Monthly Focus : Anxiety, Mental Health & Depression in early Motherhood
This month at The Nursery Collective, our blog will be focused around a very important topic for new Mums – Anxiety, Mental Health and Depression. From the very common baby-blues to more serious forms of post (or pre) natal depression, our mental health as new mums is one of the most vital areas we need to pay attention to. After all, if we can’t look after ourselves, how can we look after our little ones?
I thought I’d start by sharing some of my own experiences with anxiety when I was a brand-new Mum. I know now that the main trigger for my anxiety was lack of sleep. There’s a reason sleep deprivation is often called a form of torture! Without sleep, I just couldn’t function and my anxiety would go through the roof. Read our Baby Sleep Tips in the First Year blog post here if you are going through any sleep deprivation and need some help! I would burst into tears over the tiniest thing and I felt like the lack of sleep would never end, and I’d never get through it – dramatic I know, but that’s how I felt at the time. Luckily for me I had an incredible support network throughout this period, firstly my Mum and then my mother-in-law flew from overseas to stay and help me through the first few months. Looking back now I’m sure my wonderful mother-in-law thought I was a complete loony as she was with me during my highest levels of anxiety – but having her around to talk to and be of support made the world of difference. We used to take the night in shifts so I could get some quality sleep when my little one decided he was going to wake every 45min to an hour all night long. I was also lucky to have my closest girlfriends around, most of which were also new mamas, so there were plenty of shoulders to cry on.
I don't have many photos of me from this particular time, but here's one I found. I distinctly remember meeting one of my best mates at a mall after having zero sleep...behind that smile was one very tired and anxious new mama, note the dark circles!!
My anxiety also manifested in needing to control my environment as much as possible. Which is completely bonkers when you have a new baby - I can see that now! But at the time I definitely started becoming more OCD – keeping things clean and tidy, and sticking to a schedule as much as possible. So, when my baby didn’t sleep as much as the books said he should, I would lose the plot. Literally. The amount of pressure I was putting on myself was ridiculous. One of the midwives at the hospital had suggested I take notes on when baby was feeding, pooping, passing urine – just to keep an eye on things in the first few days. This became my obsession. I actually kept a record of all this.... for one year. Yes, you heard that right - ONE YEAR. Wow, that feels so embarrassing to admit! I physically wrote down the time of every feed (and which side I fed on, later how many mls he would take in a bottle), when he pooped and how long he would sleep for at each nap and through the night. When we started weaning onto solids, I also included what he ate for every meal, to ensure he was getting the right nutrients and a wide variety of foods! TOTALLY insane right?! I actually ran out of pages after he turned one and finally stopped. It was incredibly liberating to throw it away, and although I can laugh about it now, in some ways writing it all down helped me feel some control during this period of complete overwhelm.
When my second was born, I did take notes, but only for the first fortnight or so – as a second-time mum my perspective was totally different. I had help with the cleaning, my eldest to also look after and frankly I didn’t have as much time to be as anxious. The triggers were still there, but this time I knew what I had to do to get through the difficult phases. I certainly had my moments, for example during the dreaded 4 month sleep regression, but “this too shall pass” had become my mantra and helped pull me through.
Talking about these issues openly is so important, these feelings are nothing to be ashamed of, or embarrassed by. But it’s hard I know! As much as my feelings of anxiety were minute compared to those suffering from full blown post-natal depression, it was still difficult to share at the time. So, during March we will be focusing our blog on these very topics, to hopefully shed some more light on ways to cope with anxiety and depression as a new mum. Fi Morrison, our regular blog contributor from Mumma Morrison will be up first with her take on tackling anxiety as a new mum. Amanda Cavallaro, from The Anxiety Wellness Queen will also be writing for us this month on how we can use mindfulness to deal with anxiety during pregnancy/as a new mum, as well as about PND in early motherhood, the signs and symptoms, and what to do next. We will also be featuring a few interviews - Kirsty and Lana, the founders of The Parents Village, who built their business based on the support they felt was lacking when they themselves were new mums, and Sarah Clark, who also built her business after finding ways to cope with PND.
A huge part of getting through the early stages of pregnancy and motherhood is by having a great support network. Not only does it take a village to raise a child, but more importantly to raise a mother. Read our blog post on the importance of finding your village as a new mum here. And please feel free to join our Facebook group over at Find Your Village here – a truly supportive community of new and experienced mamas where you can vent frustrations or share your excitement in a space that is free from judgment.
We look forward to sharing all this with you over the next few weeks. If you haven’t already joined our mailing list, please do so you can be notified of our blogs as soon as they go live! Added bonus when you sign up - you will also receive your FREE download of "Your New Mum Checklist" - all the checklists you'll ever need when planning for baby, all in the one place.
Feel free to comment below on your own experiences with anxiety or depression, or if you have any specific topics you’d like us to cover.