By Jasmine McInnes
Hello Freddie Fox and Co blog readers! My name is Jasmine (@winging_mamahood) and for the past ten months I have had the best job in the world – being baby Finns’ mama. Sadly, cuddles, Peppa Pig and wiping dirty butts doesn’t pay the bills so it is time for me to return to my old teaching job. As the months, weeks and days have drawn closer to my return to work date, I have been overwhelmed with the idea of leaving my little boy at home all day and having to juggle my teaching workload as well as being the mummy Finn deserves. I know that I am not the only parent or mum in this position, and I know I am incredibly lucky to have had this amount of time with Finn at home but that doesn’t make the prospect of walking out the front door without him in the morning any easier. As I write this, I am currently days away from returning to work and I am struggling to climb the mountain of anxiety that is pressing down on my shoulders. I don’t know how I am going to leave my baby.
About 1/10 parents (both mums and dads) suffer from Postnatal Depression (PND) every year and I never thought I would be falling into that statistic bracket. I had already failed at breastfeeding, failed at getting him to sleep through the night and now this was another one to add to the list. I never wanted to leave Finn and felt waves of panic and guilt when I was away from him- even if I was just nipping to the shop for a pint of milk. I constantly feared the worst and cannot even bear to type what I constantly had nightmares about happening to him. Knowing that I was returning to work soon was causing my anxiety to multiply at an uncontrollable rate. Discussions about childcare caused my heart to race and my palms would be soaked with sweat.
When my return to work date was confirmed I couldn’t catch my breath. I knew that this wasn’t ‘normal’. I visited my GP to discuss the constant guilt and worry I was feeling, and he diagnosed me with anxiety that was linked to PND. Prescribing me some ‘happy pills, I left embarrassed and questioned what on earth was wrong with me? To begin with, the diagnosis actually exacerbated my issues because I felt even more guilt – I wasn’t the ‘perfect mum’ that my son needed. How on earth was I going to cope leaving him for a full day to go to work when I couldn’t even handle going to get my eyebrows waxed? The fear made my stomach twist and I lost count of the hours of sleep I was losing.
I knew that I had to find a way of coping with my fears, I knew how I was feeling wasn’t healthy. I am now not ashamed to admit that the medication I was placed on improved my mental state. I know that they are not a long-term solution, but they helped to decrease my stress levels when I was away from Finn and gave me confidence that he was ok without me. Drugs did not magically make my life better – I still check my phone constantly when I was away from him, I still check to make sure he was following his routine and I still feel that I was always holding my breath -but I know he was happy and healthy. Seeing him thrive and develop made me start to realise that I wasn’t such a bad parent as I had been thinking for months. Everyone always tells me that Finn is such a happy baby so I must be doing something right. Or perhaps is he just laughing at me?!
The days are now down to single figures. Am I ‘cured’? Far from it. But as time has gone on, I have accepted that Finn will be ok. Me on the other hand? Well, the prospect of getting to drink a warm cup of coffee and engaging in adult conversations about the newest Netflix show will be welcomed with open arms but I know who I would much rather have in them. Seeing Finn at the end of the day will be what gets me through. I know it is going to be difficult, I know it will take all my strength to walk out of the door that morning, but I also know that this will, in a roundabout way, help my anxiety. So, we are jumping into the deep and hoping we can swim.
I am lucky to have a fantastic partner and support network around me who have helped me every step of my journey and will always continue to do so. Seeking professional help was a huge but positive step for me. If you or someone who know is showing symptoms of PND then it is vitally important to seek advice and ask for help. It ok to not be ok.
Help and advice can be found at http://www.pndsupport.co.uk/