Author: Charlotte Pirrone
‘Make the most of this time’
‘Enjoy him whilst he’s a baby’
‘This is such a happy time’
‘They grow up so fast’
Ugh. These were the voices that echoed in my head as I sat crying silent tears looking at my newborn baby, in too much pain to move, too scared to think about the future, already missing my independent past, and wondering what the hell was wrong with me for not enjoying this moment. I’m sure people think they’re being helpful when they say things like this, but for me, it caused a huge amount of anxiety, and did nothing to diminish the rapidly growing wave of postnatal depression that was dragging me down. The fear that he would grow up before I had the chance to ‘enjoy him’ created such anxiety I just wanted to stop time until my emotions could catch up.
I think one of the biggest things for me was the massive change in my life. I was so scared of the future, how things would never be the same and I’d never have the life I used to have again, that I couldn’t manage to see how actually that wasn’t a negative thing. It was fear of the unknown. I didn’t know how much this little person would enrich our lives, and I couldn’t comprehend how much better our lives would be with him in it, not without experiencing it first-hand and having time to get used to it.
Of course, the mental and physical wounds from a traumatic birth didn’t exactly help me to feel better about things. I kept replaying the moment in my head when I thought we were going to lose our precious baby at birth, and I was in so much pain that sitting or moving caused absolute agony, and walking was even worse (think cross between John Wayne and a lame penguin). Add in those delightful postpartum hormones and already existing mental health issues and I was in for a rough ride! Oh, and did I mention the insomnia that came with the postnatal depression? That was fun. ‘Sleep when baby sleeps’ they say. That’s great advice if you can actually sleep. Man, I was glad when that bit was over.
The trouble is, no one tells you how hard it’s going to be at first. Yeah, they joke about how you’ll never sleep again and might experience a couple of weepy days. But no one really explains to you that it could be a lot harder than that for a while, and that it’s totally normal not to feel filled up with happiness straight away. But you get through it. With time and the right support (my perinatal mental health team were really supportive) you will get through it. Having a new baby doesn’t just involve feelings of happiness and joy and love - although obviously they’re a big part of it. For many women it can also involve fear, sorrow, anxiety and a feeling of hopelessness. And it’s completely normal. I spent so much time beating myself up about having these mixed emotions and freaking out that I wasn’t ‘enjoying’ my baby enough that I spent countless hours sat crying and feeling bad about myself, and fearing that by feeling this way I was ruining this special time. The more I felt depressed the more I beat myself up and panicked about regretting wasting this time feeling this way. Because as everyone kept reminding me, time was ‘running out’ and he’d be grown up before I knew it. But over the months I have heard of so many other women that felt similar to this, and I have realized what I went through was totally normal. Yeah it sucks. But it’s normal. And what’s more is it doesn’t last forever. Having a newborn is about surviving and learning and enjoying the moments that you can. It is not about choirs of angels singing and end to end perfect moments with your baby while your husband brings you herbal tea and rubs your feet. Well, not for most of us anyway. Did I spend a long time gazing lovingly into my babies’ beautiful blue eyes? Of course I did! Did I enjoy cuddling him on the sofa every afternoon while he napped on me? Every minute of it. So, there were plenty of positive moments too. I just didn’t always appreciate them for what they were at the time. But looking back it’s easy to see so many magical moments amongst the fog. And as for enjoying him whilst he was a baby, well 17 months down the line and I enjoy him more and more every day, I don’t think I will ever stop enjoying him. He might have his moments but he’s my world, and I love watching him grow and develop into an amazing little person. Now I look forward to the future instead of fearing it.
So, my message to new mums and mums to be? It’s ok not to feel ok. It’s ok not to be living on a constant cloud 9. And it’s ok to ask for help and support, to talk about what’s going on. It’s hard, and this whole new life takes some getting used to. But you are not alone. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel the way I did. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Surround yourself with as many supportive people as you can, even if it’s in online forums, and focus on getting through. Because in the end it will all be worth it. Gradually you will start to appreciate your time with bubba more and more, and the anxiety and guilt will diminish. The hormones will settle down. Your foof will stop feeling like it’s done ten rounds with Mike Tyson. And your nipples will stop looking as dry and cracked as the earth in the Serengeti. You’ll no longer miss the days when you had your independence but instead be unable to imagine a life without this amazing little human in it. And breastfeeding will become as normal as having a cup of tea. Before you know it you’ll go from quiet milky cuddles with a snuggly sleepy newborn to feeding a toddler who shouts ‘BOOB!’ at a moment’s notice and pulls one out of your shirt by the nipple, which he chews on while breakdancing across you and trying to watch tv at the same time. Good times.
But seriously, it does get easier, and it’s all totally worth it in the end. If you’re having a tough time, try to stay positive and remember that this too shall pass. And seek support from family/friends/professionals. Stick with it Mumma. You are not alone. You are normal. And you got this x