As the proud owner of a small human, I (like you and everybody else) get overwhelmed. In some ways, I feel like this parenting thing is the same as drowning. Is it possible to drown in motherhood? I have no other way to describe the hopes for a tidy house and pre-baby body! But also the desperation of simply trying keep my head above water, yet still feeling like I’ve failed. The feeling that some days I can’t catch my breath and there’s nothing to keep me afloat.
Truth be told, motherhood is quite simply THE place of overwhelmingness! I am a mum, I am drowning, there are no lifeguards and everyone assumes that can swim.
but is there a difference between postnatal depression and new mum stress?
A few days after giving birth, you’ll probably be on cloud 9, in love with your new baby and in awe of yourself for what you’ve just done! It’s completely normal for that cloud to lift and to feel tearful, irritable and exhausted. This is often known as ‘baby blues’ and it’s very common! I mean, you now have an impossibly tiny baby which you’re now responsible for, not to mention the crazy ride your body has just been on. It’s bound to send your hormones haywire but everything should settle about a week later. This is actually the main difference between PND and baby blues.
So, if your low mood, feelings of inability and difficulty sleeping don’t go away within two to three weeks or seem to be getting worse, it might be postnatal depression and it’s time to seek professional help. Remember, postnatal depression is nothing to be ashamed of and you are not alone!
new mum stress - you’re not alone
When you get so much advice from everywhere you turn and everyone has something to say, the world can feel so loud that it drowns out your confidence and makes you second guess your abilities and instincts – I feel you. When you spend hours a day washing, folding, drying, but your home still resembles a post-apocalyptic scene filled with crumbs and tiny socks – I feel you. If you miss your partner and wish you could spend more time together, but end up asleep on the sofa alone because you’re too wiped out to consider anything romantic – mama I feel you.
I think one of the most important things to have as a mum isn’t a fancy gadget or a thing at all – you need mum friends. They make the world go round. In all their crazy, honest glory they have saved my sanity in my first year of motherhood! From reassuring me that my child isn’t broken because she’s licking the kitchen floor, to watching Ottilie for 5 minutes while I breathe and dragging me back up from rock bottom, they've been there when I needed them.
I mean, who else gets it like another mum? Who else gets the craziness and the desire to stick your head under your pillow and scream whilst loving your kids so much that you think you might actually burst. We need likeminded people at this time in our lives, people like us, with kids like ours so we feel connected and part of something – believe me, it makes all the difference.
a problem shared - how to overcome feeling overwhelmed
Now I’ll be the first to praise my fiancé for getting up when our teething daughter wakes in the night. Before my groggy eyes even have time to comprehend any movement, he’s already made up her bottle to send her back to sleep. I won’t lie, I used to resent Stephen back when I was on maternity leave and did e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. “How dare he say he’s tired, he has no idea!” But it got to the point where we had to just talk things out. He pointed out that I had never given him a chance to do any of the things I do and that he resented me for not letting him do any/all of the things I do.
You see, opening up doesn’t just push the weight on to someone else – it is truly able to lighten both of your loads. With that in mind, here are some of my tips on how to have this quite daunting conversation:
• Start the discussion early; don’t wait until it starts to weigh you down
• Approach it in a moment of calm, not when you're feeling stressed
• Acknowledge that your partner has their own mental load
• And be prepared to listen as well as talk
you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard!
Tonight, for example, Stephen is away with the big boys and I’m alone with Ottilie. This is usually not a problem but she has five teeth coming through it’s 26 degrees in her bedroom and you better believe she made it loudly known she was unhappy about it. I got so overwhelmed that I just sat on the floor and cried.
Then something amazing happened - she stopped, looked down at me slumped on the floor, and smiled. While I know she is only ten months old and obviously has no idea, it makes me want to believe she knows more than I do. She makes me want to believe that despite the emotional weight of raising a baby while growing another, working 5 days a week and everything in-between, in the end, everything will turn out OK.
While sometimes I still feel like I’m drowning, Ottilie is my lifeguard. She will be the one who will tell me I cannot stop swimming.
Parenting can be tough so be kind to yourselves and each other. Always.