Self Care Sundays

You may have noticed that I often use my social media accounts to share or link to a post, using the hashtag #selfcaresunday. If you follow many baby or mental health blogs, you might find a lot of them do the same. I’d like to explain why I think it is important to get that weekly reminder to look after yourself; and what ‘self care’ means anyway!

A half empty glass with text reading You can't pour from an empty glassWhen we become parents, we go through a change. Suddenly, you are responsible for this tiny human. They are completely incapable of doing anything for themselves. It can be very easy to fall into the way of putting all of your energy and time into looking after your baby, and forgetting about yourself. Over time, however, if this continues, you will become depleted, and you can’t look after a baby if you are running on empty yourself. Although we should practice self care EVERY day, I hope my weekly nudge reminds you in case you have forgotten in the daily rush that is life with small children.

There is an industry built on ‘self-care’ – things like bath bombs, candles, face masks – and if that’s what makes you feel better about yourself, or helps you relax, that’s great. However, I think it overlooks the small acts of self care that we all need to do to stay afloat. For me, that is things like having a shower, trying to maintain a tidy space (difficult with a toddler), and remembering to eat and drink on busy days! My personal exercise and yoga practice is also important to me – and as I have been struggling to make classes recently, I booked a one to one session with a yoga teacher friend recently, so she could put together an at-home personal practice to help me ‘move on’ in my yoga practice.  

It’s all about remembering to fit in time for yourself – which is something I incorporate into every baby and toddler yoga session I teach. The simple fact you choose a class for both you and your child is a great start.  In addition teaching you to share your yoga practice with your child, I ensure you get a chance to relax at the end of every session. The more you practice relaxing, both in class and at home, the more your child becomes accustomed to you taking the time to look after yourself. Modelling self care like this is an excellent lesson to be teaching your little ones! 

I’d love to hear from you on how you fit in self care for yourself – both the boring ‘brushing your teeth’ sort, and the fitting in a yoga class/massage sort too!

 

World Mental Health Day 2018

my maternal mental health story #maternalMHmatters

 

TODAY is the start of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, and here at Child’s Pose Yoga, I am giving the week over to a series of blog posts on maternal mental health matters – which is a matter that is very close to my heart, as I suffered from mental health issues following the birth of our honey badger.

I could ramble on and on about the subject for days, so to give my posts some sort of structure, I am going to attempt to follow the themes laid out for the week. So – first post is ‘What is perinatal mental health?’

You can read a variety of articles online to find out exactly what perinatal mental health encompasses, so I am not going to inexpertly replicate any of them – instead I will talk about MY perinatal mental health.

Due to the hyperemesis gravidarum I suffered from throughout my pregnancy, I was probably at least a little bit depressed before I gave birth, I don’t really think my issues started properly until afterwards. Any lowered mood I felt then I blamed on the fact I was being sick all-the-blimmin’ time.

If I were to describe what exactly I am still recovering from, I would say it was a mix of postnatal depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress. My medical notes in the year and a bit I was signed off work for after my maternity leave simply said postnatal depression.

Happy Mummy face and Baby
What I showed the world – my FB profile pic when Honey Badger was about 3 months old

From the moment my son was born, I was very protective of him, I didn’t like being away from him, and if someone else was holding him when he cried, I got very very anxious. I was exhausted from a tough pregnancy, and lack of sleep following that – honey badger refused to sleep in his cot, or indeed anywhere except on me or his daddy. I had grazes following the birth that were situated right at my urethra – so whenever I went for a pee, I was in absolute agony – I felt like the pain was worse than labour itself. My husband started a new job three days after our son was born, so he wasn’t able to take any maternity leave, and I felt suddenly all alone with this tiny being, and completely unprepared for parenthood.

I got very teary, but was advised that this was probably just the ‘baby blues’. However, they didn’t go away, and I would spend hours crying, feeling like I was wasting the time I had with my newborn. I would end up shouting at him as he woke up every time I tried to close my eyes for a bit of sleep, and I would manically sing nursery rhymes to try and calm him as I tried to grab a quick shower. It got to the stage that his crying became a trigger for my anxiety – I would do anything to try and stop him crying, I felt like I was a terrible mother if I let him cry at all. On top of this, I started having intrusive thoughts – of dropping him down the stairs, or shaking him to stop him crying – and although I was certain I would never act on any thoughts that would cause him harm, they were very distressing, and I was ashamed of having them.

Teary eyed me with baby boy
This was how my husband would find me on return from work most days. Welcoming, no?

I did try to seek help from the doctor, but I was told that to take antidepressants, I would have to stop breastfeeding. Stopping the one thing I felt I was actually good at as a mother would have made me feel worse, so I decided not to take the pills that were offered. No other help was really forthcoming at this point, so I continued on the way I was.

My anxiety got worse. My crying got worse. I started having postpartum rages, where I would be inexplicably FURIOUS at something, and I felt like I no longer knew who I was. I would frequently fall out with my husband, and this would trigger more unwelcome thoughts.

I started to think it might be better if I was no longer around. One night, after another argument, I lay in bed and started researching suicide methods. I was ‘trapped’, feeding my son, so couldn’t act on any urges to hurt myself – and it was the thought of my son growing up without a mother, even one as rubbish as I thought I was that made me reach out to a friend. She told me to tell my husband how I felt – which I did, and the next day was a whirlwind of scary activity, that saw my at the GP, then at the hospital, then home again with a prescription for the same antidepressants I had been offered months before, but this time I was told I could breastfeed whilst taking them.

That was almost two years ago, and I have since gone through talking therapy, taken up yoga and mindfulness, (started teaching baby yoga!) – and I still take the pills (and I still breastfeed!).

I am on the road to recovery. If you ever feel like I did, know that, with help, you can recover too.

10/10/2018 edit : 

This article has just popped up on my timeline – It’s by Eve Canavan, a rather brilliant woman who has become an ardent campaigner for perinatal mental health awareness, following her experience of postpartum psychosis. It’s well worth a read.