Who am I?
My name is Sophie and I am a 34 year old mum of three. I married my high school sweetheart and we have had two boys (aged 7 and 5) and a little girl (aged 19 months). Up until about a year ago our lives were pretty straightforward, probably very similar to a lot of yours. My husband went out to work early (until late most days) and I was left at home to do the lion’s share of raising our children and running our home; the washing, the cleaning, the school runs, the errands, as well as working part time as a primary school teacher. Life was usually manic and hectic but also wonderful at times. This was our life up until about a year ago.
Bad things come in threes
They say bad things come in threes. There were three very definite things that happened to our family in the last twelve months which brought me to this point – writing this blog – seeking a more mindful life for our whole family. In this blog I will talk about the first thing, the main thing really for me, that started this whole journey…
The birth of our beautiful baby girl
In May 2016 we welcomed our beautiful baby girl into the world. Life was great. We’d had two boys quite close together and presumed that was it for our family. Lots of testosterone and boys tearing up the house! Then our baby girl came along as a wonderful, but a very much wanted, surprise. I remember asking the sex of the baby at our 20 week scan. I expected another boy (I would have been over the moon with another boy) but when she told me she was a girl I burst into tears! Very happy tears.
When she arrived, she was stunning and so different to the boys. So quiet, with such delicate features. I could stare at her for hours.
I had a planned caesarean delivery (as I had with my second son) so knew what to expect. I had lots of help rallying around me for the first month or so. The other half had taken more time off work and my mum was on hand as always. This time it was a slow and quite painful recovery compared with my first section, but I put that down to it being my second section and of course now having three little people to look after!
Something wasn’t quite right
In the early days I muddled on through as we all do as new mums. But as the days turned into weeks, it became harder and harder to get myself out of bed each morning. I had three children, my husband left for work very early each day, I had no choice but to get up. I started to slow down, my thoughts became blurred and just sorting the washing into lights and darks became a mammoth task. I put it all down to the sleepless nights but something wasn’t right. I plodded on like this for a couple more months; everything slowing, becoming more disconnected from the world around me.
Sleep deprivation turned into something a lot more sinister
It was exactly a year ago (a bittersweet anniversary) when everything came to ahead. I remember it well, the first weekend in January we had been out as a family to a National Trust site for a lovely walk and explore. The weather was beautiful, blue skies and the sun shone brightly. Everyone had a great time, except me. I felt disconnected from everything. That night I called one of my closest friends to catch up, we’d had babies only 11 days apart so she was going through it all as well. We chatted for a while and as I opened up to her I began to sob. I was so so tired, I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in months. She was feeling the same but we both agreed that something wasn’t right, this wasn’t just sleep deprivation.
The final push happened a few days later. I had just taken my eldest to school and returned home with my younger son and baby girl as I usually did. Going out and seeing other people had become a thing of the past, I tended to stay in the sanctuary of my own home.
I returned home this day and for some reason (totally unbeknown to me) my heart started racing. I could feel it beating inside my chest. Suddenly, it felt like an elephant was sitting on me, I couldn’t catch my breath and my heart was fighting to burst free. It hit me from out of no where – the anxiety. I was having a panic attack.
Time to get some help
With some much needed encouragement from my husband, I made an appointment with my GP. She was excellent and very supportive. Just talking about how I was feeling out loud (as opposed to the thoughts whirring around my head) was such a relief, as I opened up I couldn’t stop crying. I realised that this was not just sleep deprivation (although I know this made everything a whole lot worse) I was in fact not well. To label it I had postnatal depression (PND) and anxiety.
The relief of finding out that I was actually unwell, there was a reason I was feeling this low, was immeasurable. I’d had a beautiful baby girl and the guilt I was feeling for not enjoying this whole experience was overwhelming. I felt completely suffocated by the immense responsibility of now being a mum of 3. I’d cried tears of absolute joy at my 20 week scan but now I was feeling so low I just wanted to pack my bags and run away.
Soon after this I started seeing a therapist, who I am still seeing to this day (although not as often). I am not ashamed of this fact, instead I credit him with my recovery. He has shown me that putting myself first, self-care as such, is not selfish but instead vital for my healthy well-being as a busy mum.
All these months on I still have very dark days, days where I could just sleep and shut the world out, but these days are no where near as frequent as they were.
This leads me to my journey with mindfulness and creating Happy Headspace. There are many ways to get over PND (and get over it you will do) but I have found mindfulness has helped me massively. All these months on I still have very dark days, days where I could just sleep and shut the world out, but these days are no where near as frequent as they were. I look back on the early months after having my baby girl and my heart aches for the person I was back then. My PND robbed me of what should have been some of the happiest times of my life. But instead of dwelling on this I want to help other mums (and maybe some dads too) who are in a similar situation, feeling as low as I did back then.
It is estimated that around 1 in 5 of mums will experience postnatal depression.
If you have recently had a baby and think you may have postnatal depression don’t be ashamed or feel like you are failing as a mum. It is estimated that around 1 in 5 of mums will experience postnatal depression. Most mums just muddle on through without any help, so the figure is most probably even higher than this in reality.
Ask for the help you need though, go and see your GP. This is just a period in your life which most certainly will not last forever. I am by no means perfect, as I said I still struggle to put my own needs first at times, but this is why I am trying to incorporate more mindfulness into the lives of my family. Look out for my subsequent blogs on the further two things that brought me on this mindful journey.
Meanwhile, have a look at some of these useful links if you think you could be suffering from postnatal depression and anxiety;