Becoming a mother can be a magical time, filled with excitement, beauty, and joy. Your new baby has arrived and your life as a mum begins. Many mums go through ‘baby blues’ in the first few days after birth. Baby blues affect more than 80% of women after they give birth. The baby blues are caused by a sudden drop in oestrogen just after giving birth. Oestrogen levels can drop more than 100 fold in the first three days after your baby is born.
Good levels of oestrogen can make you feel “energetic and vibrant, help to maintain healthy hair and skin and enable you to feel clear-headed and focused” according to GP and bio-identical hormone specialist Dr Sohére Roked. So, it stands to reason that a drop in oestrogen levels would lead to a fuzzy head, lack of energy, and lack of focus.
Baby blues is not the same as post-natal depression. Baby blues last a few days, maybe weeks, and is a result of hormones trying to return to normal. Post-natal depression is defined as a clinical level of major depression and is unlikely to get better without help. If you think you or your partner may be suffering from Post-Natal Depression, it is important to see your GP. Symptoms for post-natal depression include feeling:
• sad or low
• unable to enjoy anything
• extremely tired, with no energy
• a sense of guilt
• lacking in appetite
Many mums will experience some of these symptoms for a few days directly after they give birth, however if they persist for a period of time or are occurring most days, it may be a sign that you have post-natal depression.
New and Exciting
When your baby first arrives, it is a time of so much excitement. Relatives and friends visit, everyone wants to see photos of your little one, your partner may have paternity leave, and you spend time basking in your little baby’s glow.
However, eventually, people get back to their everyday lives, they go back to work, relatives head back home, and your partner eventually goes back to work. You are left all alone with your baby. Isolation may start to set in, and the realisation that you are almost solely responsible for this tiny human’s life dawns on you. It is at this point that new mums need support.
Who am I?
Life starts to return to normal for your friends and family, even your partner goes back to work, but you are no longer just ‘you’. You are ‘mum’. So what does this mean? Your identity is forever changed, and this can be a difficult process to go through. Change is stressful and disconcerting at the best of times, but can be that much more stressful when you are functioning on little to no sleep and an odd variety of half-cooked, thrown together food from the fridge.
Our identities change throughout our lives. We go from ‘daughter’ to ‘friend’ when we start school, maybe we become ‘sister’, ‘girlfriend’, ‘fiancée’, ‘wife’, ‘aunt’, and we gain the identity of whatever job or career we go into. Maybe we become ‘lawyer’, ‘waitress’, ‘manager’, or ‘accountant’. All of these titles and identities seem to be cumulative.
However, having the identity of ‘mum’ can feel like it negates some of our previous identities. We may no longer be seen as ‘wife’ or ‘girlfriend’ to our partners, instead we are ‘mother of my child’, for better or worse, and our relationship dynamics will likely change. We may no longer be ‘lawyer’ or ‘accountant’ as we navigate the expanse of our maternity leave. Our identities may no longer feel cumulative, but exclusive. We may feel like we are ‘just’ mum.
Many new mummies feel a great deal of anxiety when returning to work or going to social events. They feel like they have nothing to talk about but their child, and that others will find this boring. They can’t remember what they used to talk about to colleagues or friends, and they may even begin to isolate themselves further, burrowing into the world of maternity leave, nappies, and nap time.
However, it doesn’t have to be like that! Gaining the identity of ‘mum’ doesn’t have to mean that you lose your title of ‘friend’, ‘wife’, ‘colleague’ and so on. A little extra effort may be needed in order to maintain these friendships and relationship, and a little extra bravery could be necessary to face those social anxieties and go to that dinner party or weekly meeting. Being a mum can be an addition to your existing identity, if you let it... it you actively allow it.
Becoming a mum is an incredibly brave and selfless thing and it is important to remember that. You have brought a human being into existence, you are responsible for moulding him or her into a fully functioning adult, you have changed the course of your own life in order to be responsible for another person. Being a mum is incredibly difficult, and can also make for an unbelievably amazing life.
Embrace being a mum, build yourself a support system, both of old friends and a new-found social circle of fellow mums. Make use of resources in your area such as NCT groups, mum and baby events, mum and baby classes, and especially your health visitor. Enjoy the private moments between you are your little one, but also make sure that you see friends and have adult conversations. Trust your instincts and know that you don’t have to be a perfect mother, you just have to be good enough.
As always, if you would like to book an initial counselling session with me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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