People tell me that I’m a bubbly, loud, cup is half full kind of person. And I am, now (on the whole!).
I lost my dad when I was 19 to cancer and for a few years afterwards I suffered some depression. When I got pregnant with Sam it did cross my mind that maybe I was at higher risk of getting post-natal depression as we had no family around and were fairly new to Shropshire so I didn’t really have any friends at the time locally. However, my stubbornness kicked in and I assured myself that I would be ‘fine’.
Sam’s birth was, well, traumatic (I’ll save that story for another day) and I was rather poorly for months after, including recovering from an emergency c-section. As I’m a stubborn old soul, I wanted to look after Sam as best I could so I threw myself into being a mum. I didn’t feel that initial rush of love when he was born and even though I knew he was mine and I loved him, it wasn’t until he was about 10 months old that I really felt that amazing bond with him.
I was exhausted too like all new mums and so I often felt emotional and a bit blue, which I put down to tiredness – all my newly acquired friends were tired too so I wasn’t any different, right? I kept telling myself to just get on with it, it was meant to be hard.
The worst thing, that no-one prepared me for, was I felt I lost my identity overnight. I went from ‘Jan Minihane, career woman’ to ‘Sam’s mum’. That hit me for six. I suddenly did not know what my role in this world was beyond being a mum (not that there is anything wrong with that) and that left me feeling very vulnerable and very uncertain.
I had JJ 19 months after Sam, pretty much as soon as I physically felt better I fell pregnant – not such a great idea for my body or my mind in retrospect (but great for the boys who get on like a house on fire!). JJ’s birth was still traumatic (my body just isn’t made for giving birth I’d concluded) but not quite as bad as first time round so physically I felt more human quicker. I also bonded with JJ instantly which was somewhat of a revelation.
However, I still felt lost and didn’t know what I was supposed to do with my life – I went to school, then Uni, then had a London career, then got married, then set up my own business, then had kids – now what – wait for retirement?!? It left me feeling like my brain was going to mush and I didn’t know what was going to happen next – being a control freak this was not a good for me!
I restarted my business 3 years ago and finally over the last 18 months I’ve found ‘me’ again, I feel content in myself and love juggling the boys and my business (well, most of the time, I occasionally question my sanity!). I can only describe it as coming out of a long, dark tunnel (even though I’ve loved being a mum).
When I look back I can now admit most of the last 6 years of my life I’ve been depressed, not classic post-natal depression but just good old ‘normal’ depression – but most people who knw me had no clue at all as I always masked it. I wish I’d sought help and talked about it more but like I say, stubbornness and pride is my downfall – don’t let it be yours.
Apparently 10% of new mums suffer from post-natal depression – I think the number is a lot higher if my experiences and what I’ve seen are anything to go buy. If you’re not sure or you’re worried you might be, take control and do something about it – more than anyone else you owe it to yourself. Life is too short to spend it depressed so do everything in your power to make the most of your life.
Talk to a friend, your GP, your local playgroup leader, your ante-natal teacher, your partner – just make sure you talk to someone. And for the partners reading this, don’t put down how your wife /girlfriend is feeling as tiredness/new mum syndrome, if she doesn’t seem herself, she probably isn’t. Most importantly just know you aren’t alone, even though that’s exactly how you’ll feel.
Jan Minihane http://www.janminihane.co.uk/
If you are suffering and want some support contact – Pandas Foundation (Pre And postNatal Depression Advice and Support) who support individuals, their families and carers experiencing pre and postnatal illnesses. They offer a variety of support mechanisms from their website, Pandas Help Line, email support and Pandas Support Groups. Their head office is based in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. For more information visit http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk or call 0843 28 98 401.
What have been your experiences of depression after having kids?