We all know how to deal with hangovers, don’t we? Lots of water, a carb-loaded breakfast (bacon sarnie mmmm), a potassium-rich banana and crisps are my fail-safe tactics. If it’s really bad, flat Coke does the trick. Those kind of hangovers are few and far between for me, these days. Thankfully.
But one hangover I’m not sure how to deal with is my post-natal depression hangover. If my first year of motherhood was the banging night out with tequila shots and oversharing in a shouty manner, over loud cheesy music, then I’m currently in the day after the day after. You know that stage when you’re over the worst of it but the after effects are still with you – dry mouth, dull ache to the head, yawning lots and still swearing you’ll never drink again.
I still feel weird saying that I had post-natal depression, because I never saw a doctor about it, or even knew I was suffering from it, at the time. It was only last year (by which point my daughter was two) that it dawned on me. Every time I say it out loud to friends, I cringe, thinking they’re about to say, “Yeah, but you didn’t really suffer from PND did you?” Of course, I’m fairly sure they’re not really thinking that. But we (myself included) feel more ready to accept medical conditions when a professional has made the diagnosis. For obvious reasons.
But with something like this, sometimes you just know. It’s the only explanation for the anxiety and inability to cope that I felt for the first year of being a mum. I haven’t written about it a huge deal here but back in January, I wrote about it over on The Motherhood so do take a read. It was incredibly hard to write, as is this.
So back to my PND hangover. There are definite after-effects that I’m still feeling. If I’m totally honest, the main reason I currently have one child, rather than two or three, is the knot that still forms in the pit of my stomach when I remember having a small baby. When people ask me if I’ll have another (note to those people: Stop asking. It’s a rude and personal question) I make a flippant joke but inside I’m trying not to vomit. I’ve said to many a friend that if we do decide to have another child, I’ll be ready to sacrifice a year of my life (and sanity) for the greater win of extending our family. Isn’t that sad? That I see it as a sacrifice?
Another shockwave that is still being transmitted from that year is the amount of time I spend with my daughter. If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know I’m all ‘Woo for working mums!’ and I’ve written in the past about my decision to work full time. But the reality is that working full time when my daughter was 18 months old was a coping mechanism. I was so emotionally worn out from the year before, I couldn’t have dealt with days on my own with her. And now, nearly four years later, I’m still working full time. I see other mums work flexibly so that they can hang out with their kids, and the idea really appeals to me, until that knot in my stomach appears and I start to panic that I wouldn’t be able to cope.
Which is crazy. Of course it is. Partly because I’ve got an amazing, bright, happy nearly-four-year-old now rather than a small baby. She’s so much fun to spend time with, and we have amazing fun every weekend. And partly because I’m not suffering from PND right now – I’m stronger and happier than I was back then. But that knot is there, quietly reminding me that I didn’t cope in my year at home during maternity leave. I really want to ignore it but it’s something I have to work towards, gradually.
I wish a bacon sandwich and flat Coke would make this hangover disappear.
Wish I could give you a big fat hug Al. Be kind to yourself – you had it rough and, from the sound of it, only really realised HOW rough fairly recently. I don’t have any answers but I know time is often said to be a good healer. And you never know, if you did have another baby who’s to say you’d experience those feelings again? I wish I had an answer for how to make the hangover go away for good though. I’m sure others will be far more wise than me and actually offer some useful advice. Love you, as always. Sorry for my crappy non-useful comment. Didn’t want to read and not reply. Beautifully brave post that I’m sure will resonate with a lot of people. xxx
How is a virtual hug crappy and non-useful? Thanks Molly xx
It doesn’t always follow that your experience with one child will happen with another. I too had a pretty grim time after child number 1 and I felt overwhelmed and totally out of my depth. I saw a psychologist when I got pregnant with number 2 as I was so worried that I wouldn’t cope and I was reassured that no 2 births are the same and no 2 kids are the same. It was different
I felt much more confident as number 1 was 4 years old by the time number 2 arrived and I’d managed not to break him so I felt I was doing OK. And that feeling that actually I can do this was enough to get me through the hard newborn bit again.
That said, there’s nothing to say that you shouldn’t just stick as you are. Every family is unique and has it’s number of family members and that’s what’s right for them. I have friends with 1 child who are more than happy to stop there, and I have a friends with 4 who want more (although the one with 5 is definitely done now!)
It’s good to be able to realise what you went through and to know that it’s actually quite normal that after you’ve endured 9 months of hormone hell followed by the joy (?!) of childbirth and then the horrendous tiredness of the early years you might feel a little shell shocked. I think that’s fair enough!
You’re so right Nic. It’s crazy what a woman’s body and brain goes through. It’s great that you saw a psychologist for number 2 – it sounds like it helped lots.
I confess I think I rode over my PND into second baby and only after that did I stop and go WTF. But my story is irrelevant since this is about you. Everyone has their own pace, their own way of finding a way through the darkness to the bright multi-coloured world. And I am here for you whenever you need someone to sit by you in that darkness.
Not irrelevant – it’s important to hear other mums’ stories. Thanks Kelly x
A beautifully written, honest post. Like you , I had a bit of a rough ride in the initial few months with #1 and was an emotional wreck. I put it down to baby blues at the time and would pretend everything was hunkydory when the health visitor paid a visit so I didn’t look like I couldn’t cope!
I’m now 5 weeks in with #2 and it’s been a completely different experience. I’m relaxed, content and her cries don’t bother me one jot! It was only when the health visitor came a few weeks ago and asked me how I was coping this time around compared with #1 that she said it sounded like I had PND first time around!
Be kind to yourself, it looks like you’re an amazing mummy! Xx
I reckon a lot of mums don’t realise they have it – we’re encouraged to battle on, aren’t we, and everyone says being a mum is hard so when you have nothing to compare it to, how would you know?
I can completely relate as I went through the same, my anxiety sounds worse than yours as I did not cope well at all. I returned to work when my first was 18 months.
I had my second child when my first was over 4 years old. I now work full time.
If you would like any more advice or to email just let me know !
Having another child is your decision only, it doesn’t define you and it is all in your control to do as u want
Thank you 🙂
Great post, it probably affects lots more mums than would realise it or admit to. Having babies is hard! And I think you should be kinder on yourself about what you do have, what a brilliant little person G is and how great a mum you are (even if you haven’t always felt that) xx.
I diagnosed myself after 18 months, and the GP said “Ah! I’ve been wondering when you’d come to that conclusion!”
You would cope better second time around. I did. It did make a reappearance, but I knew it was time sensitive, and that made it easier to accept. And acceptance is part of dealing with it. I still suffer with anxiety from time to time, but over the years I’ve learned that actually, I’ve always been that kind of person – I just never saw it or acknowledged it for what it was. Having PND has taught me so much about myself, and I’m in a better place because of that, than I ever was before I had children. So bizarrely, it’s been a good thing.
The biggest thing I’ve learned (and this through having CBT) is to be my own best friend, to accept myself, and realise that I’m doing a comparatively amazing job of raising my kids. You are too x
Great post – I knew that loneliness too – but your journey has been rough. Wear it as a badge on the inside of your jacket, know it’s there, but be so so proud you came through it, and learn how strong you are. You sound like a wonderful mother to me!
I can tell this took guys to write Alison, sorry you had a shitty time if it. I didn’t have PND so to speak but crippling anxiety that I couldn’t cope which manifested into bad insomnia. It was a horrific time and I just felt scared to try to sleep or scared to face the day. My husband forced me to go to the doctor and I started taking anti depressants and sleeping pills which helped sort me out over the course of a few months.
Anyway the point is I was terrified it would happen again second time round but it never has, I don’t think I was prepared the first time around for how much a baby would affect my life. Everything was easier with number two x
It took guts not guys 😉
A lovely thought written post. I think a lot of women suffer in the darkness not realising that what they are experiencing isn’t *just* because they are tired. I think people always find it difficult to know the right thing to say when talking about these ‘taboo’ issues. I’m glad you can now speak out more x
Great post, thanks so much for writing it. After 3 babies in 6 years I think I’ve been suffering from PND in mild (and not so mild) forms for a long time now and I completely understand your feelings of anxiety and not coping. It really affects your self-confidence. I’m much better with my kids as they get older now and I’m learning to enjoy motherhood so much more xx
I hope you are well.
I read your blog post ages ago but didn’t comment as you could have been writing about me.
Thinking about you and all of those who secretly have PND but don’t want to share. I’m going to pop a link from my blog to this post I hope you don’t mind.
Hi Alison, lovely and honest post about the reality. I think most mums feel like you did but most of these mums suffer in silence :(. I am always happy to see women being open about it. I suffered from PND too and it was the worst experience of my life. Just want to remind you that you DID cope. You have a lovely, healthy daughter who has an amazing, loving mum. What exactly was not handled here? 😉 We are often too hard on ourselves and we tend to forget that we are supposed to be real, not perfect. 🙂 Stay strong hun, you are one amazing Mum. xxx