9 Months Postpartum | Depression | Confidence

Nine whole months have flown by and my once tiny little curled up newborn is now a chunky cherub with a whole lot of character (and babbly voice to match!) Joshy has done amazingly well to settle into the family- especially considering he was very much thrown right into the deep end of life with two boisterous older brothers who have warmly welcomed him into their wrestling/rugby antics from day one.

I want to do a whole post on his development and where he is at in terms of routine/weaning/sleep etc. But I also really wanted to post a little about myself postpartum and where I am at if only to be of some use to other mummies out there. 

When I was pregnant for the very first time, nobody really talked about what happens post partum and how you manage with the various changes going on within your own body, let alone baby's. I had the great advantage of my older sister having already been through it so I was able to direct a lot of questions her way! However, I think there is a lot of value in chatting about post partum issues to help clarify and lessen the concern most new mothers experience about recovering from pregnancy and birth.

N i n e  m o n t h s

It's often said that while it takes 9 months to grow a baby, it takes at least 9 months post partum to recover and begin to feel back to normal. Well, at least a 'new normal' as certainly for me, life as a parent is so incomparable to my old life. However, I totally agree with this, the idea being that it takes time to recover from having a baby, precious time that should not be hurried or rushed.

I didn't have the most straight forward recovery this time post- birth as my bladder distended in labour and I had a few complications with getting my water works back in working order. Nine months on and I'm still not 100% there yet. This obviously isn't a standard side effect of labour most people have to deal with but it's definitely something that really affected my recovery and my confidence too.

However, I think with any birth there does come a time, sometimes weeks, sometimes months later when you do feel comfortable in your own skin again. You've had the space to heal mentally and physically and you've also had time to adjust to life with a baby, whether for the first or fifth time- it simply takes time!

B o d y  C o n f i d e n c e 

Nine months on from giving birth I'm feeling a lot more comfortable with my body and I have much greater admiration and respect for what it has accomplished. I've also learnt to acknowledge this before allowing any critiques niggling away at the back of my brain to surface. There is far greater power in what a woman's body can achieve through bringing life into the world than how it looks!

Joshy's labour was different from my other two deliveries because I opted to use pain relief and had an epidural. It was quite surreal and very strange to labour without any sense of how far along I was. In some ways, it was lovely to be completely numb but it definitely slowed things down a lot and as a result of the very effective numbing, my bladder distended- I still vividly remember the consultant telling me I should have been in complete agony, thankfully I skipped that part!

Despite a rocky road for myself in those early weeks, I'm so grateful that Joshy thrived after birth. It was like he knew exactly what he was doing and I couldn't have been prouder of him for taking it all in his stride.

With him being my third baby, I felt I already had a pretty decent idea of how the early weeks and months would pan out and this time, I wanted to be kinder to myself. I didn't put any pressure on myself to lose weight, or really do anything other than dote on my little ones.
As it happens, my baby weight normally totally shifts after I finish breastfeeding anyway and this proved to be true third time around.

W e i g h t 

I really didn't do a lot to actively lose weight. I always gain quite a bit when pregnant and initially it falls off in the first couple of months post partum (while I cling to the rest until I've finished breastfeeding.) The thing is, whilst breastfeeding and looking after a tiny human all day (and night) you HAVE to be gentle with yourself. If hormones aren't bothering you too much, sleep deprivation certainly will and so the added pressure of fitting back into skinny jeans is just not worth the strain. I've kinda made a pact with myself to just enjoy the first year really. To eat as well as possible, to really nourish my body and fill it with the nutrition it needs but no, I don't give up cake or biscuits. And when you've not slept in days and you realise you've unknowingly swapped your usual go- to perfume for 'eau de poop' - well, let's just say mumma gets to make the rules.

When I have felt like it, (or had the energy to) I have been popping down to the gym and this is something that I've really enjoyed for boosting my energy and also calming my mind. Mothering small babies definitely has a certain monotony to it and the occasional break out of that can be really refreshing and a great way to lift the spirits if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed.

D e p r e s s i o n

I don't think I've really mentioned this aspect of my post partum journey before but in January of this year, my doctor diagnosed me with Post Partum Depression. Initially, I felt quite intimidated by the word 'depression' in the first place because it conjures so many thoughts/ assumptions and, in reality, there is such a wide spectrum when it comes to the symptoms and treatment for mental health. No two stories are the same and I suppose I was fearful that this new version of myself, or label would stick forever.

At the time that Joshy was born, we were going through some really troubling months as a family for various reasons. Thank God our marriage has always been incredibly strong and we have never faced problems in that area however, it was a time where I felt an incredible and all-consuming sense of loneliness and isolation. 
I think our life problems at that time, coupled with hormonal changes sort of sent me over the edge and aside from my husband, I felt completely alone under a black cloud. I genuinely felt exhausted from smiling and pretending everything was fine with everybody I encountered.
I don't really know how it came out but one day I ended up chatting with a midwife about something totally unrelated and it turned into a two-hour dialogue where I just opened up about how low and helpless I felt.

The thing is, and I wanted to underline this right from the start, is that my feelings were totally unrelated to my beautiful baby. I didn't struggle to bond with him one bit. In fact, his presence in my life really worked wonders to lift me out of this awful place where I was struggling.
 Because I felt so bleak internally- yet knew it had nothing to do with my feelings for Joshy- I didn't register that this could be a touch of Post Partum Depression one bit. It didn't occur to me that I was struggling with something more than just a 'tough life moment' because we all looked fine when we stood in front of the camera and smiled.

What I described to my doctor was a feeling that every morning when I woke up, I had this palpable black cloud hanging over me. Every day was the same and I didn't know how I would make it to the end. My husband was out there working so hard to support us but every single day I would find myself crying, feeling totally overwhelmed and literally not knowing what to do next.
I felt bombarded with other people's good news and I struggled to see any good news for our family. I felt consumed with worry, raw and horrifying fear about the future and I simply didn't know what to do.

I felt a far cry from myself and I also knew I was spiralling with stress.

It's weird typing this and looking over through the words. Am I being dramatic? 
In truth, no, I don't think so.
If I ever thought I knew what being stressed was before last year, I really didn't. 

C o p i n g 

Up to *20% of women who give birth each year suffer from Post Partum Depression- a huge statistic and yet one that is hardly dealt with in any pre-natal classes.
My journey towards coping really began when, contrary to how I felt, I realised in actual fact I wasn't going completely mad and my feelings were a result of 'PPD' alongside other life-related factors.
Knowledge gave me a huge sense of comfort and helped me to realise that this was not something that defined me as a person. From that point onwards the 'black cloud' hanging over me lost quite a bit of its power. Even though I still struggled on days where I felt there was a fog all around me, for the first time I knew I at least had a compass to guide me through it. Confidence in myself as a person and a mother was a huge aspect in being able to get to grips with this bleak filter that had attached itself to my vision.

Nine months post partum I have to be honest, it's still there some days. It's horrid and I wish I could just shut it out but I stand with millions of women who have been through PPD and have come through the other side. 
I can't necessarily control my feelings but I can control my actions and loving my little family  who depend on me helps me to put things in perspective.

At the time when I was diagnosed, I didn't really have any space in my life for myself. I felt very strained and like I was pouring from an empty cup all the time. In retrospect, I see that was really damaging and so one word of encouragement I have for anybody else in a similar place would definitely be to try and carve out space for yourself. 
With three kids, I don't have 'time off' so to speak but once in a while, I am able to snatch a couple of hours here or there and I am always amazed at how much it boosts me to be able to think my own thoughts and sit in silence with a (HOT) cup of tea!
You can't pour from an empty cup therefore, as a mother, you have to be able to take care of yourself in order to take care of your littles ones.

Nine months on and I have days when I royally struggle but the biggest difference is that I feel equipped and I know when I need to tap out for a moment.

My children have been the making of me in so many ways and as long as I've been a mother all I've ever wanted was to do justice to them as their mummy. I felt so ashamed of myself before I spoke out about my internal struggles, like I was a mere shadow of the mother I should be. Comparing myself to others, worrying about a future that hadn't arrived, I allowed my thoughts to spiral instead of focusing on the simple joys found in really living in the present.

 I know that I'm never going to look/think/act or be a perfect role model to my family but I won't ever give up trying to be better than I was yesterday. 

I hope my thoughts might be helpful to any other parents out there and as always, I totally welcome your comments and feedback. It'd be great to hear your stories, especially if you suffered with PPD.


* Statistic taken from Centers for Disease Control


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