From my experience
I had my first son six months ago, and what a journey it’s been. I have learnt that everyone is going through the same thing – no matter how weird you think your feelings or thoughts are. And you will more than likely find by talking openly to another new mum that they’re feeling it too. It’s bloody hard, but rewarding and your baby will push you to breaking point and then do something incredible and you’ll be reset to get going again!
But there are common themes, which in talking to new mums, I realise are our experiences are shared.
It’s obvious. And I hate to say it. But it’s like you’ve been hit by a truck. Or done ten rounds with Mike Tyson. Or run a few marathons with a very uncomfortable thong on. Whatever the analogy – you’re bloody sore. A friend described the sensation afterwards as sitting on a bunch of bananas, and it is crazily accurate. But overriding the physical sensation was utter awe at how incredible my body was. I just made that perfect thing and pushed it out! Go me! The natural high you are on, completely overshadows the nasty stuff (for a while at least).
You’re in love
It sounds cheesy but – the amount of love you have for that tiny person you created! I remember sitting in my bed in hospital when my partner had fallen asleep, cuddling my little guy with tears rolling down my cheeks just because I loved him so much. The most amazing yet terrifying feeling.
Saying this, it isn’t all the cosy family love bubble with cuddles and laughter that I expected the first few weeks to be. I felt completely and utterly overwhelmed, unprepared and incapable – I could not have swatted up more about the whole shebang, but as everyone says, nothing can prepare you for the first time someone hands you that tiny little person. You have transformed from only having to care and look after yourself – to being in charge of the life of a tiny person! And it’s not just a responsibility for a bit of time. It’s for the rest of your life!
I have suffered with anxiety in various degrees since I was a teenager and for at least 3 weeks after the birth, I was extremely anxious and on occasion getting close to having panic attacks. My fingers would tingle, I would have heart palpitations and I couldn’t sleep. And I just felt like I couldn’t handle it. I now know it was a crazy mix of hormones and lack of sleep which was causing it. The key was to take it day by day and not think too far ahead, as that was the overwhelming feeling. I personally didn’t have the ‘milk coming in, baby blues on day 5’ – I had anxiety and it probably peaked during the second week. You just have to keep you and your baby alive. Don’t stress yourself with anything else.
You’re going to need help
Dependent? It’s hard to admit as I’m fiercely independent, but admitting you need help and being dependent on others (be it your family or that angel of a midwife who steps in just as your baby is unable to latch for the millionth time that day who helps you), is important. Don’t be afraid to seek counselling and psychotherapy if you need extra support.
You’re learning to trust your gut instinct
I’m very opinionated and strong-minded, but in this brand new area of my life I was so affected by people’s advice and opinions as I felt I had no clue what I was doing. Advice to myself back then – trust your own knowledge and gut instinct.
AUTHOR: EMMA JACKSON
NEW MUM AND BABY, SURREY
Emma is mum to Freddie and based in Surrey. She’s also a psychotherapist in training at Regents College, London.