Updated: Feb 24, 2020
This post contain subjects which you may find triggering; if you have been affected by any of these issues, please do seek help. Resources for support can be found here.
My name is Becca. I am 34. My husband Andy and I live in Hertfordshire with our 2 year old daughter, Lexi, and our 10 year old cat, Coco. Prior to becoming a Mum, I was pretty naive. I had high expectations of myself as a Mum and I was confident in my ability; so confident in fact it was bordering on arrogance. I know now that I was pretty clueless about the whole thing.
I wasn't late when I did the test but thought I would do it a couple of days early anyway "just to see". Well, I saw. I was alone at the time as Andy was out playing tennis and I did not know what to do. I was really excited. Really scared. I had a huge secret suddenly and I was dying to tell someone. I ordered a copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting to arrive the next day (Thank you amazon prime) downloaded every kind of pregnancy app, and kept checking the test for the next 2 hours until Andy came home.
Other than the usual first trimester nausea and sickness, the physical aspect of my pregnancy was very healthy and very textbook. I walked around 10,000 steps each day and I finished work at 39 weeks pregnant. Unfortunately, my mental health wasn’t as healthy; my anxiety had increased during my pregnancy to a level where I would be constantly worrying about everything. I’d worry that there was something wrong with the baby. I’d worry that Andy would leave me. I’d worry that I looked far too big for how many weeks pregnant I was. At my regular midwife appointments, I saw the same midwife a few times but often it would be someone different for each appointment. I remember being about 16 weeks and although the 12-week scan had been fine it felt a long time until next scan. I hadn’t felt the baby kick at this stage and I was so worried that I would get to the 20-week scan and the baby will have died. I mentioned how anxious I was to the midwife and her reply was “If you’re worried now, how will you be when the baby is here?!” I felt so upset that she had dismissed my genuine worries that I decided not to mention my mental health at any further appointments
I'm not sure where to start with talking about Lexi's birth. I have worked really hard over the past 2 years to come to terms with it and to try to get over it. It has taken a lot of talking therapy from a variety of sources and quite a bit of medication too! My birth experience was a lot different from what I was expecting. I know that when you're pregnant and you make a "birth plan" that it isn't at all a plan, but I still hoped that it would go the way I wanted it to. I didn't want the birth to feel medical at all. I didn't want to feel like I was in a hospital and I didn't want any pain relief which meant I wouldn't have to stay longer than I needed to.
After 22 hours of labour, 12 of which in the hospital, I started bleeding. A LOT. I suddenly found myself being whisked upstairs, hooked up the machines and drips feeling suddenly like I wasn't in control of my body or what was happening to me. By this time, I was in absolute agony and begged for an epidural or a C section, and at one point, for them to kill me. I was told it was too late that she would be here sooner than it would take for them to arrange the epidural.
A few hours later, my waters broke and they were worried about the amount of meconium and so more and more people came into the tiny room. One had the resuscitaire ready for her arrival; bursting out of me like a baby superman (was that TMI?!). Despite my best efforts at trying to avoid a hospital stay, I was told we wouldn't be allowed home for at least another 12 hours and we were moved down to the ward.
12 hours turned to an over night stay. The next day during her newborn checks, she failed her hearing test and they wanted to test her blood as she was jaundiced. They tested it and it was very high so they wanted to do another test in 6 hours time. And another. And another. Until suddenly it was another overnight stay with my tiny baby on the billibed for 24 hours. I was only allowed to pick her up every 3 hours to change her happy, give her 30ml of formula and then put her back again. This is the part where it all starts to blur. I last had sleep on Tuesday night, and it was now Saturday. I was hallucinating. I was restless and I felt really, really depressed. I don't think that I suffered birth trauma from the birth itself, it was from the post natal ward.
I was in a terrible place after the birth. I just wanted to go home and I thought that I would feel better once I was there. The early days at home are all a blur as I was struggling. This is where Andy really stepped up and tried to make everything as easy as possible for me. He sent me to bed early, he did the night feeds and he made sure I was fed. I could not have gotten through those early days without him and so when he went back to work after 2 weeks I did not know what to do with myself. I could not stop crying. I felt terrified of this tiny baby. It was awful. I was counting down the hours until Andy would be home again and take over from me.
I found the PANDAs website during a search and realised that this may be why I was feeling the way I was. I felt relief that there was actually something wrong with me rather than that I was just ungrateful and a bad mother for not bonding with Alexa. The Speaking to your GP section was invaluable to me; the GP appointment checklist meant I could spend time writing out everything that I was feeling and could take it to my appointment knowing I wouldn’t forget anything. It definitely gave me the confidence to go to see the GP and be honest about how I was feeling. I saw the most incredible and supportive GP and she told me that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. I asked that I was prescribed antidepressants and overtime I slowly began to feel the cloud lift.
I have really struggled with my identity since becoming a Mum. I have felt a bit lost in my own life; like I don't fit in with my Mum life but also that I don't have a place in my old life either. It has been really challenging and it is only recently that I've realised that this is ok. I don't have to fit in either place and I am feeling quite excited about finding a new path for myself (as terribly cheesy as this sounds!)
Being a Mum continues to surprise me; for example, I look at Lexi sometimes and I can't believe I'm her Mum. I literally grew her, a real life human, from scratch and pushed her out of my body with the help of some gas and air. That blows my mind how incredible that is. Not everyone gets that gift and I do feel very thankful that I have experienced it.
Some surprises aren't all positive through! I struggled through the newborn phase thinking that was the difficult part of parenting. In the words of Ygritte, I know nothing.
Toddlers. Toddlers are savage. Toddlers do not give a shit. I was actually considering asking google for a phone number for an exorcist last night as Lexi was just screaming and screaming.
As woman and a mother who cares deeply about what others think of her, social media is a gift and a curse. On one hand, it is an incredibly powerful tool for creativity, building networks and staying in contact with friends. On the other hand, it is just a teeny, tiny snapshot into someones life that they want you to see. On a bad day, I try to tell myself that I shouldn't compare my behind the scenes footage to someone else's highlight reel but I find it really difficult.
My advice to a new Mum is don't be afraid to ask for help and if friends or family offer any type of help, accept it. You have birthed that precious little bundle; sit back and relax. The world will still be there. Take your time, don't feel like you should get back to anything. It takes a village is more than a catchy insta phrase.