Anyone who has children will know that the early weeks and months of parenthood can be daunting, and especially so if you find yourself with no help or support. It is easy to become overwhelmed or feel like there is no one around who truly understands what you are going through. Just finding someone who is a new parent like yourself, that you can discuss the challenges you are having, or just have a good gab with, can be a lifeline.
Loneliness in early parenthood is a real issue. Although your life can be completely hectic and all consumed by the new bundle of joy, suddenly not having a moment for yourself can become unexpectedly overwhelming.
New Parent Isolation
A week after my first child was born, my mum had to go back home as she had a job and my younger sister to look after. I was living in London and she was in Liverpool; when she left us I was so emotional, and deep down inside, quite frightened. I vividly remember watching my mum drive down the road; I went inside and stood looking out of the window hoping she would turn round and come back. But she couldn’t. It was now my turn to be left alone and look after my child. It was at that moment I realised how isolated I was. My baby only had me now, and I had to keep him safe.
Back then, none of my friends had children. They had no idea of the stresses and strains that I was going though. They were still young people living their child-free, stress-free lives. Coupled with that, I'd been touring for months with my band, and didn’t get to do my antenatal classes. I hadn’t had time to build up a rapport with other parents-to-be. All of a sudden I have a newborn, no one to talk to, and no one to help when times got tough.
I soon realised that I needed to get out and about, and try to meet other new mums. I would go to different postnatal classes organised through my local Sure Start Children’s Centre and signed up to classes like baby massage, mum and baby yoga, mum and baby play, and weaning classes to name but a few.
Just getting out of the house and mixing with other mums was a well needed break. Home life can get so stressful with a new born and sometimes very daunting!
Practical and emotional support is key in the early stages of parenthood, and with the rise of social media there are so many groups that you can become a part of. Finding local support networks and making new friends has become a lot easier than it used to be.
Below are some great websites to have a look at that can point you in the right direction: -
- Sure Start Children's Centres - despite funding cutbacks, Sure Start Children's Centres are the official go-to point for new parents, offering support and running a number of groups.
- The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) - the NCT is a nationwide charity running popular ante and postnatal classes, and offering support to parents in many other ways.
- Netmums - parent and toddler groups information.
- MumsMeetUp - connecting mums locally and across the UK, enabling them to find mums like themselves in their area and playmates for their children.
- NHS Services & Support for Parents
- What's On For Little Ones
Becoming a wiser parent
Sometimes I wonder how on earth I have coped in the past with having a big family. Trying to breast feed and cook dinner at the same time was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had to juggle. Getting out of the house before midday was a good day! But I think we really do have to give ourselves a break and always remember that every day will kick up challenges, but these should also been seen as our successes too.
Post Natal Depression
Becoming a mum at the age of 20 was a massive deal. I honestly never saw myself with children. I was very career-driven and living the dream back then.
When I fell pregnant with my first born I actually took to motherhood really well. My pregnancy was rather text book, no complications, no dramas. I had minimal morning sickness and I felt well enough to work right up until 36 weeks pregnant. My final 4 weeks of pregnancy consisted of me eating my own body weight in food and napping an awful lot - my younger sister came to stay with me as it was the school holidays and we both had a lovely few weeks bonding, eating and snoozing.
However my labour was long and tedious. My waters broke while I was in bed at home. By he time I got to the hospital, I was told my baby would arrive very soon. Hours later, an epidural, a baby with a head at a funny angle, and his heart rate dropping rapidly, I was rushed to have an emergency c-section.
This wasn’t supposed to be the plan, I was terrified. I remember shaking uncontrollably, a mixture of fear and adrenaline, and being told by the nurses everything was going to be ok.
I don’t think I ever quite recovered from that moment.
I started to feel very off-kilter very soon after giving birth. He was only a few days old, and I remember watching the news and sobbing uncontrollably. How on earth could I keep my precious baby safe from the awful things going on in the world around us? I was riddled with fear.
I had heard about the ‘baby blues’ and just put it down to this. But as the weeks rolled by I just couldn’t shift this deep sadness, excruciating tiredness, and the feeling of just wanting to be alone all the time. I was due back to work after 6 weeks. So I buried my head in the sand and just put it all down to lack of sleep and my hormones trying to get back to normal.
I was told under no circumstances could I leave as work was too important and that I had to be with the band
After being back in work for a few months, it was clear that there was a problem. I withdrew from my peers. Their lives seemed a million miles away from mine. Their problems revolved around the stylist not having the right shoes or dress for a show. Which was of course normal to them at that stage in their lives. I, on the other hand had gone from worrying about stage outfits to feeling sick at the thought of leaving my child with my mum, and then not seeing him for days or even weeks at a time.
That was made worse when he had a suspected meningitis scare and I was in Germany. I was told under no circumstances could I leave as work was too important and that I had to be with the band. You have to remember I was just 20 and didn't feel strong enough to argue with the record label.
What planet was I living on! Listening to their ridiculous demands. But with my postnatal depression worsening, and having a constant fear of everything, I did what I was told. I look back on those times and can see why I finally cracked. Also, back in 2002 when I became a mum, there wasn’t any coverage of PND in young women; I had nothing to relate to.
My world was crumbling around me. I was also in a toxic relationship, there wasn’t much help coming from that. And I just cried all the time when ever I was alone.
My weight plummeted and I became a target for the press to write the most awful stories about me, painfully picking out my faults and how awful I looked. No wonder I didn’t want to get up on stage and sing anymore. I was only 20 years old.
It got to a point where enough was enough. Whilst visiting my parents one weekend I just ran out the house after my mum was asking me what was wrong. I couldn’t find the words to tell her how truly down and depressed I was. In my head, I thought if I told anyone around me how miserable I was, I’d been seen as an ungrateful person and be judged.
That night I ran out of her house and ended up sat under a bush sobbing uncontrollably in the rain. I’m not too sure what happened next, I seem to have blanked it out, but I know my management came to get me and the following day my mum took me to see the doctor.
I just sat there shaking and crying. Deep down inside I thought my child would be taken from me and they were going to tell me I had gone mad.
The minute the doctor told me I had Postnatal Depression it was as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Now I had a doctor telling me I was ill, and that I wasn’t the first and I wouldn't be the last - and that they would help me get better.
The only regret about that time is that I felt I couldn’t talk about what I was going through. My parents were always there but I was to ashamed of how I felt to speak up about it.
I know now that it is very important not to keep those feelings or unusual thoughts to yourself.
Below are some links if you feel you are going through a similar experience. Even if your baby is a bit older and you are still not feeling right, please seek help. Whether it be a family member, a friend, or colleague, or one of the groups who can support you in confidence, talking about your feelings is the first step to figuring out what help you need.
- Tommy's - recognising postnatal depression and getting support
- MIND - postnatal depression and perinatal mental health
- NCT - postnatal depression: what can I do
- NHS - treatment for postnatal depression
I can’t thank the mental health team at the NHS enough. They have been there for me after 2 of my pregnancies, and helped me along with family and friends to get back on track.