’t upchuck everything he’s just eaten; strip off layers; wash; layer back up again; swaddle; feed on other side; burp; pace up and down, and up and down, and up and down. I got back into bed 45 minutes before the alarm went off to wake my husband to go to work.
Never let it be said that men have it easy either during this newborn journey. I can’t remember the last time I had a coherent conversation with Hubs. My mind jumps from one subject to another, sometimes mid-sentence, so following my conversation is hard work. I can’t remember the last time I read more than just bits of the papers we buy each weekend, so all I have to talk about are what the baby did; or a podcast I listened to when I fed him; or something I watched on daytime TV. I can’t remember the last time we ate a home-cooked meal together, with both us eating our meals hot. When he’s home, if he is holding the baby I am faffing about in the house trying to catch up on housework/ ablutions/ sleep/ thank you cards, because despite me being home most of the day, the only thing I can keep on top of is the washing. Mainly because I only have to load and unload the washing machine, I don’t need to beat our clothes against a rock.
In two days, eight weeks will have passed since our son was born. I love him dearly. I love learning what his sounds mean, I love watching him sleep as he is next to me on the couch at the moment. I love his facial expressions, and while other people hold him, I still gaze at him because I can then see the back of his head – which is inordinately cute. Also as he’s not right up against my face (or boob) I can see how small he still is. At eight weeks a big developmental leap is also happening. Instead of everything being mixed together, babies between 71/2 – 91/2 weeks start noticing patterns and more of their surroundings. It also means because he’s learning something new, he’s clingy, wants to be fed all the time, and because he’s eating a lot, he’s pooping a lot. He’s hard work at the minute, physically. I can feel my energy draining away during the day. Not least because it feels like he’s sucking the life out of me, but hefting around 9lb something that wiggles a lot isn’t easy. Archie also is only cat-napping for most of the day, (he’s already waving his arms around and waking up now, only 35 minutes after he went off to sleep). I’d love to sleep when he does, but as soon as he settles, I want a shower, or a pee, before the feed, burp, change cycle starts all over again, and if he’s only asleep for about an hour, that hour whizzes past.
Being a new Mama is isolating. You are bombarded with information: some helpful; some less so; some WTF were you thinking? I’m lucky I have the girls in the forum who cheer me on, cheer me up and give me sound advice. I’m lucky I have a bevvy of girls on Twitter that make me laugh as we also talk about our new babies. But you can only do what you can do. Sometimes Archie has to cry when I put him down so I can make myself a meal, or get washed. I hate it, because he’s properly crying, with tears and everything. But what do I do? I can’t take care of him, unless I take care of me. He is my main priority after my ‘self’, with my husband and marriage next in line. But the days when I’m up and dressed before noon are few and far between, feeding myself is one thing, dressing is another!
When you’re on your own for 11 hours a day with someone who demands nearly all your resources, it is easy to get lost. I’ve had days where although I’ve not lost my patience with Archie, I’ve struggled to get through. Showers once were just a way of getting clean of a morning, now they are my own private space. My back is killing me, I’ve not seen the chiro since we came out of hospital; I’ve not had a massage since the week before he arrived. My left arm hurts, because if I hold him in my right arm, it doesn’t feel as secure. Yet despite my body sometimes screaming in agony, my mind is clear and happy. Because I’m talking about how I feel – for the first time in my life. When the pilot crashed from The Red Arrows, who had formed such a significant part of my childhood, we were just going to bed. Through the overnight feed I tried to find out what was happening, to be woken with the sad news he was killed immediately the plane ditched. Hubs came into the bedroom with a cup of tea for me, finding me feeding Archie, I was also weeping all over him. I didn’t hide my face, or say ‘I’m fine!’ I told Hubs why an RAF display team were so special to me. He listened to me and gave me a hug.
My little man needs me to be there for him 100%, I’ve got nowhere to hide, I’m probably the most vulnerable I’ve ever been. Is it any wonder women all over the world struggle with depression shortly after a baby arrives? Keep talking ladies to get your voice heard. Last weekend I had a hard night with Archie, I was bone tired, but felt better after my bath. I explained to Hubs I didn’t need him to try to cheer me up with one-liners I was too tired to pick up on; I didn’t need him fix what wasn’t working, I just needed him to hear it was broken.