Postnatal Depression - What it felt like to me and ways to help.
Postnatal depression wasn't something I ever expected to suffer with. Sure, I've suffered from depression for a large part of my life, but having a baby was something I had wanted for years before my wife even got pregnant. I thought I would have that overwhelming feeling of love and happiness that you hear so much about. But when my daughter was born, and she was placed in my arms, I didn't really feel anything.
For some, it takes a while for feelings of postnatal depression to arise. But for me, it came fairly quickly. Within a few weeks, I knew I wasn't right and needed to seek help. I didn't like my daughter, I had feelings of baby regret, I was jealous of her, I was resentful, and then I felt guilty that I was even having those thoughts. Overall, I felt that my life had been ruined.
But I was lucky if you can call it that, that I had suffered from depression so much in my past. I already had an understanding of some of these feelings and most importantly, I knew that they didn't always last and they could be changed. So that's what I did. I started trying as many things as I could to help myself on the road to recovery.
But what can you do if you ever find yourself in this situation?
First of all, you have to talk about it. It doesn't matter who you want to open up to; whether it's your partner, a stranger online or just the doctor, you have to find a place where you can vocalise your feelings. Keeping things trapped inside never works, and you'll only be doing yourself more harm in the long run. The first time you do it might be extremely difficult, but trust me when I say it gets easier.
For me, I've always had my wife with me every step of the way. Right from the beginning I was open and honest with her. Did I like telling her that I felt nothing for our baby? That maybe I regretted the mere fact that we even had her? No. It was horrible. But the more I opened up the more I let go of the feelings and helped myself deal with them. Instead of ignoring them, I addressed them. And that's the first thing that you have to do. It's also important that you find someone who won't judge these emotions. You have to remember that these feelings aren't here by choice. You don't choose whether you are depressed or not, you just are depressed.
But that's just the start. After opening up and talking about it you have to find out what works for you. Maybe you'll want to seek medical help and take medication, perhaps you'll want to seek counselling to go through your feelings with someone who can help you address them professionally.
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What Else Can You Do?
There are loads of things to try. If you're struggling to form a bond with the baby, then you need to find things that the two of you can enjoy together. Involving yourself as much as you can is vital. Being there for bath time, changing the baby, enjoying play time, and doing as much as you can will only help you to grow the bond.
For me, getting into babywearing really started to give us something to do together. Isabelle really enjoyed being carried around on me, and she would even fall asleep in the carrier. It was nice for me to be able to enjoy nap times with her during the day, and the carrier gave me that opportunity.
I also found that going away with Isabelle and my wife worked wonders too. Getting out of the same old surroundings and seeing somewhere new helped me to reset and come back with a stronger bond. It also stopped me seeing Isabelle as a burden, as I realised that we could still do things, just maybe we had to do them a little differently.
Then you can try attending baby groups. Being surrounded by people who have their own struggles and difficulties helps to put your own into perspective. You'll quickly realise that you are not alone, and that being a parent is an incredibly difficult task and it's ok to find it a challenge.
Look After Yourself
And remember, you have to look after yourself. If you're stressed, angry or feel like you're not coping, then you owe it to yourself to take a break. Find someone who can help and look after the baby and do something that will bring you back to a centred, calm place. Whether that's yoga, meditation, exercise, a massage, or whatever it is that you feel you need. But just remember, self-care isn't selfish.
Ultimately, postnatal depression can manifest itself differently in each person. Everyone is different, and as such, everyone's recovery will be different too. The important thing to remember is that these feelings aren't permanent, you didn't choose to feel them and you are not abnormal for having them. I know it's incredibly hard, and at times it feels like there's no light at the end of the tunnel, but there is. All I can say is that it will get better. I can’t tell you when, but there will come a time when you feel it, you just have to keep fighting for it.
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Ross is a part of the This Dad Can community. He started his blog to share his experiences with postnatal depression. He didn't really expect to keep blogging, but quickly realised that it helped a great deal with his mental health, so he kept writing.
He now posts everything from reviews of products, trips that he's been on with his wife and daughter and also just general ramblings about life as a new father. He is always trying to find ways to help others.
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