What's Happening to me?
One of the greatest challenges for new mothers and fathers is knowing what is normal and what is not. This applies to understanding the baby as well as their own well being. Many new parents try to explain high levels of distress or unhappiness as being a normal part of being a new, sleep deprived parent. They are often told by well meaning family and friends that feelings of exhaustion, worry or unhappiness are normal because all new parents feel like that - "You have a new baby, you are meant to feel like that".
This is true for all new parents some of the time - it is difficult to learn to how to be a parent, about the needs and behaviours of a brand new baby - all at the same time as feeling sore, exhausted and perhaps traumatised. So all new parents need the honest truth about how hard it can be in the early weeks to take some of the shock and fear that comes with not expecting to feel difficult feelings.
However, if the new parent is asking "What is happening to me?” to try to understand how they are feeling, especially if over at least two weeks, it is important to find an answer. Talk to someone, partner, friend or counsellor, and say “I can’t stop these thoughts. I can’t stop these feelings. I want to enjoy my baby. I want to be able to rest but I can’t. What is happening to me?” It’s that question the community as well as health professionals need to help them answer. It’s very easy to say “Oh you’re a new mother, you’re a new father, you’re supposed to feel like that. Give it some time, have a rest, when you stop feeding, when you do this”.
Actually we need to give the question a lot of attention to help the new parent answer it so that they can say “Well actually yeah, I’m just tired” or “No, this is something more serious”. Either way all new parents are entitled to ask for help and support with how they feel and this support can really help to settle these difficult feelings before they become stuck depression or anxiety.
If you are wondering if what you are feeling is depression or anxiety during pregnancy or after birth - if you are asking "What is happening to me?" over several weeks then ACT, do something as soon as possible. Talk to people that you think will listen and be supportive - partner, doctor, maternal and child health nurse etc. If they dont listen find someone else to talk to, call PANDA's helpline!!
It is good to write down the things that are concerning you, thinking about:
- how long you have felt/thought these things.
- how distressing and intense are the thoughts and feelings
- do they interupt you meeting the demands of every day life
- things you usually do to help you feel better are not working