Guest post: postnatal anxiety clouded my first 6 months as a mother.

Guest post: postnatal anxiety clouded my first 6 months as a mother.

This week’s instalment in the “Mums and Mental Health” series is another anonymous poster. This blogger suffered from postnatal anxiety ,but due to the personal nature of the post and the family members it involves, she would rather remain name-less. As for the previous poster, I respect that decision – so this week’s post is from Mrs Y. If you would like to leave a comment for Mrs Y, I will pass them all on to her and respond on her behalf.

“My daughter arrived in September 2014. She was planned and very much wanted, however, I did have reservations.

One specific concern was that I knew I was a higher-risk candidate for PND: I suffered on and off with depression during my teenage years and my early twenties, and I feared its return. From the little I knew, I believed it would be an immediate problem or it simply wouldn’t be a problem. So, when I was still feeling mostly fine by about three months postpartum (apart from some occasional low days which I’d consider ‘normal’ given the huge transition to motherhood), I felt confident I’d swerved that particular threat.

However, shortly thereafter, I found myself spiralling into a pit of despair.

The irony though, is that even as the enormous feelings overwhelmed me, I was very aware that I didn’t recognise these emotions to be depression. I was very confused for a long time. Unfortunately I was also left incredibly vulnerable to being told I was not behaving rationally. After all, when your own husband tells you that your behaviour is strange or unacceptable and you don’t feel ‘right’ – of course you listen!

One thing I wish to make absolutely clear is that my husband has never acted out of malice, spite, or unkindness. He has always acted in what he has perceived to be my best interest. I believe that unequivocally.

I’ve spoken before about his concerns of starting a family and what it may do to our marriage (and my naive certainty that our little family would epitomise a romantic novel); I’ve spoken about the difficulties we encountered when my daughter was first born; I’ve even spoken about Postnatal Anxiety.

But what I’ve never been entirely candid about is the underlying cause at the root of the latter issues. I did try once, at my husband’s suggestion. Sadly it was an epic fail, and out of loyalty to my MIL for the sake of damage limitation I had to revise the piece and ultimately censor myself. For those reasons, I’m still unable to speak about it openly. My husband agrees with the entire contents of this post and supports me writing it and having it published, but we’ve jointly decided anonymity preserves our privacy and eliminates the risk of further rancour from his mother.

Before my daughter arrived my marriage was about as solid as any union can be. On my first ever mother’s day, just six months later, I was telling my husband to fix the problem or pack his bags. In retrospect, I honestly cannot believe things ever reached such a dreadful point.

Essentially, we were dealing with an overly enthusiastic mother-in-law. Which may sound innocuous enough, but over time, her behaviour became insidious and inadvertently (I must believe this) – manipulative. It chipped away first at my confidence; then at my mental health; and finally at my marriage.

I accept that I was a very hands-on mother to my newborn. I accept that I wouldn’t allow my tiny baby out of my sight for the first four months. I accept that I don’t allow my daughter to cry unnecessarily. I accept that I may have contributed to making my daughter quite clingy.

And at the time, I also accepted that those things made me unbalanced.

I was utterly overwhelmed by the arguably excessive demands being placed upon me (as in I argued they were, and hubby lovingly cajoled me to be less neurotic, more reasonable), and all I wanted to do was hide away with my baby. I felt stifled and suffocated.

And crazy.

Have you ever watched a film about somebody who is losing their mind? And seen their fear and confusion when their loved ones gently try to explain to them that their perception is distorted? That’s basically how I lived for the first six months of my daughter’s life. It was a very frightening experience, at a very vulnerable time.

With hindsight, and from a lucid perspective – I see very clearly that despite my predisposition to depression or anxiety, the additional pressures from my mother-in-law made it an inevitability.

Thankfully, that Mother’s Day is the day everything changed for the better: my husband opened his eyes and stepped up. That is the day my husband finally, finally saw his mother’s inappropriate behaviour for what it was, and stopped being complicit for fear of offending her. That is the day my husband helped me start to heal, and reasserted himself as the man I want to grow old with.

That was also the day I began to trust myself that there was more to my distress than the expected adjustment of becoming a mother – but that it wasn’t solely my problem; my angst was being fed. Soon after, I discovered there’s such a thing as Postnatal Anxiety – and everything fell into place for me. The constant agitation was because I felt so anxious. And the daily tears were not because I was depressed, but because of my intense frustration, and the sadness I felt at the gulf which had grown between me and my husband.

PNA is actually more common than PND, but it’s less known and thus less spoken about. I’ve always been susceptible to paranoia and a lack of confidence, but I wouldn’t have described myself as having a ‘disorder’ (unless you count extreme shyness). However, during a time when I was finding my feet as a mother and getting to know my daughter, having certain expectations placed upon me which I felt unable to fulfil, and then having my husband tell me I needed to be more flexible – I began to doubt my own sanity.

I admit that being pushed to breaking point made me resentful. But then I worked very, VERY hard on pulling myself away from that destructive mindset. And I’m happy to report that it worked.

I began my Thankful Thursday series, and along with having my husband back on my team, I started to see the light. I’m incredibly proud of how diligently I’ve worked on bettering myself, for my daughter’s sake; a quite unexpected and wonderful side effect is that I am the happiest I’ve ever been: I no longer have to work at finding positives in my life; it’s become my default attitude.
I now feel more apprehensive than ever about having a second baby. But I also feel fully prepared to be confident in my own needs and stand my ground.

The classic characteristic of a nursing lioness is fierce protectiveness of her young. That trait is
known and expected as the norm. It is not treated as something to be condemned; rather it’s accepted and respected.

My daughter’s clinginess is testament to my attentiveness as a mother. If it’s not a problem for me (it’s not), then it’s something to be proud of. The things I was made to feel inadequate and ashamed about are the precise qualities which make for a good mother. And to further illustrate that point as being an unquestionable truth, I’m told often that my daughter seems incredibly bright, sociable and most of all – happy.

Knowing what I know now, if my husband and I go on to have a second child, my parenting technique will look exactly the same – but with less self-doubt and more self-confidence.”

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