Saturday, 28 August 2010

Postnatal Depression - The role that the media and society plays

I went in to motherhood wearing rose coloured glasses and with very unrealistic expectations of what motherhood was.

I didn't intend to, in fact I did all I could to not go in to motherhood blinkered in this way.  I booked an antenatal course with the NCT.  I talked to friends and colleague who had children.

Did it help, no it make things worse, The NCT talked about me about natural births, with birth plans and little or no pain relief.  Of breathing through the pain or breast feeding only and of reusable nappies.  I came away thinking that yep that was how it was going to be and with a list of acquaintances who all felt the same.

It was the start of the way things were to be.  Pick up any magazine and there was photographs of new Mommy's looking great, pushing Poppy or Daisy in the pram, glowing and back in their pre pregnancy clothes after a week.

There was talk of breast is best, but not only for the baby, but also for the new mum as it helps burn calories.  There was no such thing as couldn't breastfeed, only wouldn't breastfeed.

So I set off on this incredible journey, not only with the wrong map, on the wrong form of transport, but also with the wrong fuel in the car too.

I would meet up with the mums from my antenatal class, only to find out "Jonny is sleeping through", "We have put Mia in her own room", "Formula is why Maxi isn't sleeping".

So I felt a failure, a total failure.  My child wouldn't sleep, I couldn't sleep, I wasn't feeding him correctly, OMG I was pregnant again and Maxi would get no attention at all.

So The one thing I can offer to all mothers out there is that expectations, set them realistically.  Talk to people that you trust to tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Yes I wouldnt trade with of the boys for the world, but sleeplessness is a killer and sleeping though - yeah right.  I was happy if we managed 6 hours!  Being a parent changes everything, It intensifies everything - the good and the bad.

So for me I would have rather had honest answers and realistic expectations, the fall wouldn't have been so far or so hard if I had know just what parenting was like.



  1. A-MEN. I did PND too; on top of severe depression you can imagine the fun we had here. And also yes, NCT made me so stabby it was untrue. I hated that they were all so perfect. You know what? I DID have a natural birth, TWO of them, I BREASTFED, MY KIDS SLEPT through, but compared to the rest of the group? It was never good enough. The imagery just wasn't right; the perfection was never nail-on-the-head. I reveled in REAL stories from moms who struggled with bf-ing like me, moms who DID have problems coping as a new mother, who didn't have that "bond" with sweet little whoever, who cried most days while PND consumed them. Because I could RELATE.

    Give me honesty and realistic any day. It's out there, it's just behind closed doors.

  2. I had Hyperemisis with the Boy...and they were never truthful to me about.. about its going hand in hand with depression (because if they said the word I might spontaniously get depressed which I already was but I didn't know what to call what I was feeling).. and the lies at every check up that when you get to such and such weeks the puking will never did... that you can loose weight while pregnant but you lose sanity as well...a friend of mine from the interwebs suffered with hyperemisit too.. and they gave her the same lies... why can't they tell you the truth about these things? it would have been so much mroe helpful to know that these are posibilities and stop with the sunshine glowy lies and get to the blood and upchucking-guts truth.

  3. It is so strange the NCT thing, I will post about it more, but it seems it was not just me that felt the same way about my group of people in it. So sad that it become a game of one upmanship!

    I too suffered with HEG with both the boys, I wonder if there is a link?

  4. For all my episodes of depression I didn't have PND and I really feel for you. I suppose my natural inclination to think things are going wrong saved me from the high expectations but I do know women who have felt failures because their water birth was replaced by a caesarian, or they gave in and had an epidural. Take care x

  5. I know that having my NCT girls helped with the practical stuff and learning by trial and error, but as you say sometimes it's a case of feeling like you are the only one doing it wrong. I found sleep or lack of it really hard, especially when breastfeeding every 2 hours during the night for what seemed liked months and months. My only suggestion is to put your hand up and say you need help to family and support professionals.

  6. I felt much better after examining what people meant by sleeping through. I meant from 7.30ish to 7ish. Turns out the actual definition is from midnight to 5am. Which isn't the same thing at all. Or count in my book as 5am is way too early for me.

    Anyway, with No. 3 arriving I'm so relieved that I have a better perspective on things and know that how people appear is very often nowhere near the truth.

    I was lucky with my NCT teacher and group. There was a lot of honesty going on. We were in it together and I found it very supportive. But none of ours slept through, none of us had a drug free birth and all of us were chaotic and shambolic for a long time.

    Big hugs to you - you are a brilliant mum. xxx

  7. I know what you mean, where you are coming from and I cant even begin to tell you how much I dislike the NCT, what it seems to stand for nowadays and many of the people who I have met in association with it.

    Rant rant rant xx

  8. I see your point, I tried hard to handle the terrible one up womanship of the toddler group world making me feel totally inadequate while I was struggling with a live wire of a child. When I got depression (may have been PND but I have low mood to start with) my GP suggested the concept of being 'good enough', basically don't sweat on the small stuff. CBT also helped and I'm pretty spot on now :)

  9. Competitive Momming is the worst, absolute worst thing any of us need. I loathe(d) it. Having kids is at once the worst and best thing that will ever happen to any of us, and most of it is guesswork. It is an art rather than a science. I have friends who still feel guilt about not being able to breastfeed successfully-- and their children are 8. A hell of a long time to feel like you've been or are a bad mother. Both are brilliant mothers and loving friends. Good luck. I am sure your Maxi will know how much love you have for both kids.

  10. I too suffered from PND and I know what a deep, dark black hole it is. In fact it was blogging that helped me over it, when I stumbled across real mothers telling stories about what motherhood was really like. I was hooked, and grateful and reading their stories certainly helped me, so much so that I went on to have another two children when I thought I never would have been able to. xx

  11. The NCT as an institution I have very little time for, but I credit the people I met through it with saving me from myself. I gave birth the week of our first antenatal class and didn't meet 'my' NCT group until they were all having their babies three months later. They held my hand through the grief I was trying to keep in a box, understood my ups and downs and supported me in practical ways when I fell pregnant again so soon afterwards. I crashed into PND after the girls were born and felt nothing but numbness towards these strange creatures who weren't the twins I wanted. I bumped into someone with a baby the same age who suggested I slot into her NCT group - all first time mums. I refused for a long time, then went along and again was saved. It was watching them play and laugh with their babies that made me realise the way I felt about mine was very very wrong. I never told them - still haven't - but that's what made me go to my GP when the girls were six months old, and finally get some help.

  12. Expectations are such dangerous things when it comes to pregnancy, giving birth and parenthood. I suppose it's easy to say, with hindsight, that had I not read this or heard that, things would have been much different. Maybe they would have been.
    From the second time around I can guarantee that if you set your expectations incredibly low, then nothing seems quite as bad as it did the first time around.

  13. Amazing post Jen can you add it to our one if you like? Though is knackered at mo.

  14. I was fortunate not to have suffered from PND but I do have bouts of depression. I did find the birt which was a c-section in the end and my failure to breastfeed quite hard. My daughter wouldn't breastfeed and every time she was put to my breast she would scream and scream. She spent her first night in SBU and lost 10% of her birth weight in the 1st 3 days so I made the decision to bottle feed her. The plan was once we got home and my milk came through properly to try breastfeeding again but I never did, I felt rejected by my daughter and found it hard to try again. I expressed for two weeks but found it very tough and tiring so she stayed on formula. I slowly trying to leave it all behind me but sometimes I feel like an awful mother.

  15. Well written Jen. It is exactly what I always tell new mums, do not set yourself up for a fall. Be flexible with your birth plan and realistic with your expectations. Mine were shattered when I had JJ.

  16. This is so true! I stopped buying parenting magazines because I couldn't stand looking at the yummy mummies with the latest prams and changing bags looking gorgeous. Little S never slept either! I didn't really go anywhere except my parent's house in the first year.
    Now with Baby B I'm far more relaxed. I don't bother weighing her or taking her every measurement, I've brought her up the way I want to and not how magazines and 'experts' tell me to.
    I won't deny though, it's hard to do it when we're always being told the 'right way' to raise children. There is no right or wrong way.
    Oh and I never knew you had this blog! I will follow xx

  17. Jen, what a wonderfully honest post. I, like you, was completely unprepared for the business of actually coping with a baby. The NCT lady went on and on and on about natural birth etc etc and breast feeding but never once talked about the reality of actually having to deal with a new born, about the possibility of PND, she just alluded to baby blues occasionally. My NCT group were pretty awful too. I have stayed in touch with 2 women, one whom is a good friend now and one whom I see less often but again a goodfriend. The 3 of us alone couldn't be arsed with the one upmanship and competitive nature of it all. I have found blogging to be so much more supportive than the NCT ever were.

  18. Here, here, totally agree, totally honest, I felt very similar myself :)