When I was pregnant with my first baby I constantly worried about not being maternal enough, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the love I would feel for my daughter when she finally entered the world. It didn’t take more than a second after she arrived for me to realise just what unconditional motherly love felt like, and once I felt it I knew there was no going back.
For the first 2 weeks I felt like I was on cloud nine, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have such a beautiful baby girl and I certainly couldn’t think of anything I had done to deserve such a gift! I took to motherhood like a duck to water and straight away I loved having a tiny person who depended on me. Of course I’m far from perfect and was making my fair share of mistakes along the way.. one of my least favourite lessons was the importance of nappy bags, it wasn’t until I had to spend a morning picking dirty rained on nappies up from the garden after a seagull attack that I realised just how useful they are!
After that high on life feeling had started to wear off and the tiredness kicked in, the reality of how I had been living hit me. While I was a good mom and very competent as a mother, I realised some of my thoughts and fears weren’t exactly normal. For example little things like feeding my daughter enough were a constant worry. I know most breastfeeding moms will feel this way as there is no way of telling how much your baby is drinking, but even after consistent healthy weight gain and a brilliant appetite I couldn’t shake the feeling I was letting my baby down. This also led to me avoiding leaving the house unless absolutely necessary as I couldn’t bare the thought of being trapped somewhere with no way of feeding her and having her be hungry and uncomfortable with no way to help her. I stopped sleeping as much as I could and would cry myself to sleep most nights worried that if I closed my eyes for too long and stopped watching my daughter she wouldn’t wake up. The thought of leaving her for more than a few minutes would fill me with anxiety, and when I would put it into practice while she was napping I would rush back in after a couple of minutes terrified she had some how managed to choke or die. It got to the point where I knew they were crazy fears but could do nothing to stop them.. I knew my boyfriend wouldn’t suddenly smother our baby instead of putting her to sleep, or drown her in the bath just because it was running but it ached every bone in my body not to run in and check. I wish I could say right here that I spoke up and told my health visitor or doctor how I was feeling and got help to over come my unfounded fears, but I didn’t. I found as she got older I could put some of my worries such as cot death and meningitis to rest, the others got easier to manage day by day and by the time she was a year old I felt back to my old self. Looking back I now I know I didn’t seek help because I was afraid of how I would be judged and didn’t want to be seen as a unfit mother just because I was worrying a lot. It sounds stupid when I look back on it with a clear head but at the time I was feeling my lowest and most anxious it was a totally realistic fear for me.
I hope sharing my experience with post natal anxiety helps anyone who’s feeling this way, and more than anything hope that anyone who feels they need help in these situations reaches out and gets it. There is still too much of a stigma around mental health and it’s sad to see how misunderstood so many aspects of it are. People who suffer from a mental illness are not weak, they are not all crazy and they are not visible to the naked eye.
Image taken from: http://www.juliepoolehypnotherapy.co.uk/anxiety/