Wednesday 14 December 2011


Sometimes the good things about motherhood do not outweigh the bad.  Sometimes you get days where your head pounds incessantly, an inner thumping that keeps time with your baby’s crying. Sometimes there are days where you should not drive because you are just too tired.  Sometimes, oftentimes it has to be said, the sheer drudgery of it all makes you want to bury yourself under the duvet, cry yourself out and then sleep for two days solid.  But you can’t because if you were to start crying, there’s a strong possibility that you wouldn’t stop.  And the ironic cruncher; who will look after your kids during this two day sabbatical?
I have had many, many bad days.  Days without adult company or conversation (talking to the telly does not count).  Days without a shower and plenty of days without a change of clothes.
I’ve sat on the side of my bed at 3am in the morning, crying louder and harder than the baby with no-one there to help or hear me. 
I’ve walked the kitchen floors at all hours pushing a buggy in the dark, again crying louder than the baby.
Another time Mister Husband was at a stag and I stood by the window in the spare bedroom at another godforsaken hour, with a sick baby over my shoulder. I was bawling my eyes out hoping the Polish chap across the road having a smoke in his doorway would come over to see was I ok. I was so miserable and lonely I would have talked to anyone!! 
I have been depressed and constantly angry due to lack of sleep and frustrated in the belief that I was doing it alone!
Typically I have not spoken of this depression for fear of people saying or thinking one of two things.  (a) it’s well for you to have the time to be depressed and (b) what have you got to be depressed about?  Haven’t you got a roof over your head, a car under you, four healthy children and enough food to feed them?
And a little part of me, believed that as well.  I didn’t want to admit that everything wasn’t rosy in the garden.  The last thing I wanted was for people to think that I couldn’t cope.  I thought it was a normal part of motherhood.  Our second son wasn’t sleeping well at night due to painful teething and a particularly bad bout of chicken pox.  It was to be expected.  Feeling weepy, having no appetite, experiencing irrational anger at the world and everyone in it, racing thoughts, feeling hopeless, the list went on for me.  I had no control over the horrible thoughts about my kids’ safety that popped, without warning, into my head at any time day or night. 
One day I was reading a magazine article; my heart began to beat faster and my breathing changed.  It was as if they were talking about me.  And they had a name for it.  They called it Post Natal Depression.  I read the check list again and ticked all of the boxes.  So I wasn’t going mad after all.  It came as a relief to know I wasn’t irrational and just feeling sorry for myself.  
But I still didn’t talk about it.  Then our third baby arrived. He wasn’t a great sleeper either and when the same symptoms raised their ugly head at 7 months post partum, I told myself it would pass like it did the last time. 
The black dog was back and I just (about) carried on with daily life without seeking any help.  I cried on my way to crèche with the boys, but just a little bit so no-one would know.  I waited until I was on the journey home before I really let go. Sometimes I used to get into the shower just so I could bawl my eyes out and my face wouldn’t be puffy afterwards.  I used to lock myself into the downstairs bathroom of an evening and “get it out of my system” before Mister Husband came home.  Then I would avoid looking directly at him so he wouldn’t know I’d been crying.  The distressing and frightening thoughts of someone breaking into our home when we were sleeping to hurt our kids were back.  Again, I waited it out.  And made everyone miserable in the process.              
When you’re tired everything is hard.  But I resented everyone, especially Mister Husband.  I honestly hated him sometimes.  He got to leave home for the day, do one single job and return at an expected time.  God help him if he didn’t give me a detailed account of his day the absolute second he got in the door.    “Fine.” “Good.” and “ok” did not count.  Mere words.  I wanted interaction.  Sentences.  Long ones.  A funny story or two complete with appropriate facial expressions. I didn’t even give him time to take his coat off.
I dreaded the sound of his footsteps coming up the stairs.  The bed was my refuge, both physically and mentally.  It was the only place, at the end of a 15 hour day, that I could call my own where I had both physical and mental space.
Even though I would never, ever do anything to deliberately hurt any of our children, on occasion, I found myself handling them more roughly than I should have. We've all been pushed to our limits and find it necessary to step back for 10 minutes to calm down.
I am of the opinion that it is very important for a mother to be able to say these things because they are normal. And I know it's normal.  First time mams may not realise this and feel that they are doing a bad job. It's important to support each other and be honest about how hard raising children can be!! I am not, nor will I be the only mother to go through this.
All mothers experience these emotions in some shape of form at some stage or another.  Anyone who says they don’t is lying and must be avoided at all costs. If they are, indeed telling the truth, they appear regularly in tabloid magazines, thus have a “team” at their disposal to help them over these stumbling blocks.
When things get tough, I ask myself two things in relation to our boys.  Am I glad they’re boys because they will never know the torture that is sleep deprivation with their own children?  Or am I sorry they’re boys because they will have to go out and provide for a family of their own one day and God knows that can be torturous too.
And then there’s the guilt for feeling like this when in actuality you have a healthy family and let’s face it, there are thousands of other people with bigger problems and they just get on with things.     
Sometimes advice is like getting two toasters and three electric kettles as wedding presents – both items unwanted, useless because you already have them and slightly insulting because of the obvious lack of thought.  It’s not advice you need when your family is young, it’s help. 
When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I remember women of my mother’s generation passing on pearls of wisdom such as; when you have a baby, you’re on your own girl.  It’s a man’s world was another favourite.  They also said that I’d know all about it when I have kids of my own.  More recently, an MDs wife told me she could be lying on the floor blocking their way out of the house (they being her two sons and husband) and they would still step over her on their exit. 
I used to wonder how some of these women had become so jaded.  What had happened to make them so negative, so pessimistic, so miserable?
Now I know.  It’s called motherhood. 
On the bad days, when you think, is this what I signed up for?  For the rest of my life?  Are you serious?????  Take deep breaths.  Many of them.  Hyperventilate if you need to.  Remind yourself that it is all a phase and that this too shall pass.
Post Natal Depression is an illness.  There is help available.  Some people prefer on line support and others find it necessary to go to their GP. I have a lovely GP who sat and listened to me and continues to check up on me whenever I attend the surgery for other ailments.  When I felt the clawing hands of depression reaching for me last winter, I got pro-active.  There was no way I was going to go through this again.  I was a text book case for Ante Natal Depression as our last baby was a traumatic delivery, we had moved house and, like a lot of other people, we were experiencing money difficulties.  Unfortunately, I had a very unsatisfactory session with the psychiatrist I was referred to and I opted not to return.  Thankfully, things lifted of their own accord, but no thanks to someone who was unprofessional and unhelpful in his approach to a breastfeeding and pregnant mother. 
I am not a miserable human being, I swear I am not.  But I recognize how my body works and know what upsets it.  Lack of sleep is a huge factor for me. It has a knock on effect.
Even if you are lucky enough to get adequate sleep after childbirth, the huge hormonal shift in your body during pregnancy and the massive dip immediately following childbirth can play havoc with your emotions.  Odd things can happen and it is important to understand this. 
It took two episodes of PND and a brief encounter with AND before I spoke about it to anyone other than Mister Husband. No-one looked at me with scorn.  They asked pertinent and intelligent questions and told me they were sorry to hear I had gone through that.   
When our fourth son was born eight months ago, I took measures in an effort to keep the horrors at bay.  I researched a good supplement with Omega oils, I started to exercise again and tried to eat healthily.
For a while I lived in fear of the depression returning but our fourth son slept for hours at a time from the word go.  When he was two and a half months old, he began sleeping through the night.  This was unheard of for Mister Husband and I and we joked that we were over due a good one.  So far, I am ok this time round.  I have had the odd week or two where I felt overwhelmed but Mister Husband steps into the breach when this happens and up to now I’ve managed to keep my head above water.
I would like to reiterate that Post Natal Depression and Ante Natal Depression are both illnesses in their own right.  They can affect anyone from any socio economic background, any culture and at any time.  Both can be experienced with a first baby but not on the second or third and vice versa.  Support is vital.  The trouble with a depression of any ilk is the tendency to keep it contained.  Someone with depression can function perfectly well on a daily basis but inside, are wrestling with their emotions.  Or the opposite of that and loose touch with their emotions.  If you find yourself ticking only one box on that Depression check list, don’t accept you’re ok if that one little thing is controlling your life.  It is normal to struggle for a couple of days but when those two days run into two weeks, it is time to seek help.  Reach out.  To anyone.  Get out of the house.  Don’t confine yourself.  Even if all you do is drag a brush through your hair, do that much.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  Start small.  Do as much as you are able and no more.  Leave the housework.  Don’t try to be superwoman.  The dust and dirt will always be there but those precious moments with your child when they are young, will not.      
Kids are great.  Really they are.  They bring so much to your life.  And when you are in the horrors, tell yourself that your child needs you.  But even more so, you need you.
That is my honest opinion and personal account.  Not my best work, and I have done things that I am ashamed of  but we have to remind ourselves that Mammies are born, not made.