You’ve painted the nursery and bought the pram – but can you prepare mentally for the trials to come?
Parenting is a tough gig. Even if you’ve never felt symptoms of depression or anxiety before, pregnancy and childbirth can increase the risk of these feelings. Becoming a parent is an emotional time, shrouded by high, often unrealistic expectations on how your new role will fit into your old life. It is a period of adjustment in your relationship, your work and social life as you adapt to meet your child’s needs.
Added to this, some women have strong feelings of guilt about what sort of mother they are, and may start feeling they aren’t living up to their ‘ideal’ or compare themselves to others (or the ‘curated’ life others project on social media). Plus, babies can cry a lot. And loud (you can hear them from the footpath, loud). And in many cases you are the sole person responsible for soothing these cries. These traps are a perfect breeding ground for negative feelings.
As many as 15% of new mums experience Post Natal Depression, which has been described by one sufferer as ‘like having a neurotic couch-surfing aunt come to stay’. But can expectant parents do anything to increase their chances of avoiding it?
Just like preparing your home for your child, there are steps you can take to best equip yourself to meet the emotional demands as you start life with a new baby.
- Stocktake your friends – cull the ones that you have to clean for hours to invite over, those that sprout stories about their ‘gifted’ children that do no wrong, or smiling assassins who enjoy dishing out snide judgements about your parenting choices. Surround yourself with people you can be honest with, convey realistic pictures of family life, and build your confidence. Mother’s groups can be lifesavers, and they can be poison. If you leave yours feeling worse than when you arrived, stop going.
- Have realistic standards – there will be days (weeks?) where the wheels fall off. Chaos will become the new order. The house will look like it’s been burgled, you’ll have nothing but toast for tea and you’ll realise you haven’t washed your hair since your kid started solids, and that’s okay. It happens to all mothers (even those picture-perfect ones with pristinely ironed clothes and babies that supposedly sleep through from three weeks). But if things seem usually extreme, speak out. As for help. You know what they say – fit your mask first before helping infants.
- Maintain healthy choices – while this is easier said than done when sleep deprived and responsible for a human being twenty-four-seven, mood can be highly influenced by sugar highs and lows, and poor lifestyle. Pregnancy and breastfeeding place huge demands on the body, often leaving mothers feeling flat, and nutritionally depleted. A balanced diet and active lifestyle are always great steps to improve wellbeing – take time out to look after yourself, as your baby needs you at your best.
- Don’t ignore feelings that concern you. They often multiply if left unchecked.
Becoming a mum represents a time of rapid change in your life cycle, both physically and mentally. It is normal to feel moody, weepy, tired or anxious during the first week after giving birth. However, in the months that follow, if you find yourself crying excessively, feeling a sadness you just can’t shake, having panic attacks or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, these are signs of the more serious condition of Post Natal Depression (PND). Read the rest of article here
PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) for parents experiencing post and antenatal mental health issues open 10am-5pm (AET) Mon-Fri Ph: 1300 726 306
Beyond Blue 24hr helpline Ph: 1300 22 4636
By Kylie Kaden (BSSc.Psych. Hons).
Published in My Child Magazine Australia November 2018