I remember not experiencing that warm fuzzy feeling when I first saw my baby. I was apprehensive about carrying him, and was not feeling all that good. I was tired, in pain and simply couldn’t bring myself to be happy. I had an emergency caesarean section after spending 22 long hours in labour, where I almost lost my baby.
The ordeal was draining after a pregnancy fraught with every imaginable or unimaginable difficulty – “morning sickness” that lasted all day, two threatened miscarriages, daily hormone injections along with complete bed rest, deep vein thrombosis on my arm, injecting myself daily so my blood wouldn’t clot, and feeling nauseated from everyday smells and fragrances.
No misery – no happiness
I never felt any regret about having my boy, not when I was pregnant and certainly not after his birth. But the joy was absent. Well, at least for the first couple of weeks. That was not what I had expected being a new mother would feel like.
I felt low. Not sad and in tears. On hindsight, it may have helped if I cried every once in awhile. I was simply stoic and methodical about what I needed to do. Get the Baby Whisperer’s E.A.S.Y routine in place – Eat, Activity, Sleep, You. Well E.A.S.Y was not always easy, and “You” time was not always possible.
My newborn behaved just like any other baby. He didn’t always just eat, play and sleep when he was “supposed” to. Sometimes he was uncomfortable, sometimes he cried. Those were challenging times for me, a control freak. I could not figure out what to do, and struggled to stay calm. I live with my in-laws who love their grandson to bits! Every cry sounded like an urgent cry for help and they would come dashing into the room or knocking on the door to see how they could pitch in.
What others saw that I didn’t…
I look back on those days and realise that I may have experienced a mild case of post -natal blues. I did not think I was uncharacteristically emotional or short fused, but my husband and close friend’s behaviours were key indicators…
My husband would book me a massage and ask me to go out to relax, while my girlfriend parked herself in my room to talk to my mother-in-law when she came in to the room to fuss over my son twice hourly. My girlfriend would ask me when we spoke, “So did you scold anyone today? You have post-natal aggression.” I didn’t think so. I felt I was just speaking my mind. But she said that before I had my baby, I would have handled situations with a lot more tact and sensitivity.
Signs of post-natal depression:
- Irritability or hypersensitivity
- Difficulty concentrating
- Anxiety and worry
- Crying or tearfulness
- Negative feelings such as sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, or guilt
- Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
- Difficulty sleeping (especially returning to sleep)
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Changes in appetite or eating habits
- Headaches, stomach aches, muscle or backaches
*Post-natal depression may last as long as 3 years after the birth of a child and may require seeking professional attention.
When is it time to get help?
Some mums may suffer from extreme cases of anxiety, obsessive compulsive behaviour, paranoia, suicidal thoughts and even strong urges to harm their baby.
They could be extremely emotional and overwhelmed or completely disconnected with their baby and family. In these instances, it is best to seek immediate professional help because their lives and their baby’s could be at high risk.
Post-natal depression may also be aggravated or triggered when there is marital stress, financial problems, having a difficult child, lack of social and familial support, past history of depression, anxiety or mental illness in the family.
What is important though, is to recognise that there is help, and the need for strong support from close family members and friends. It is critical that mums, and dads too, learn to open up and reach out for help.
Knowing that you’re not alone in this and telling someone how you’re feeling is the first step towards feeling better. Speak with a trained counsellor today.
Donna is the current Parenting Strategist at Focus on The Family. With a strong background in Sociology, Journalism and Public Relations, she produces content that engages, encourages and informs. When not writing or parenting, Donna also finds satisfaction in learning about, and helping children with learning difficulties cope better in school.
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