Chronicles of the After-Birth #2 – ‘A Bolt from the Blues’

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I wouldn’t class myself as a particularly, overtly ’emotional’ person. That’s not to say I’m swingin’ down the street fancy-free like Georgie girl. Oh no no. I have a tendency to obsess over things…often completely ridiculous things. Maybe I’ll keep replaying and dissecting something stupid I might have once said four years ago to someone I barely knew at a party or at work, and will probably never speak to again in my life. I also get frustrated and impatient when things aren’t done yesterday, and done my very own personalised version of ‘right’. But in recent years, I am not much of a crier…so I thought.

Approximately 4 days after my daughter arrived into this world, it hit me. A tidal wave of salty tears. In an instant, I waved goodbye to a well-rehearsed stoic exterior, and crumpled into a whimpering, wet-faced, ugly-cry mess. I am struggling to think of an example of something hilariously pitiful that I cried about to tell you, because the truth is, I cried over EVERYTHING. E-VER-Y-THING.

A couple of moments I recall include angrily raking through bin-bags of clothes, tossing my favourite crop tops and skinny jeans to the ‘throw away’ pile, resigning to my new, muted, conservative ‘Mum’ self, who would never look or feel great ever again. I also remember sobbing to my husband, because we couldn’t even take a moment to relax, cuddle and watch TV together like we used to. Everything around us looked the same, but it wasn’t. I was just a nappy-changing milk machine now, and it was never going to get easier.

I had heard the expression ‘baby blues’ before, and without much thought, I had assumed this was another term for Post Natal or Post Partum Depression (PND/PPD). Or maybe even similar to post-wedding blues, in that it’s a lengthy anticipation up to a huge event/climax, and then suddenly it’s over. Done. Of course, I know that’s not quite how it works with babies (you’ll never, EVER be done!).

It’s really hard not to feel guilty for feeling so down, especially when you are acutely aware of the pain and longing of those who haven’t got their baby…and what you know you should be doing is beaming proudly and cooing over your new little addition, thanking your lucky stars for such a blessing and absorbing every last blissful drop of family life. Unfortunately, there are some things, try as we might, that we just cannot control.

What I didn’t account for, was that it’s a physical reaction. A reaction consisting of a colossal comedown of post-birth hormones and drugs, trying to file away and come to terms with the trauma of childbirth, all whilst caring for a new tiny person in an upside-down world, suffering from sleep deprivation and recovering from major surgery, all at once. In my case, I just could not contain it. Why was I crying?! I had the most beautiful baby girl who was healthy, who I was bonding with well, lots of our family and friends showed their support and came to see us…I was lucky enough even to have my Mum come and stay and help out for several days in the first weeks (my husband couldn’t be around much because we had just got the keys to our new house, but that’s another story!). And yet I boo-ed, boo-ed and boo-ed some more. My husband didn’t recognise me, let alone know what to do or say to me.

This lasted maybe 3 weeks, peaking around 1 week and tapering off slowly until it was maybe only once or twice a day that I was reduced to a blubbering mess. Transitioning over time from borderline completely irrational, to genuine frustration and exhaustion. Even now, almost 11 months later, I still find it more difficult than ever to control my emotions, though not to the same degree as immediately post-birth!

How to overcome this? Well…firstly, it takes time. If you get through this phase completely unscathed without shedding even a single, silent Hollywood tear; you are an absolute machine of a woman, and I applaud you. For the rest of us mere mortals, the best thing I found you can do to get through this stage is to do something for yourself. Really make it a priority.

If you’re up to it, take a walk…on your own. Ask your partner, your Mum, or a friend to watch the baby. It doesn’t have to be for long. Even 10-15 minutes to get a pint of milk from the shop works! If you like music, stick your headphones in while you walk and listen to your favourite tunes. Or if you want to stay home, ask someone to take the baby for a walk, or a drive. Take a bath or shower, watch an episode of your favourite series, read a book, paint your nails, do a face mask…whatever it is that is a little ‘me’ ritual that you enjoyed pre-baby, or would make you feel a little more human.

Removing yourself from the screaming, crying baby and stressed out husband situation and giving yourself a little reminder that you’re still ‘you’ and ‘you’ still matter, and doing this as regularly as possible (I realise this might not be as regular as we’d like 😉 ), is a way to ease the pressure on yourself, at arguably the most challenging time of your entire life. Make sure you tell someone close how you’re feeling, and that you could use their support to reclaim a moment that’s yours, so you can be ready again to dust yourself off and carry on.

When you can do this, you give yourself enough space to stand back and re-appreciate the most beautiful and precious gift that you have, and that everything new and difficult that is going on is all a phase, and it really will all be ok.

How long did your ‘baby blues’ last? What did you do to overcome those feelings? I’d love to hear your comments and stories!

Jo X

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7 Comments

  1. I’m enjoying your blog, Jo! Well done! Nice to see a honest account of motherhood. I had no idea how mental the come down of birth would be either. I cried solidly for the week I was in hospital afterwards; all day and all night. Even now, three years on, I pretty much cry at anything. Especially recounting my traumatic birth story! A bit of time to myself does wonders. I actually really enjoy going to work for 12 hours a week so I can be a functioning adult for a little while. My pre-baby self would never had imagined that I’d think ‘at least I’ve got work in a few hours’ when I’m having a bad day!

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    1. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your story, Joey! Sounds like you had a really rough time of it 😔 Must have been so tough. Still comforting to hear though that it’s normal to still feel emotional so long after giving birth! And pleased you have found your solace at work. I resigned my job in December while still on mat leave to be at home with Thea, and finding my feet in this new role is proving at times to be challenging! X

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  2. I bet! She’ll love having you around all the time though. People say many annoying things about parenthood, ‘you’re making a rod for your own back’ etc, but the one thing I agree with is ‘you’ll never look back and regret having spent too much time with your kids’. Millie is at nursery for 2.5 hours a day now and I really miss our responsibility free, spontaneous existence. The holidays feel like a massive treat now! I look forward to reading more about your take on life x

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  3. This is so true about coming home and everything looking the same but being completely different – took me right back to those days! And the hormones…oh, the hormones! They are the absolute worst. I don’t think I was properly back on the planet until around the 6 month mark. It’s such a weird time, a mix of crazy, joyful, emotional, anxious moments. Great advice about giving yourself a break though, so important 🙂

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  4. I was definitely surprised by how intense the hormone drop was. The second night I was in the hospital, I was writing in Winter’s baby journal to tell her the story of her birth and I signed it “love mommy,” and I thought to myself, this is the last entry I will write in her pregnancy journal..and I burst into big ugly tears. And I just kept crying for like three weeks after. You really hit the nail on the head about coming home and everything looks the same but everything is now so different. I also remember feeling so empty and alone now that she wasn’t in my belly anymore. The first time I put my jacket on after having her, and being able to button it easily because there wasn’t a big belly in the way anymore made me bawl like a baby. Or anytime I would see her move or have the hiccups and realize I wouldn’t feel those movements from her in my body anymore, I cried. Baby blues makes it sound so trivial and easy but it can feel devastating when you’re in the thick of it.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting with your experience. You’re right, it can be a really tough time for a number of reasons…it’s such a big change of new beginnings, and also endings! Thanks again for taking the time to to read, I really appreciate it and love hearing from other Mums! X

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