The books and magazines make having a baby seem easy, fun and almost like having a new hobby. Walk along any high street and look in Starbucks and it’s full of women with shiny new Bugaboos, matching baby bags and little bundles of joy. This is what you see in public, what goes on behind closed doors can be so very different.
It's not uncommon for some women experience ‘baby blues’ after giving birth. For some women this goes away as quickly as it arrived, for others it develops into full blown Post Natal Depression (PND) and have a significant impact on their lives.
PND affects 1 in 5 mums, but this figure only includes those who seek help, many more suffer in silence and alone. PND is a recognised and serious illness that can be life-threatening. It’s a battle that can be fought and won with the right support and treatment, but even today there’s still stigma surrounding it and many women feel like it is their fault.
I wasn’t public about it at the time, but I had PND after having my first son. To the outside world I had it all, after an amazing wedding, we quickly moved to a gorgeous new house, I had great family and friends and didn’t have to work so I automatically thought I would, and should, be blissfully happy when the baby arrived.
We aren’t meant to admit it but having children is hard; having depression is miserable and when the two collide life can feel almost impossible. But, I put on a brave face, or as one friend calls it, the "I'm fine" mask, and walked around town as if life was great. However, on the inside I was a mess; I loved my baby and the bond was there from the start, but my hormones were all over the place, I was terrified of getting anything wrong or him getting ill, I had sleep deprivation, felt guilty and would often just sit and cry. I was told more than once that to pull myself together and that I had it all – I knew this but it didn’t change the way I felt.
I was lucky, my husband and doctor were great and there was a local support group that was my saving grace - we were all in the same boat and no one made me feel like I was being self indulgent or selfish. Before long I was back on track and enjoying my new life as a mummy; but even writing this I feel a bit pathetic that I couldn’t cope with a tiny baby and that I failed him.
I think that it is really important that new mums, and dads, talk about their feelings and emotions without fear of judgement. If you can try and be open and honest about how you feel it will help and you don’t need to feel ashamed if it isn’t quite going to plan.
PND is an illness, not a reflection of your ability to be a good mummy, you can recover and feel good again so if you, or a friend, are showing signs of PND don't suffer in silence, get help and talk to someone.