Me & depression: what the books didn’t tell me about becoming a mum

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?

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13 thoughts on “Me & depression: what the books didn’t tell me about becoming a mum

  1. There were a few ‘life-changing’ things going on in my life when I had my first child. It was a traumatic delivery (to me at least) and then I was there with a baby. It took 6 months for me to go to the doctors and get diagnosed with PND – and it was a relief. I thought I was crazy, a bad mum, useless … you name it.

    It took a long time to get over it, at least I was prepared when I had my second so knew the signs. Even now I can tell if I am getting depressed and I have coping strategies to try and make sure I don’t get too bad.

    I had people telling me to pull myself together, I pretended to most people though – there’s still the shame associated with depression and unless you experience it you cannot tell how bad it hits you.

    Thank you for having the courage to post this.

    • Hi Sharon

      Thanks for your comments and so sorry to hear of your experiences. Like you I’ve learned coping strategies, being aware of it is half the battle because then you can take control. Getting over any illness, which depression is, starts from within – no amount of ‘pull yourself togethers’ and other ‘helpful’ sayings do it, only you can.

  2. I’ve not had a baby and so have not suffered with PND or depression at the time of new babies but I have watched it in a really good friend. She had twins after a difficult pregnancy that were born early – all very traumatic! She coped really well with it all & the bond with her boys and the start of her parenting life was ace. Then a few years later she had a daughter and that’s where it went wrong. I think it hit her really hard because after dealing with premature babies the first time around (not to mention 2) she thought having a single birth would be easy. It wasn’t though – everything became a massive effort, her patience was at an all time low, she felt like she was going through the motions and didn’t really know what was going on inside herself! Maybe if she had read something like this she would have had a lightbulb moment and understood what was going on a bit more as well as seek out some help sooner. It can only be a good thing that you’ve written and published this :o)

    • Fran thanks for sharing your friends story, not uncommon. I felt very isolated when I had my youngest, none of my friends were having their second child at the same time and it was so tough and isolating. I truly hope your friend is in a better place now.

  3. I can identify with so much of this. I too went through a traumatic delivery after which my daughter was taken to scbu before we’d even seen her. 2 hrs later we were presented with a blurry photo, but didn’t physically see her for 9hrs post delivery. Even then we weren’t allowed to hold her for 2 days. I felt absolutely no bond with her for months, although i did become very good at playing the doting new mum. I felt like a total freak when I saw my new friends with their babies as they all seemed, to me at least, to adore theirs whilst I found it almost impossible to connect to her at all. I completely lost myself. I lost my pre baby friends, I lost my identity, I lost my confidence and I felt worthless. Thankfully my partner realised that something was wrong and spoke to my gp and health visitor, and with medication and counselling they all got me back on track. Finally after my little girl turned 1 I started to bond and now she’s coming up to 3 she’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I would never have believed at the beginning that i could possibly feel this much love for her. There is hope and more importantly help out there. Don’t suffer in silence.xx

    • Helen, I feel for you. I remember for weeks looking at my friends who all seemed very bonded and perfectly content, I felt there was obviously something wrong with me. I do wonder how many new mums behind the tired smiles are struggling with it but just don’t have the confidence to speak up for feeling of looking a failure etc…
      I too have lost some good friends over the years as I just felt so distant from everyone and had no energy or motivation to talk to anyone.
      So glad you got help and are in a much better place now – children are just incredible, have no clue what I’d do without mine 🙂

  4. I’m now a granmother but well remember how it felt after i had my lovely daughter. I only had a mild postnatal depression but it was followed by secondary infertitlity, then a miscarriage. I never had a chance to have another go and having a section I have always felt a sense of loss at not having given birth “properly”. I can’t honestly say I was ever really happy for all those years after having Laura although I love her dearly. It all culminated in a depressive type illness when i reached 50. i am now happy and completely fulfilled in my life personally and professionally and have written my story in my book “Journey to Chocolate”, I want to inspire other women to reflect on their lives and know that things can be different. The key thing to realise for any of us at what ever time of life we are at is to ask for help. Depression is an illness, it’s not our fault and we can get better and lead fantastic lives as I hope my story and many others shows.

    • Great to hear your story Ann & how you’d made it out the other side, a lot of people I speak to after depression is that they feel like they’ve come out of a long, dark tunnel – very much my feelings too.

      Thank you for sharing and good luck with your book 🙂

  5. I felt very similar when my girl was born. In fact, I didn’t even know other moms bonded with their children earlier than I had. I will never forget the shocked looks on my friends faces when I admitted feeling nothing. It’s what made me ask for help. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Hi Sandy

      Thanks for contributing, how you felt is so similar to many stories I’ve now heard over the last 48 hours. I wonder whether ante-natal classes need to provide a more balanced view of what *might* happen after the birth and not concentrate so much on the practical side or how wonderful but hard it will definitely be – puts pressure on you then if it’s not feeling so wonderful.

      Glad to hear you asked for help, it took me longer than it should have!

  6. Wow Jan… Your honesty is refreshing. Courage comes in many forms, and I believe the legacy you leave the world (in your children) has so much potential.
    Best…

    • Hi Chris

      Thank you for the very kind words. I’m probably too honest for some but this is a subject that often doesn’t get discussed so I’m happy to talk about it, if it makes one person feel a little less alone with depression or encourages them to go and talk to someone, then job done.

      Thanks again.
      Jan

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