It’s been wonderful to see all the support raising awareness of maternal mental health across social media this week, followed by International Day of the Midwife on Saturday. We never had any photos snapped of the midwifery teams that helped me through the boys’ births, but in hindsight, I wish we had because those ladies were fundamental in the safe deliveries of both.
I was lucky and felt supported throughout each birth, but if I’m truly honest finding the right support post delivery hasn’t always been easy. And I don’t believe I’m alone. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, over 10% of women will suffer from postnatal depression (PND) after giving birth. That’s quite a staggering number and after Oscar’s birth, I was one of them too. It’s important to realise that PND doesn’t only affect the mother, it affects those around her – her husband, her partner – and although it pains me to say it – PND can affect her relationship with her child. Despite getting help eventually – (a big thank-you to the health visitor who saw through my smile at Oscar’s 10 month check) – it was only recently after having Hugh, that I realised just how wrong many of the feelings I had felt after Oscar’s birth and during his infancy had been. And my goodness, do I feel guilty about it all now!
But from negative experiences, silver linings can be drawn: I’m now much better at identifying myself when mummy needs a little tender, loving care… and that in turn makes me a far better mummy to both boys than I might otherwise be. Yesterday, I checked into the ‘Village’ hotel for a night away – a mama retreat if you will. ‘The Village’ – I think it’s an apt name for a place to escape to whenever mum needs some respite. As I settled myself in, drinking a sneaky G & T in the sunshine, munching through a bag of Liquorice Allsorts, waiting for another stressed mama to arrive before heading to the hotel pool, I felt myself start to drift off into self-care mode. The moment was blissful. Truly blissful and necessary. Necessary and blissful.
There’s a lot of coverage around self-care at the moment; I’m finding it interesting how many different ways there are to seeking sanity again. The inspirational mum I met earlier this week, Nalini from Party Genie, is a gym bunny. To her that’s her refuge – to me the gym would be my nemesis (unless a pool, jacuzzi and steam room is available – then I may be swayed!) I am also much happier since I started writing again. This blog, alongside my stories, each give me a reason to feel a little bit more like me, not just the nagging mum/wife/laundry lady that I appear to be otherwise.
I’ve really enjoyed playing around with the language of one of my children’s stories this week. Aimed at three to five year olds, it centres around the typical bedtime battles that must be a rite of passage for all parents at one point or another. I’ve now got two incomplete versions of the same story – one rhymes, the other doesn’t. I’m not too sure which version to push forward with – on the one hand, I’ve heard that non-rhyming stories are better for translating into different languages (because, you never know, I may become a global writing sensation one day, right?) yet I really like the rhythm created in the rhyming version. So, going forwards, I’ve got some choices to make and I guess I’m going to need the feedback of my nearest and dearest to help me make some of those decisions.
I’ve also enjoyed having some time for me this weekend – not only have I been able to focus on my writing – uninterrupted – I’ve been able to practice a little bit of self-care too. After guzzling the gin and munching half a bag of liquorice, my mama friend and I skipped past the gym and found our way to a couple of sun lounges by the hotel pool. We temporarily left the everyday stresses behind us, safe in the hands of our support networks back home. I was also able to wash my hair with shampoo and conditioner, apply my makeup without it looking like Oscar had attempted to do so first and wear a shirt without creases because I had the time to iron it! It was blissful! Blissful and necessary. Am I going to feel guilty about my evening of self-care? Absolutely not! Whether you’re a gym bunny or more of a poolside sloth like me, neither should you.