Welcome to this months Focus on You! In case you missed the post explaining it, Focus on You is a series where I’m putting the focus on you! Real mums, telling their stories, in their own words.
The aim of this series is to raise awareness and educate people on a range of subjects that aren’t generally discussed. It’s also to give you some insight into other peoples lives and what they might have been through or going through as a little reminder to be kind. Topics will be relating to fertility, parenthood, postnatal health and much more!
Every month, I will bring you a story told by a lovely mum who has been kind enough to share their experience with us. I asked each mum the same questions. All of the answers will be in their own words.
This time, I’ve been talking with the lovely Laura from Always Crafty Mum, who has kindly shared her story with us. The focus is on the baby blues.
What Are The Baby Blues?
During the first week after childbirth, many women get what’s often called the “baby blues”. Women can experience a low mood and feel mildly depressed at a time when they expect they should feel happy after having a baby. “Baby blues” are probably due to the sudden hormonal and chemical changes that take place in your body after childbirth.NHS Website
Having a baby is a joyful time but due to raging hormones, a lot of women will be hit with the baby blues. According to the NGHS website, these feelings should pass between 10 and 14 days.
But what happens if you experience more than the baby blues, but not quite Postnatal depression? Laura shares her story with us.
Did you feel like there was adequate help for looking after your mental health after giving birth?
I did not suffer from PND (postnatal depression) but I did get intense baby blues. I feel like I landed in the grey area. Because it’s just the baby blues it is brushed off. I have a very supportive family and friends network but if I didn’t I could easily have fallen from baby blues to PND. When I talked about how I was feeling I would get ‘that’s baby blues it’s normal’ and the conversation would be shut down. I would be left feeling worse, as though I was failing as a mum because I couldn’t deal with something as simple as baby blues.
If not, did you find it easy in seeking out help with your mental health?
No, because it was not classed as a problem.
Did anything put you off getting help?
Yes, Health Visitors and midwives telling me it wasn’t anything to worry about.
Did you get the help you needed? How were you made to feel?
I had to work through it myself, my husband my family and my close friends were my rocks.
What advice do you have for any new mums and dads on postnatal mental health?
Just because you don’t get labelled as having PND, anxiety, etc does not mean that the way you feel is not important. Yes, it will pass, but it is different for everyone, and everyone is important. Talk to the people around you, lean on them when you need to. Being a mum is hard and it’s ok to ask for help
Did you feel let down by your midwives and Health Visitors? Could they have done more?
I loved my midwife, I had the same one throughout my pregnancy and we had a great relationship. My baby blues happened once I had been put into the care of the Health Visitors.
Although this lady seemed nice I did not know her. My notification for her home visit was lost or never sent to me, so when she turned up I had no idea (I was still in bed! House was a mess and I was exhausted) so it was all a bit of a panic. When I said how I was feeling she said, ‘keep an eye on how you feel and let us know if it gets worse’.
After that session at home, it was just 2 weekly weigh in with baby. These were busy and I didn’t want to waste their time so never said anything. I found it hard in a room full of people to say I was struggling.
What actions did you take to look after your mental health?
It took about 2 weeks of me struggling and trying to keep everyone happy (visiting people and letting them visit us) before I turned round to my husband and said I can’t do this!!! I am lucky that I have a really supportive husband.
Our little one was about 3 weeks old by this point (our first week we were stuck in hospital) and we came up with a plan, or at least hubby did. I was breastfeeding, so I started pumping milk but if I wasn’t able to or I didn’t produce enough or have enough time then we had some formula. Initially, the thought of giving formula made me feel worse as though I was failing.
Our plan was that we went on lockdown, no visits, no one to entertain or put on a smile for. Hubby would stay up till midnight with baby and I would go to bed at 8 pm and sleep uninterrupted. Hubby would feed as required and do changes until then and then bring him up to bed and I would take over.
We did this for a week and the relax made such a difference. After that week we lifted the ban on visitors but was much more strict and if we didn’t feel up to it would cancel.
Is there anything that you wish people had done for you whilst you were suffering with your mental health?
I found the comments the worst thing – ‘Look at you, you are doing so well to be out and about’……inside I was screaming. These people were laying on the guilt trip to see our baby so we felt we didn’t have a choice.
It seems a silly thing and although the comments were all meant to be positive at the time I found them less than helpful.
I wish we would have had more than one home visit from the HV. I know they are busy and have lots of people to help and see but I feel one was not enough for me to feel comfortable enough to really open up/cry/shout and ask for help.
Honestly, though I am not sure what would have helped the most, our first week in the hospital was probably what made me feel this way to begin with.
Becoming a new parent is hard enough. But becoming a new parent dealing with the baby blues and being told that it’s normal and nothing to worry about can make you feel so much worse. I personally don’t even like the term baby blues.
The Baby blues is not something to be dismissed. If left unacknowledged and untreated it could lead to postnatal depression or anxiety.
I think that Laura absolutely did the right thing to look after her health. So many women do not feel comfortable asking for help and will struggle on for weeks. But by putting an action plan in place Laura was able to recover quickly.
If you know someone who has just become a parent and they mention that they’re not feeling themselves, please don’t brush it off and say it’s just the baby blues. Ask them if there is anything that you can do to help. Even if it’s just holding baby for a minute so that they can have a hot cup of tea, a bit of food or a bathroom break. And don’t forget to check in on them. Sometimes becoming a parent can be lonely as everyone only asks after baby. Make sure that you ask mum and dad how they’re feeling too.
At the end of the day, whether you have suffered from depression for years or you’re suffering from the baby blues, looking after your mental health is super important and everyone should be treated with the same care.