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Post Natal Depression: Our beautiful relationship had a rocky start
The next story in our Journey to Parenthood series comes from Jenni, a mum of two, who shares her journey through post natal depression and how the initial newborn phase was not the glowing rosy journey often portrayed. Despite a rocky start, she has a beautiful relationship with her boys and post natal depression has not defined her motherhood, it was only the beginning of it. This is a story that discusses a very important topic, maternal mental health, but is also heartwarming, as it shows you can get through it and go on to love motherhood. Jenni runs the family lifestyle blog The Bear & the Fox and despite all odds has kicked off a new business during lockdown: Awsm Street.
Throughout our series, we are exploring various paths to parenthood and the journey of parenthood itself. Showing different perspectives of how there is never a straight-forward route and going through tough times, especially as a Mum, can be completely overwhelming.
"You’d never think to look at us now, that we had
a bit of a rocky start"
Hello, my name is Jenni. I’m 41 and mum to two boys, aged 5 and 9. I run a family lifestyle blog (www.thebearandthefox.com) where I write about our daily life and the big and small adventures we have. I have often had people comment on the beautiful relationship I have with my boys. I love both my sons, with all my heart. You’d never think to look at us now, that we had a bit of a rocky start.
Our boys are four years apart in age, almost to the day. This slightly bigger age gap is partly due to medical issues when trying to conceive second time round, but also due to the post natal experiences I had when my elder son was born. The pregnancy was planned, the baby very much longed for. I was excited about becoming a mum and looking forward to it, though was not naive enough to think it would all be plain sailing. I knew being a mum was a hard job, but I felt ready.
And then my son arrived, after a two hour labour. And I felt…nothing. Well, not nothing. I felt exhausted. And a little sore. And quite drained, having lost a lot of blood. But that initial rush of love that I had been expecting when I first laid eyes on my baby, when I held him for the first time – that didn’t come. My husband’s heart was visibly brimming over, but I felt a kind of numbness and apathy. This was not what it was supposed to feel like. What I was supposed to feel like. The expectation society places on mums-to-be, is that you will hold your much longed for baby in your arms at last, and everything will be just perfect. But quite often it’s not. After yearning for this moment so much, I felt disappointed in myself. I felt as though I had failed as a mother.
Feelings of despair
Those feelings of apathy hung around for months, like an unwanted guest. Feelings of despair, which I didn’t know how to explain. I continued to struggle to bond with my baby, and cried myself to sleep every single night for the first few months. The sleep deprivation didn’t help, nor did the fact my poor baby suffered from colic. He cried for hours every day, and hardly slept. We tried every trick in the book – colic drops, swaddling, not swaddling, white noise, massages, carrying him this way and that way. In the end I even took him to a cranial osteopath. Nothing helped. I remember saying to my husband “I think I love him, but I’m not sure I like him”.
One afternoon in the early days just after nursing my son, my husband sent me out to get some fresh air and take some time to myself, while he stayed behind holding the screaming baby. I wandered around in the nearby local park for a while then sat on a bench feeling miserable. I started crying. Not because I missed my baby, but because I didn’t want to go back. Of course, I did.
In moments like this, it’s hard not to feel like a bad mother. I’m not ashamed for the feelings I had, but I didn’t talk about it much. Only my closest family and a few friends knew what was really going on behind the ‘glowing new mum’ facade. I did speak to my health visitor about it, and mentioned that I had also suffered from anxiety and panic attacks when I was at university, but she brushed me off with a tick-box survey to fill in and then told me I’d be fine. After having been invalidated like that, I lost the confidence to ever bring it up it again. I didn’t feel like I could tell other people, I was afraid they would judge me. I had already seen how shocked one of my colleagues reacted when I, only half-jokingly, mentioned I didn’t actually enjoy being pregnant. How much more shocked would she be, if I admitted I didn’t enjoy being a mum.
My feelings were brushed off by others
"Research suggests that as many as 1 in 5 women who give birth in the UK and the US each year will be affected by a maternal mental health disorder", such as Post natal depression
A new mother is a happy mother. That’s how society wants it. “Well, at least you have a healthy baby!” “This is the most precious time of your life, enjoy every moment!” Which new mum hasn’t had to put up with comments like that. You have to be happy – happy that you have a baby, happy that the baby is finally here. After all, that is what you have waited months (or even years) for. You are allowed to feel tired. Possibly a little overwhelmed. But God forbid you don’t feel happy!
Being happy 24/7, however, is unrealistic and exhausting. Research suggests that as many as 1 in 5 women who give birth in the UK and the US each year will be affected by a maternal mental health disorder. And yet, it’s not something that is talked about much unless it’s a celebrity mother hitting the news headlines. We need to stop treating this as a taboo subject!
It took me almost six months until I was able to truly enjoy my baby. Until I was truthfully able to say “Yes, I am happy being a mum”. Until I was able to love him unconditionally. And until I was able to acknowledge, that taking my time to reach that point did not make me a bad mother. That not everybody falls in love with their baby instantly, and that that’s okay.
Ever since then, my heart has been brimming over with love. But the experience stayed with me for a while. I had always wanted several children, but I was scared to have another. Not because of the pregnancy which I hadn’t enjoyed, or the pain of childbirth, but because I was scared the same thing would happen again. I wasn’t sure I could go through that all again – the apathy, the numbness, the despair. In the end, my longing for another baby was stronger than my fears. Luckily, the second time round was smooth sailing. No numbness, no tears. The only one crying was the baby. I just felt tired. But happy.
Despite the current climate, Jenni and her husband have kicked off a new business during Lockdown: Awsm Street. Here is what Jenni says about it:
“Awsm Street is a fun new brand selling unisex clothes for colour loving kids. We believe that all colours are for everyone. We print on demand, which means we have our designs printed as and when orders come in, so there are no surplus garments going to waste. Our logo and signature design is a skateboarding unicorn – my eldest boy came up with the idea, after he couldn’t find any T-shirts that he liked in the high street shops. So his dad sketched out a design, and Awsm Street was born!”
- Speak to a friend or family member that you trust. They will not judge you and may be able to help you directly or reach out to others who can.
- Contact your Doctor or Health Visitor. Your Doctor will be able to provide advice and support for your local area
Here are some online resources that may help:
- Maternal Mental Health Awareness Scotland: https://maternalmentalhealthscotland.org.uk/
- NHS Scotland publiction: Talking about Postnatal depression
If you can relate to this story and would like to connect with other parents in your situation, our Dribble Facebook Community is full of advice, support, chat, events and much more to meet other Scottish families.
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