Maternal Mental Health

Four years ago this week, I finished my job. My birthday celebrations at work had been combined with my leaving work celebrations too.
I finished work on the Friday before the Bank Holiday weekend and that was it. I woke up the Tuesday morning, Our Sidekick had gone to school and Chris had gone to work. What was I going to do with myself? Well, I’m sure I did some productive things but I also watched a lot of television.
Now four years later, we’ve had Jaxon’s primary school place confirmed and I’m trying to think about how far through the summer holiday should I be getting his school uniform. I’m sure my Mum got it somewhere around the middle and of course, I don’t want to be trying to buy school shoes in that last week of August before everyone goes back to school.
I’ve been out to a meeting this evening. I knitted my way through the meeting because I knew that I needed something to focus on this evening. Work has been a little crazy and especially today I feel like my brain is about to turn to mush and drain out my ear!
So when this popped up on my Facebook feed, I knew I had something to say and I needed to get it down now. I’d heard about Postnatal (or Postpartum) Depression and Postpartum Psychosis. But I think I’d only seen the dramatised version in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, Call The Midwife or other medical dramas that I’d been so glued to.
Some days I couldn’t even pull a coherent thought together. I frequently forgot wipes, nappies, and changes of clothes because I thought they were in the changing bag and actually I’d used the last one of the above when it’d been out the day before.
Some days I had all the thoughts and couldn’t verbalise what it was that was going on in my head. I wanted to be grateful that I had this newborn baby and I was so blessed that I could carry a baby to full term. There were women I knew around me that couldn’t conceive naturally or had miscarried along the way. All these feelings came forward every time I was a bit like “Did we do the right thing?”. I love Jaxon to the moon and back and some days I do question my sanity but that’s a normal thing to do! Especially with a three year old who seems to think he’s a teenager already! That’s enough to make you question how balanced your mental health is at present! 
One day I sat in my Mum’s dining room and bawled my eyes out. I think in a way I’d had enough of holding onto ALL THE THOUGHTS. That my little head exploded and made a mess.

I felt like I had a Catch 22 in a way. It would take so much organisation to get out the door that it was easier to stay home. However, once I got out I then didn’t want to go home to the empty house where it would just be Jaxon and I. We’d frequently get to baby groups and Jaxon would decide he needed a feed the second we got through the door so I would then spend the rest of the morning feeding or holding him while he slept, I think other mums and the group leaders would steer clear so they didn’t wake baby (although I am sure there were occasions where I was offered drinks and biscuits etc). At which point I’d kind of question why I went through the stress of getting out the door when at least at home I could feed him, then hold him while he slept and watch the TV or something like that.
Now Jaxon is a bit older and he’s at preschool some of the week, I try and help other Mummies who might be struggling. Maybe it’s taking them “posh” coffee when they’ve been up half the night (instead of instant stuff at home!). Maybe it’s taking them sandwiches, cake or other snacks to make sure they’ve had something to eat today (After all if you’re breastfeeding Mummy, you can’t give baby energy when you don’t have energy going in your own body!). (Sandwiches and other finger food is perfect for one handed-mid feed eating!). Sometimes it’s watching their baby at church, so they can take their older kids to kids work. Maybe it’s grabbing them a cup of tea etc while they get comfy to do a feed. Maybe it’s just a hug or on those days when they are “all touched out” or “just need an adult conversation” it’s listening to them vent about the things that are getting them down or annoyed.
Maternal Mental Health is so important. If you had a physical ailment following the birth that didn’t seem right, you’d be at the doctors or postpartum care asking what’s wrong. Please remember to speak up when it’s your mental health too.
If you’ve got this far, and you need someone to speak to, please find someone. Whether it’s a friend or family member or a medical profession if that’s what you need, please find that person. If you’re worried and don’t feel like you can reach out to them, my inbox is always open. I will listen/read and do what I can.
All the images were created by a range of artists for the Postpartum Stress Center. You can find more information here. I saw them shared on the Tommy’s Midwife FB page here