I was asked to contribute to Early Years wellbeing week. A great honour! The topic: A parental perspective of Postnatal Depression.
My immediate reaction; I know someone who would be better suited to writing the post. My experience wasn’t that severe. People have experiences much deeper than my own. Would I be able to help people with my experience of PND?
And then, I stopped to think about it. I realised that those are exactly the reasons that I should be writing a piece from my own journey. My experience of PND was unique to me – just as it is to anyone who experiences it. Life after having a baby differs for everyone. Postnatal depression can take many forms and can be like a wrecking ball hitting you again and again, day after day. I want to gain the attention of parents who are struggling to recognise that it might not need to be this hard. There might be ways to make it better, and to make this a happier and more memorable time for the right reasons.
‘I’ll just keep it to myself and muddle on – even though I am struggling”
I hope to send support to those too scared to admit that they are overwhelmed. Personally, I was terrified – but once I asked for help, things got better. I want to talk to all those pregnant and new mamas and let you all know that it will be good again.
I became a parent in 2013. It took 18 months later for PND to be diagnosed.
I don’t recall when it started… probably straight after the birth if I had to guess… I thought there was something wrong with my ability to cope, like I was getting it all wrong. I guess I just thought it was supposed to be that hard.
I work in childcare. I am a specialist in the early years. I have worked with children and families my entire adult life. I have witnessed PND; so of course, I knew what post-natal depression was! I didn’t have that. I had bonded with my child. I didn’t want to harm her or myself. I didn’t cry every single moment of the day – that’s what PND was all about right?
Self-Diagnosis. You can Google NHS PND symptoms – there will be a list of for you to compare your experience against, however you might not see yourself in every point. You might feel it in a different way? It may take the form of anxiety as I found. I was terrified of not completing a task, and at the same time not physically able to push myself to do it, which leads to a vicious cycle. The big realisation came when I couldn’t fill in a passport application. I knew that I understood the form and should be perfectly capable of doing it – but I was so terrified that I would not be able to get it completed in time for our holiday and that left me paralysed unable to do it.
Maybe you’ve lost your sense of humour? – I didn’t even realise mine had gone.
Everything was supposed to be serious right? After all I was trying to keep a little person alive and safe and healthy and stimulated and loved and clean (and the list goes on) …so no time for laughing – but that’s normal right? It took a real LOL moment, belly laughs with my husband during a road trip to Ireland to truly realise what had been missing. I had been missing. Present in body, working my ass off every day, but emotionally I had been somewhere else all along. For me I felt like my baby was the only thing in the world that I was getting right! The rest, well that was too much to handle.
After the passport fiasco, I visited my GP and she said something to me that I will never forget:
“It sounds like you have been treading water for a really long time and you need a hand up”
That was when I knew. It wasn’t my lack of ability to cope, I needed help. I had been in total denial. I also realised then that this wasn’t my fault, after 18 months, I had been good enough all along.
I was referred to 1-1 talking sessions with a nurse who worked with the health visiting team, face to face CBT and began medication. I wanted to hit this PND with every available tool, and from every angle that I could. My experience, and the help I received has made me a much happier person. It took around six months for me to come out the other side. We took a family holiday and were eventually able to have some real fun, it’s been that way since. I feel sad now for that new mama that didn’t know any better and I wish that she knew what I know now.
Many others feel the same way you are feeling right now.
When I had our twin boys in 2016 the experience could not have been more different. I was able to enjoy it despite double the work, double the pressure and much less sleep! The difference was that I knew how to identify when things were becoming too much. I could see when I was slipping into the land of Overwhelm. I had the tools there to support me and I knew how to identify the early warning signs.
I tell my story to anyone who will listen, I want to shout it from the rooftops. People need to be talking about PND and Anxiety in order to reduce the stigma that still surrounds it. So, my advice to anyone who is on the journey I was, is identify your support network. This is your partner, family, friends, GP, online support groups, health visitor or even your local Children’s Centre.
Reach out to someone. With time and support, you will find your own box of tools to help you and your family to a happier place.
To learn more about Joanne and her experience you can find her at…
The Earliest Years’ with Joanne Gelling. Twitter & Facebook @joannegelling
My name is Joanne Gelling. My world has revolved around children for over 20 years.
My journey has taken me from a CACHE Diploma in Childcare and Education, to teaching in an International School while living in Dubai, gaining an BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies and right now I work as a Childcare Quality Improvement and Training Officer. This sees me supporting Early Years settings in the North West of England.
I am passionate about supporting those who live and work with young children and I consider myself to be a children’s advocate. I believe in the importance of strengthening relationships in the earliest years. I find it fascinating that we can move forward and develop our understanding of Early Childhood in a way that was not previously possible.
On a personal note, I am married to an amazing teacher/writer/creator of many things. We have a 6-year-old girl and twin boys aged 3. They remind me every day to stay in the moment and keep up to date with current thinking.
So, what can you expect from joining me at The Earliest Years?
Are a parent of young children? or new to working in early years? then this is the place for you.
I endeavour to inspire and to introduce new ways of thinking about early childhood and the ways we see, listen and talk with our children. I will add a good mix of relevant theory and research, sharing of good practice and joining links across the Early Years community.
You will by supported by my offering of practical advice based on the theory I have studied. Hopefully along the way, I can give you the reassurance that you that you are all doing an amazing job!