I’ve had mental health difficulties for as long as I can remember; struggling with depression on and off over the last 20 years and an eating disorder and self harm in my late twenties. As soon as I found out I was pregnant I wanted to be open about all of this to my midwife but was terrified about how she might respond and what judgements she might make about my ability to be a parent. I felt humiliated at times talking through my story but decided that in order to be the parent I wanted to be I needed to open myself up to and consider whatever support I was offered.
During my first pregnancy I received support from a consultant psychiatrist; monitoring my mood and how I felt about my weight increase given my history of bulimia. After I’d had my little girl my mood did dip but it was never about her and whether I had bonded with her, it was my issues with my own confidence and self worth resurfacing. With support from the mental health team and some medication I gradually overcame that bout of depression which occurred postnatally but was not post natal depression in my eyes. Over the years my mood and thoughts have continued to be up and down but as a parent I have an incredible (and sometimes intensely frustrating) reason to be proactive about my mental health and on the whole I feel more confident and more able to live in the moment than in my head.
Baby number 2 came along after quite a big gap and the fears again rose about whether my eating disorder would be triggered, what was baby blues and when does that tip into my old problems resurfacing?
I realised this time around that maternity leave is not very good for me, so I took less time off; not because I don’t love my little boy, but because being at work is good for me and my mental health and if I’m well we’re all well.
I know that I will always struggle at times with my thoughts and mood. I know my signs now and what I need to do. I’ve learnt not to be scared of opening up to people (not everyone just the ones I choose) and I am actually a pretty good mum because of all of this.