Do you secretly feel like listing your baby on eBay?
“Going from love to hate to indifference in the space of a minute really makes you question your sanity.”
It’s all part and parcel of being a new mum. The roller coaster of hormones, sleep deprivation and total loss of identity is enough to make even the most devoted and loving mother whisper under their breath, “go the f* to sleep!”
Many new mums feel extreme emotions towards their babies, even if we don’t always admit it. Strong emotions don’t necessarily mean that you do not love your baby, nor that you are a bad mother. Often responsive and fiercely loving parents feel exhausted and overwhelmed because their parenting style demands time and energy. If you are not replenishing your own limited resources, you risk burning out.
“I was worried about my emotional state from lack of sleep, lack of support, then I started looking at the baby and wished I had given it up!”
If your baby were crying, you would assume they have an unmet need or an emotion to express. You would treat them kindly. Be kind to yourself too. If you are crying (or swearing or feel like throwing your baby in the bin), then be as gentle on yourself as you are on your baby. Ask yourself which of your needs is not being met or which of your emotions needs expressing. Crying is your body’s way of telling you to make big changes in your life. Find someone to hold you whilst you cry, in the same way you would lovingly hold your crying baby.
These strong and stressful emotions are based on your fight or flight hormones, adrenaline, cortisol and testosterone, to name a few. These are the hormones that rear their ugly heads when your body believes on a biological level that it is under threat. A typical day for many new mothers may include being up at 5 am, forgetting to eat breakfast and still being in PJs at lunchtime. Biologically the body can interpret this as danger. Basic human needs like food, hygiene and sleep are not being met, so stress hormones are being released. The brain interprets the circumstances you find yourself in as a mother, no matter how much you love your baby, as a threat or a danger.
In my experience, it’s not as simple as either being mentally healthy or living with postnatal depression. There are whole shades of grey in between, with bad days clouding your good judgment. Assuming you don’t have a mental illness, there are still many basic changes you can make to improve your quality of life, and your ability to mother your baby will improve too. Start by eating, resting and having a shower to send your brain the signal that all is safe and well. You will probably need to ask for help, which may also involve letting go of control and leaving your pride behind. Help can be found in many places, including your local Nurture Village.
If you ever feel like physically or verbally abusing yourself or your child, seek help now. PANDA, From the Heart, or your GP, can all start you on the road to recovery.
Julia works with pregnant women and new mums who want to avoid feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. She is an Ayurvedic postnatal doula and founder of Newborn Mothers in Perth, Western Australia.
PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia supports women, men and families across Australia affected by anxiety and depression during pregnancy and in the first year of parenthood. PANDA operates Australia’s only National Helpline for individuals and their families to recover from perinatal anxiety and depression, a serious illness that affects up to one in five expecting or new mums and one in ten expecting or new dads.
Perinatal anxiety and depression awareness
Up to one in five expecting or new mothers and one in ten expecting or new fathers will experience perinatal anxiety or depression. About 100,000 families across Australia will be affected by this serious and common illness.
To help raise awareness of the issue, 11-17 November has been designated as Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Awareness (PANDA) Week.