How often have any of us put on a brave face and said “I’m fine” when we’re not? Feeling sad often makes us withdraw or lash out just when we need others most. It’s hard to ask for help.
When good things happen, like having a baby, it can be even more difficult to say you’re not happy. But it’s totally normal to feel scared, sad, frustrated, or lost, in the weeks after birth.
‘Baby blues’, teariness and mood fluctuations in the first week, can relate to hormonal changes as your body adjusts to not being pregnant, bonding with your baby, and to producing milk.
It’s not all down to chemistry though. You’ve just been through childbirth, which can feel out of control and sometimes traumatic, and you’re adjusting to being responsible for a baby with very little sleep. There are no manuals telling you what to do, but there are a million people with opinions, and it’s easy to feel like you’re ‘getting it wrong’.
You don’t have to say you’re fine. Feeling up and down is normal. It doesn’t mean you can’t cope or that you’re a bad mother.
Sometimes just telling someone how you’re feeling can be a relief.
Tips for asking for help:
- Imagine what advice you would give a friend who was feeling upset… Would you tell them to keep their feelings to themselves? Or tell someone?
- Think about all the people you could talk to. Try not to instantly discount anyone. Who would you most like to talk to?
- Would you like them just to know how you feel, or are there also things you want help with?
- Try to speak with them uninterrupted, even if only for five minutes, by signaling that you want to talk about something important: “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
- Explain how you feel, and let them know “I could use some help.”
- Watch how they respond, without assuming that they’re judging.
- If you feel like they haven’t ‘got it’, explain again.
People want to know how you really are, the face behind the “fine”. Letting someone know how you feel is likely to make you feel better, and might also get you some practical help. It’s definitely worth a try.
Feeling up and down doesn’t mean you have post-natal depression, but if you carry on feeling down and worried for weeks speak to your GP.