This weeks blog comes from education and parenting expert Clare Ford, author of “How to Have a Positive & Empowering Pregnancy” and life coach at Beautiful Souls. Clare aims to help women feel empowered, ready and resilient before they give birth, to encourage a strong bond between mummy and baby. Motivated by her own experiences with her new son, Clare talks honestly and openly about how the reality of becoming a mum is not always how you'd imagined it . . . .
"I clearly remember the longest two minutes of my life – is it a single blue line? Is it definite? Watching carefully for any negative signs from my husband… what if…? Yes! It’s a positive! We’re pregnant! OMG we’re PREGNANT! But are we really cut out to be parents – really? We hardly know how to look after ourselves if I’m honest. And how can we afford to have a baby? We can only just afford this bigger mortgage…
So, with this much awaited and exciting diagnosis also comes unwanted, negative and very normal questions.
From my own experience, my pregnancy was uncomplicated. Yes, nausea and sickness, uncomfortable sleeping, cravings and mood swings – but these are very normal “side effects”.
I read up, of course, (Google hadn’t been invented yet – a blessing or a curse, I don’t know), and discovered that these symptoms were to be expected. I carried on working and maintained a regular exercise regime involving yoga and swimming. I hated getting fatter and secretly felt resentful that I was no longer in control of my body.
As I ballooned out in the heat of the Summer with swollen ankles and breasts, I began to get really anxious. All the questions that I had asked myself waiting for my test result started to present themselves again. To be fair, I didn’t have much faith in either of our parenting abilities and neither did my husband – we were in the dark.
I only realise with hindsight that I started showing symptoms of Postnatal depression (PND) during my pregnancy. I remember having awful visions of driving into a brick wall or fainting and falling in the street with no-one knowing who I was or that I was pregnant. The same sensations happened in my second pregnancy too. It was only when one of my friends at the time remarked that “having a baby changes your life, but doesn’t end it. Life still goes on,” that I realised how stressed I was. This is why I now work with pregnant women and families.
My son arrived kicking and screaming on his due date and latched on without a problem. I loved him immediately and without reservation and beheld with awe and wonder this perfect human being that we’d created.
The depression started around 8 weeks – after all the interest and visitors had died down and my husband had returned to work. I wasn’t even aware I had it to begin with, I was so tired. It was just that life was difficult; my husband left in the mornings with a cursory goodbye kiss while I was in my pyjamas breastfeeding our son – and then returned 12 hours later to find me in the same room, in the same chair, in the same position, in the same clothes, doing the same thing. “How can you be tired?” he’d ask. “What have you been doing all day?” I was exhausted! I fed on demand and tried to combine this with a strict schedule as suggested by Gina Ford. When my son did sleep, I’d be scurrying around like a madwoman, trying to get on top of the loads of washing, housework, cooking and cleaning. Trying to get the house in some kind of order, dinner prepared, washing and shopping done before my husband returned. And, of course, taking my son to various appointments and activities and meeting up with other new mums for sanity’s sake.
My husband was very particular about how he liked things to be – and I ended up really struggling with this. I am a tidy person and like things put away and I kept things pretty much under control. But it was my Dad who pointed out that living this way was impossible and that something had to give. I didn’t understand what he meant at first, but he was right. I had very little emotional support from my family or my husband – which I blame myself for to an extent, because I didn’t ask for it.
Thank goodness for the new mummy friends I made along the way, via the NCT (which is why I’m volunteering for them now), and nursery groups. If it weren’t for them, I would have gone mad."
- Notice any signs such as weird visions, day dreams and thoughts about death of you and/or your baby/children
- Surround yourself with support even if it’s not your family; seek help from your doctor or medical team
- Access childcare if you can for some time out if you need it without feeling guilty
- Develop a routine to your week to make you go out and socialise with other new mums
- Manage expectations with your spouse around housework and chores – your health is more important than a show home!
- Remember – the little things that you are doing for your baby every day are the big things
And most importantly, you are not alone!
Please connect with me via my website if you would like to master your mindset in pregnancy and beyond.