Dear Fiona: I’ve just had a baby and feel out of my depth – what should I do?
“I always thought of myself as a competent, organised business woman, capable of doing anything I put my mind to. I held down a substantial career and was always highly thought of as I took responsibility for international divisions of my company. I kept working throughout my pregnancy, even when I had periods of morning sickness, and I only stopped two weeks before my baby was born.
“I could never understand why women made so much fuss about having a baby, needing time off and complaining of exhaustion. It’s only a small human – how much work does it need? I thought most mothers were wimpish yet, here I am, three months later, so tired, drained, and exhausted that some days I don’t manage to get dressed until late afternoon! I spend much of my time in tears and, if I do manage to get out of the house, it takes me over an hour to get through the front door.
“There is so much to remember, and I’m terrified of neglecting something important. I feel as if I just can’t cope with it all and, if my colleagues could see me now, they would be amazed at the state of me. I feel hopeless and am scared my husband will get fed up with me unless I can pull myself together.”
“You are not hopeless you’re just a perfectly normal, new mother!
“Although they won’t all have held down such high-flying careers before having a baby, I’m pretty certain that about 75% of mums reading this will understand exactly how you feel. Babies may be small humans, but they’re designed to raise our anxiety levels – that’s how they survive, by making sure we’re on the alert to their every need.
“You, I’m sure, are used to office-like routines and people around you taking control of their own actions. Babies just aren’t like that, as you’ve realised. I am concerned by the fact you say you’re in tears much of the time though, and although your experience of managing a new baby is normal, I don’t think constant tears is. It could indicate post-natal depression, which is, sadly, something around 10% of mums go through, caused, in part by rampaging hormone changes. This is a not a phantom condition and shouldn’t be treated lightly or ignored.
“Do please consider talking to your doctor about this – it is something you can be helped with. That won’t mean your baby will be any easier to manage, but you might just feel better about things if you don’t feel so low.
“In time you will establish routines of your own with your baby and you’ll feel more in control. Aside from talking to your doctor, I’d also encourage you to talk to your husband about your feelings and don’t try to do too much too soon. Make sure he is doing his share of chores too, including those things that directly involve the baby, like changing nappies and getting up in the night. Managing a baby is really hard work and although you may think you should do it all because he is out to work, it won’t help him bond with the baby if he doesn’t take turns.
“When you have the chance to leave your baby with your husband, or with someone else you trust, try and get yourself outside for a walk or run. Just getting out occasionally will help you to feel more normal once more.
“I’d also encourage you to look at the websites for the Association for Post Natal Illness and PATH to read other people’s stories and discover the support that’s on offer.”
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