As a 2nd time mum, who struggled with Postnatal depression, anxiety, birth trauma and severe sleep deprivation – I was naturally a little anxious when deciding to try for another baby, and for where the hormonal roller-coaster may take me…
When I decided that I would like to try for another baby, I pushed these feelings as far away as I could. After having my son, and being so unwell, I was terrified at the prospect of having another child, and spent years of deflecting comments, and the questions of family and friends asking ‘When are you having another one?’ When I eventually spoke to my husband about it, nearly 3 years after having our son, I wasn’t prepared for the months of negative pregnancy tests and the disappointment that came with them. But we kept the faith, I trusted that if it was meant to be, it was meant to be. On January 17th when I lost someone close, something told me to take a test, and on the same day- I had experienced one life ending and another one just beginning.
The over-riding feeling that I have experienced this time round is gratitude. I feel LUCKY to be pregnant, I have witnessed so many close family and friends experiencing infertility and loss, and seen their heartache, that even when I am having the toughest of days, the gratitude I feel is still always there. Last time round I never bonded with my bump, and I carried out my life as if nothing was different. I hadn’t expected my life to change, and I was very unaware of the obvious disconnect between me and my baby boy. Fast forward to now, and you’ll be lucky to spot me without my hands on my bump, despite always being body conscious, I’ve been mezmerised by my growing body and in awe of the tiny human kicking away inside of me. Perhaps because we’ve been hiding away at home due to the pandemic, I’ve been spared the comments of ‘Are you sure its only one in there’ or the unwelcome advances of strangers who think its acceptable to touch a woman’s stomach without asking permission.
So What have I done differently this time around to look after my emotional health?
- I have been honest with the medical professionals from the very start. (As a first time mum, I had an irrational fear of people thinking I wasn’t a good mother, or that my baby would be taken away If I had admitted that something was wrong.) This time, I was able to see a midwife face to face before appointments were switched online for the pandemic, and as we were completing my 12 week booking appointment, I broke down into tears, and explained my fear of becoming unwell again, and how much it had affected me. I’m pleased to say that she restored my faith in midwives, and referred me straight into the perinatal Mental health team, who were able to assess me and create a support plan with the local services. Working in Mental health myself, I know how important it is to be able to access the right support, and to feel heard , and I have been amazed by the high standard of care that I’ve been offered. I have a wonderful CBT therapist who is helping me through the remaining PTSD symptoms following birth trauma, and access to a psychiatrist should I feel that it would be appropriate to go back onto medication at any time. Just knowing that the support is there, and that I wont slip through the net again is incredible. (Google your local Perinatal mental health team for more info)
2. I found my tribe. I thought long and hard about what could benefit me during pregnancy, and the various activities or courses that I would like to attend to equip me with better knowledge and understanding this time around. I was lucky enough to stumble across the Underwood Baby Academy and build my support network. I had initially been put in touch with them to talk about my mindfulness services, and ended up loving them so much that I signed up as a member! From 12 weeks pregnant I’ve been enjoying Antenatal yoga sessions each week for deep relaxation and mobility , aswell as a midwife -led support line , which has been so helpful when trying to seek information at a time where face to face appointments had been cancelled. The biggest game changer that came for me though was their hypnobirthing course. Having feared childbirth previously and the painful reminders that it brought back to me, I am still in disbelief when I say that I am now excited for labour, and its all because of these guys and the KG hypnobirthing methods that they teach. They have allowed me to see that birth can be a positive experience, regardless of how or where my baby is born, and this is due to creating a change in mindset , and the power that comes with the right knowledge! I’m also due to attend their 4th Trimester session, which will be a useful reminder of how to care for a newborn as after 4 years, I’m somewhat out of practice haha! I also must mention the value of peer support that this has brought me, meeting other mums at similar stages in their journey has provided some much needed social interaction during a time where I have felt quite isolated.
3. I’ve upped my self care. As many of you know, I teach wellbeing, mindfulness and self care for a living- so its important to practice what I preach! Mindfulness changed my life, and it has been such a valuable technique to use when trying to juggle work, an energetic preschooler and a pregnant body all whilst navigating the new way of life during Covid19. My key practices have been :
- Reading instead of scrolling on social media or watching TV. (Lots of self help, empowerment and informative books to maintain a positive outlook and keep building my knowledge for birth and beyond)
- Long Baths. I asked my husband for a bath board, and this has become a ritual for me at least 2-3 times a week to soak in some suds, take in a good book & relaxing music, a soothing drink and a nicely scented pamper product and to truly relax on my own. It helps my sleep quality aswell! (Particularly useful for managing pregnancy insomnia)
- Meditation. I used to think meditation was a ridiculous practice, and that it wasn’t possible to feel relaxed by just sitting still and breathing deeply. Now I’m converted, not only by the abundance of research behind it, but by the improved mental clarity that I have achieved by adding meditation into my routine. Even just 2or3 minutes of focused breathing and relaxation can completely reset my mood and energy levels for the rest of the day!
- Rest. Last pregnancy, I didn’t stop, and continued not to rest even after having a newborn. This time , I am so much wiser to the signals of my mind and body. I allow myself to sit, nap or relax when I can and I don’t let myself feel guilty for it either!
4. I’m learning to trust myself. As a second time mum, I have experience, knowledge and far more awareness than ever before. I’m more accepting of my abilities, and realistic in terms of managing my own expectations when it comes to motherhood. I wont be a slave to the baby books, or go green with envy at the comparisons to other’s. This time around I know that I will take things at a pace that suits me, I’m making parenting decisions that feel right for my family, instead of just going with the ‘norm’, or society’s unrealistic expectations. I know that trying to be a ‘superwoman’ is not possible, and in-fact, is what nearly broke me all those years ago. My mental health will come before a pile of dishes, snuggles with my baby will be prioritised over checking emails, and time as a family will be well spent before opening the floodgates to masses of visitors. I will be sure to accept offers of help from my wonderful friends and family, instead of pretending I’ve got it all covered! How hindsight is such a wonderful thing! I am well aware that being a mother of two will bring it’s challenges, but I feel equipped with the right tools to navigate the storms , and that I have the right support network around me for the days it gets too much.
5. Finally, I have my 4 year old son as a reminder of the unconditional love that motherhood brings. These days, especially with my raging hormones, I just need to look at him with such love in my heart that it brings tears to my eyes! Even when he drives me round the bend, that ever present gratitude and unconditional love gets me through, and the thought of being able to have that same bond with my impending arrival, makes me a very happy and lucky woman indeed. Despite my maternal mental health being one of the most darkest and difficult times in my life, I would go through it all again to experience the love for my boy that I have now.
So now, it’s time for me to cherish these last few weeks, To enjoy the wiggles and kicks, putting the cot up, winding down for maternity leave, and gearing up for the next chapter in our lives!
(For more information on maternal mental health signposting , mindfulness and self care, visit www.emmathemadeupmom.com )