It’s safe to say that everyone’s experience of motherhood will be different. Every Mum is different, every baby is different and every set of circumstances is too.
Yet even if you have a challenging start, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be faced with the baby blues, anxiety or even postnatal depression. Equally, those who do face these challenges can also find other ways to approach their wellbeing.
When I was trying to overcome postnatal depression, I found a few alternative approaches which really helped with recovery. I’ve detailed them at the end of this post.
But first, here are a few words on the basics…
Peer-to-peer support does play its part. The idea is that the more you socialise with other new Mums, the more you get out of the house and form bonds, which will aid with recovery. However, don’t worry if this doesn’t work for you.
I attempted baby and toddler groups on many, many occasions. At first I felt it was a compulsory part of motherhood, that if I didn’t join in, then I’d failed. After each and every group, I ended up feeling worse and more deflated.
Everyone else seemed more together and content with motherhood and every baby or toddler, seemed calmer or sleepier than mine. In the end, the thing that brought most happiness and the least amount of stress was when we did our own thing.
So my advice is, try lots of different types of groups and if you still can’t find one for you, or another Mum you can relate to at these groups, find something that does work for you – a walk in the countryside armed with a flask of tea and some biscuits, and a chat with an old, empathetic friend while baby naps.
Either way, even if you can find just one friend that will listen, that’s all you need. But make sure you have someone you can talk to. It’s important to have some human contact with someone who truly knows how to fully empathise and listen.
Every GP and Mental Health Trust is slightly different in what they can offer. It seems to vary drastically across the country. I knew I was depressed when my little girl was around four months old. Although I didn’t see a therapist until she was taking less feeds, which was around 12 months old – this helped tremendously. It was only when my daughter was 18 months old that I received an official diagnosis.
I actually paid to see a psychiatrist privately, and once she’d diagnosed me, surprisingly, I felt a massive surge of relief and a tremendous amount of acknowledgment. This was a big turning point, from this point on, things improved. For me, it was pivotal for my recovery. Just that recognition of what I’d been through made me less invisible, more heard and my experience was validated.
There are of course many tried and tested ways to support yourself or a loved one through PND. The first step is to seek some professional support and the second most important thing is to find some allies. These two things are crucial.
There are other steps you can take but I just wanted to share some of the things that have helped and supported my journey, in the hope that some of these more alternative approaches, may appeal to some:
- Writing Therapy: The page was always there for me. I wrote short stories and flash fiction before pregnancy, so writing felt like a natural outlet for me. Specifically, poetry was my go-to form. For others, it will be writing a blog, a journal, a dream diary or painting, collages, sketches, gardening or other craft projects. Some sort of creative outlet is important. Find something that works for you – even if it’s ten minutes of free writing or doodling, something you can return to or build-on – something that’s easy to do while baby naps. (If this interests you, you might like to read my recent blog post for Honest Mum about writing therapy.)
- Lucid Dreaming: I’ve been a lucid dreamer for a long time. This was one of the most beneficial things that helped me during PND. Lucid dreaming is when you’re aware you are dreaming and you can exert some influence over your dreams. I sometimes used my dreams to either escape to happier places but most importantly, I used them to heal. I used various shadow healing techniques, some of which I’ve taught my little girl. I’ll blog more about this subject another time. In the meantime, check out this cool YouTube clip from my LD Teacher, Charlie Shaw.
- Shiatsu Massage: Shiatsu works in according to the principle that the stimulation of certain pressure points on the body can be used to heal the body, treat pain and improve overall physical and mental wellbeing, improves a variety of complaints. Once every couple of months I treated myself to a shiatsu treatment. Energetically this did wonders for me. After each session I would feel absolutely revitalised. I would feel how I did before pregnancy – full of energy, a lust for life and inspired. This initial feeling didn’t last forever but I would definitely see a huge improvement to my energy levels and my mood would be uplifted.
- Reiki: Reiki is wonderful during pregnancy and after – if and when you are able to spend a short amount of time away from your Bub. Although sometimes you may find a practitioner that will pay you a home visit. Reiki increases your energy levels, creates deep relaxation, helps the body release stress and tension and accelerates the body’s self-healing ability, aids better sleep and reduces blood pressure. During pregnancy I did my Reiki One Degree and Two Degree. This meant I was able to give myself Reiki during the difficult spells. I also sometimes treated myself to a session with the lovely Diana Cooper.
- Homeopathy: Later on in my journey, I discovered homeopathy. Homeopathy helps to treat the root cause and not just the symptoms. Of course, if you need to take anti depressants to help you through, do what you need in that moment. Every situation is different. Homeopathy can really help with anxiety and depression. But always check with your GP before you embark on an alternative route to traditional medication.
- Mindfulness: Adopting mindfulness techniques allows you to live in the moment, work with unwanted or charged thoughts and even cope with PND. There are heaps of good Apps out there that will help you to get started. Insight Timer or Headspace Apps offer a good selection of short guided meditations for beginners. You might like to read more mindfulness tips in an article I wrote for The Lady magazine recently. And if and when you’re ready, you might like to take a 12-week course (one class a week) to help you get into the groove – you can read more about the Breathworks course I did last winter here: 12 Weeks to Finding my Zafu.
Lastly, buy a diary or a calendar.
This last point isn’t really an alternative tip, it’s an essential. It’s to ensure you diarise something for ‘you’ every single week. If you don’t have an old-school diary like I do, buy a cheap one from the shop. Schedule ‘me-time’ in daily. Even if it’s half an hour to have a coffee and a slice of cake by yourself with a book or the chance to watch something on Netflix.
Plan in some bigger things – one a week – a yoga class, lunch with a friend, a massage, anything that rocks your boat or that you can afford. Pop these little daily and bigger treats, in your diary, so that at a glance, you’ll have something to look forward to every day and something bigger to look forward to every week. Make yourself do these things, even if it’s reading a book somewhere quiet. Don’t feel any guilt, just get into a pattern of doing them, it’s important!