Welcoming a baby into the world is an extraordinary adventure filled with moments of love, joy, and wonder. Yet, it's important to recognise that this journey also comes with its share of challenges, emotional ups and downs, and an ever-changing landscape. As a postnatal psychotherapist, I've had the privilege of standing alongside mums who find themselves navigating feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, or a sense of losing themselves amidst the new role of motherhood. In this blog, we'll explore the unfiltered realities of life after childbirth, the societal myths that often overshadow the true postpartum experience, and discover how, together, we can nurture your well-being during this transformative time.
The Emotional Rollercoaster of the Postnatal Journey:
Let's acknowledge right from the start that the postnatal journey is like a rollercoaster of emotions. From the profound love to moments of sadness, anxiety, and even despair, you're not alone in these feelings. Whatever you see on social media or whatever people say, many new mums experience the same intense mix of emotions.
The Myth of the Perfect Postnatal experience:
Society has a way of showing a picture-perfect version of postnatal life that doesn't always reflect the real experience. On social media, you might see images of new mums looking radiant and serene, surrounded by their smiling babies, all dressed in neutral clothing and playing with handcrafted wooden toys. These moments exist, but they don't represent the full spectrum of postnatal life. Out of the camera shot is a pile of washing, a grumpy toddler or a messy kitchen. Alternatively, there might be a nanny, a cleaner or a doula. Remember, we only get the snapshot and despite sometimes talking about the realities of the postnatal period, very few people actually show images on it.
The Root Causes of Postnatal Low Mood and Anxiety:
Understanding why you may be feeling low or anxious is essential if you need to be kinder to yourself. Hormonal changes, sleepless nights, the physical toll of childbirth, and the monumental shift in identity that motherhood brings—all these factors play a role in the emotional journey. Remember going through puberty? It’s kind of like that only this time you have a vulnerable baby to care for while you’re going through it. When we put all these things together, its understandable that you might be having a hard time.
How to Navigate the Postnatal Period
For mums facing postnatal challenges, self-care is crucial. Prioritising your mental and emotional well-being is not selfish but essential. Below are some things you can do that will help you form a supportive network, reconnect with yourself and get that space to remember what you’ve been through to get to this point.
1.Reach out for help:
Whether it’s reaching out to your midwife, health visitor, GP or a postnatal counsellor, it’s important to openly share how you feel. We can often feel a mess on the inside and then put a smiley ‘I’m fine’ face when someone asks how we are. The more honest we are (with ourselves and with others) the more likely it is for others to be able to help.
2.Establish a routine:
Create a daily routine that allows for moments of self-care, even if they're brief. Taking short walks, practicing mindfulness, or enjoying a warm bath can be a great way to give yourself space from the needs of your baby and give you an opportunity to focus on yourself. They might only be short periods of time to begin with but little an often will build a foundation of caring for yourself. Looking after you means you can then look after your baby.
3.Build a support network:
Connect with other new mums who understand your journey. It can make us feel vulnerable going to baby classes where we don’t know anyone and then going that step further by sharing how we are truly feeling. Pick out groups that advertise they focus on the wellbeing of mums rather than ones that focus solely on activities for your baby. Get to know people, share a little of yourself and your feelings and chances are other will follow suit. You certainly won’t be the only one there who is struggling.
Step away from the need to do everything yourself. It's okay to ask for help with chores, cooking, or baby care. Enlist the support of your partner, family, or friends to lighten the load. So often people want to help but they don’t know what is helpful. When people come round, rather than racing round to get chores done first, think about what they could do to help you out. A pile of washing? Ask them to pop it in the washing machine. Baby needs a feed? Get them to put the kettle on and make a cuppa while you feed the baby. No food in the house? Ask them to pick something up on the way in. It can be so hard to ask for help, particularly if you were very independent prior to having a baby but it will make a massive difference to you in the long term.
5. The Power of Postnatal Therapy:
As a postnatal counsellor, I've witnessed the incredible transformations that therapy can bring. It can offer a secure and judgement free space to explore our feelings, gain insights into our experiences, and develop effective coping strategies. If you're feeling overwhelmed or lost, seeking professional help can make a huge difference in those early years of motherhood.
6. Redefining and Celebrating the Postnatal Experience:
It's time to shift our collective narrative about postnatal life. Instead of striving for an unattainable ideal, let's celebrate our strength and resilience as we navigate the complexities of motherhood. Every tear, every sleepless night, and every moment of doubt overcome is a testament to our incredible journey—unique, beautiful, and shared in all its imperfections.
Think about your toughest time, your darkest hour that you’ve had so far. You’re still here, you made it through and that is amazing. If you need support getting through the next bit that is okay. There is bravery in saying ‘hey, I need help’ and you are so worth that help.
If you’re struggling in your postnatal journey and you want to know more about how counselling with me might help, get in touch. I offer a free 15 minute chat to make sure I’m the right counsellor for you and give you an opportunity to ask ay questions you might have.
Postnatal Counsellor in Harrogate & Online
Claire Judd is a fully qualified counsellor in Harrogate, working with postnatal mums. If you’re struggling, get in touch for a free 15 min call to find out how we can work together.
Follow @therapy.for.mums on Instagram for information, tips and advice.