Updated: Mar 23
Sarah Cutler I CWC Director I 07 May 2021
1 in 5 Women will experience a maternal mental health disorder like postpartum depression which is why I have written a lot about my own experiences of declining mental health during the newborn stage of my children…or…what I can remember of it.
There are two things that affect memory – sleep deprivation and mental health disorders. Combine the two at the intensity I experienced them during those periods and my memories of those times are left vague and foggy, but what I do remember was often devastating.
After both my children arrived into the world, I experienced a significant decline in my mental well-being. It wasn’t really a big surprise, because I already had long-term low mood and anxiety disorders. We all know that being a parent, especially to a newborn, can be tough, but I don’t think you’re ever really prepared for how hard it can be. Suddenly I had a little person to look after 24/7 and it felt relentlessness. My first child wasn’t a good sleeper (my second not much better), and I hardly slept, meaning I was an emotional wreck and felt like just a shadow of myself. Those endless, long, lonely nights with an unsettled baby, where I would often end up sobbing from the sheer exhaustion of it were, I think it’s appropriate to use the word…traumatic.
Did I have postpartum depression? That is something I’ll now never know. Why didn’t I go to the doctors when it happened? Because I already had mental health disorders, so how could I know if what I was experiencing was postpartum depression or just a decline in my usual “bad” mental health. How could the doctors know? And what could they have done about it? I suppose I didn’t think at the time that I really had a right to see the doctor about it, I had these disorders, they weren’t new to me, I had a baby and I just had to suck it up, deal with it and get on with it. In hindsight I probably should have gone, because who knows how different things could have turned out.
I can’t remember when pregnant with either of my babies, going to all those ante-natal appointments, that much of a discussion was ever really raised about my mental health and what that could mean for me after the baby was born. The history was there to see, on my medical records. I don’t blame anyone for this, perhaps I should have raised the concern more, but at the time – I was expecting – so I was happy and excited, joyful even. I think this is something that needs to be addressed more – that any expectant mothers who have a history of mental health need to be checked on as a matter of course – and for a much longer period after the baby is born.
I wish the newborn phases of my children had been more enjoyable. I wish I had better memories of those times, but maybe that’s the silver lining I can take from it – that I can now use my own experiences to raise awareness and to lend support to those other mothers who are suffering silently.
Don’t forget to check on your new mother friends, they might need help, even if they don’t admit it or think they have the right to complain about it.
Sarah Cutler, CWC Director