#MentalMondays Anna Meehan – Dealing With Pregnancy/Postnatal Anxiety

I have a lot of mixed emotions about writing this piece. I have started, stopped, deleted, re-written and gone off track about ten times over, so here is my final attempt. It’s quite a sensitive topic and not everyone will be able to relate to my experience personally but for those who can in any way I hope it helps and reaches anyone who needs it. Mental health is something that I believe affects everyone in some way shape or form in this day and age. Whether people want to admit it or not that is another thing. This blog entry is focused on my experience of becoming a mum and how I felt and dealt with the ups and downs attached.
Before last year when I heard the word mental health issues I would have never associated it with pregnancy! Teens, elderly, trauma victims and many other things but never pregnancy. Probably because of my lack of knowledge on the subject due to my age and how little it was talked about. Growing up in Ireland mental health, for me anyways, wasn’t talked about. Wasn’t discussed and basically wasn’t recognised!
My emotions, like many others my age at the time came out after a naggin of vodka that was drank in the bushes underage! But no matter how many tears shed, or dramatics displayed come morning nothing was ever really discussed in depth but rather laughed at or forgotten about. Mental health wasn’t spoken about in school and the only time I would actually hear about mental health being discussed or associated with someone was always in a worst case scenario or negative form through gossip!
I have always thought about and wanted to write a blog entry on my experience of becoming a mum and how I struggled. And to get across the point that because I struggled doesn’t mean there is something wrong with me or that I’m any less of a good mother than another. When I saw that one of my favourite bloggers, Jacqueline Zeta, was looking for people to speak about their experience with their own mental health issues I was instantly drawn to it, and without thinking got in touch.Before I start to speak about my experience I would like to make clear that not everyone is going to be able to relate to my experience and I don’t expect them to. Just because I went through this doesn’t mean you will (if you’re pregnant). I’m solely speaking on my own behalf and about my own personal experience and if it helps even one person to feel less alone or a little more prepared then I will be happy.
When I first found out I was pregnant it was a huge shock. It took me 6 months to be able to tell family and friends. That is a big regret of mine. I kept the news of my pregnancy a secret from loved ones for so long that I lost that part of my pregnancy because technically no one knew so life continued as normal. I didn’t get to enjoyed it all as much as I should have, but that’s a lesson learned. I had left myself with my own thoughts for so long that I had worked myself up so much and made myself believe I was in a bad
 situation when in fact, I wasn’t. But once I told my mum, sister and friends the stress and anxiety lifted off my shoulders almost immediately and I was able to begin enjoying the pregnancy experience, at last. I was so lucky to have such amazing family, friends and bosses.
After that, I had a brilliant pregnancy, no sickness, no pains it was all smooth running, thank God. Obviously I had my up and down days here and there but that can happen the best of us, pregnant or not. Time flew by because really I only had three months left at that stage to be openly pregnant. On the baby side of things, I was clueless, absolutely clueless. I had never changed a nappy, babysat a young child or even held a baby. I didn’t know what to do or expect but it didn’t worry me. This was surprising because I was and still am a worrier. I wasn’t so much thinking about baby being here; it was more so baby getting here and the birthing process that worried me.
We went to one ante natal class, and that was enough for me. I knew the basics about giving birth and that is how I wanted to leave it. For me, as a worrier, the less I knew I felt the better. If I had too much to think about and too many scenarios to play through I would have worked myself up and gotten myself nowhere. So, after that ante natal class I never returned. My pregnancy went fine. It was a 28 hour labour, natural birth, two days in hospital, resulting in my beautiful boy weighing 6:10 and my life was changed forever.
Coming home was strange. The girl who left the hospital 48 hour after she arrived was far from the girl she used to be. In such a short space of time, I was changed forever. My whole world was changed forever. I was very nervous to begin with, which was normal.
This tiny baby was my responsibility and it was scary as hell, understandably. At the same time looking back it’s amazing to remember how quickly it all came to me and how I knew what to do so naturally with no previous experience. One of the many wonders of motherhood I suppose. Leaving the hospital was surreal. I remember thinking, No more nurses? No more safe secure hospital surroundings. Every single thing I was doing from that point forward I was doing for the first time and without the provision of a professional. Little did I know at that point I was now ”the professional” in this little bundles life! Already, I was doubting my ability.
The first few weeks, I think I was in panic mode. I was fine. But terribly on edge, I never rested when he did like I should have. I was exhausted but refused to stop. I was out and about in the shops. Cleaning up, preparing for a nail course I had enrolled in for three weeks after he was born (madness, I know!), but I was so scared to stop; I was scared to not be doing anything. Really looking back now I was doing anything and everything I could do just so I was not left alone or with my own thoughts perhaps. I was quite hard on myself. I would worry about every single little thing. I didn’t think I knew what I was doing, but I desperately wanted to. I wanted it to come naturally and everything to run smoothly like my pregnancy did but I wasn’t prepared for it not to. I was so inside my own head that I wasn’t really enjoying the process. I was over analysing every single thing. I worried what people thought and how I looked while I was with the baby, if I was doing things the ”right way’’.
In my head I had a picture of what a ”good mum ” was and I so desperately wanted to be that. I don’t know where I was getting this illusion of this ”Perfect mum ” I aspired to be but I think I had created it from different aspects and things. I felt an immense pressure but it was all coming from me, no one else, I was my own worst enemy. Personally I think my main downfall was I didn’t prepare myself mentally for parenthood. But no one does. Looking back now with a clear mind, I can completely see why and how things can get too much. It’s a massive shock to the system both mentally and physically. Things are not the same, and life isn’t the same.
Your body has changed, it isn’t just about you anymore. There’s no more just getting up and going. Money was now something I had to worry and think about. I wasn’t like all my friends anymore in fact I was completely different. While most were worried about a ”fuck boy” in college or what to wear at rag week I was at home thinking about ounces of formula and 6 month immunisation shots. There are no days off, when you’re sick you don’t get any mercy. The role of a mother is full time. No lie ins and plenty of sleepless nights. No matter how much I thought I was ready, and thought I knew what was ahead. I didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining I know how lucky I am and I’m grateful everyday for this life and my healthy baby . I love being a mum and wouldn’t trade places with anyone for the world, but that doesn’t make it any easier a job. It’s tough and demanding and I now know it’s OKAY to admit that. In fact I believe it’s better to admit it and be honest. If I never did I would still be on the other side of my hard spell and would be still suffering alone. No one ever told me the harsh realities, probably because they didn’t want to scare me or come across negative on a positive situation. But I do believe if I knew some of the things I was going to be up against, it wouldn’t have been as hard or as much of a shock as it was.

I found myself thinking I was going crazy because every other mother I knew seemed to be okay. And other mothers around me weren’t finding it as tough. But when I started to open up and talk, that’s when I found out they all were able to relate to

had struggles of their own, something I would never have guessed and possibly people wouldn’t have guessed about me. It’s very easy to make things look okay, to brush feelings under the carpet instead of dealing with them head on. It’s easy to stage a picture to make things look ‘’picture perfect’’ on social media. But in the long run it’s a lot easier and better to face your feelings and be open.
WHAT I WISH SOMEONE TOLD ME
Friends cleanse.
Unfortunately people are going to be quick to jump on the wagon when things are good. When there are baby showers to be organised and lunches to be had. When there are pictures to be taken with you and bump. Friends will talk about how excited they are for you and how they can’t wait for the new arrival. But the truth is not many people with still be around when push comes to shove and baby arrives. Don’t be surprised to see people won’t be as mad about your baby as you are. And be prepared to
be surprised by some people who you thought would be there but are not.
Things won’t go to plan.
You can plan all day long till the cows come home but some things just won’t go to plan, you will have bad days and so will bubs. There will be days you’re all set and ready to head off and there’s an untimely explosion from one end or another.
You may have great intentions to get things done but nothing gets done in the end.
A lot of people will have a lot to say.
You need to thicken the skin and let something’s in one ear and out the other just as quick because some people unfortunately don’t have filters. You will be asked questions you wouldn’t be asked by the guards. People will make remarks or tell you the best way to do things. Talk about you feel I left myself for so long, feeling so miserable and not talking about how I felt. The moment I opened up and admitted I was having a hard time that’s the moment I realised it’s not as bad as I thought. I wasn’t going crazy, I wasn’t alone and how I was feeling was quite normal. There’s no such thing as the perfect mum. You don’t need to be perfect to be a good mum. You can make mistakes you can get fed
up you can feel all the emotions under the sun and sometimes all at once. No one way is the right way its whatever works best for you and your child. There are so many different types of people and families around. You need to keep doing what your doing and forget about the rest. Live and let live.
Each stage goes fast so as scary and overwhelming as it can be enjoy it.
I look back now to when I came home from hospital, Joshua was teeny tiny, I was terrified of how small and vulnerable both of us were at that point I wished he was bigger and stronger and now I look back and wish I spent less time worrying and more time enjoying it.
Mum guilt is a thing.
Mum guilt, something I never knew anything about and didn’t need to. But boy, are we acquainted now. It’s that little voice inside your head giving you a hard time for going out, giving you a hard time for wanting some time alone, basically appearing every now and again to let you know it’s still there, live and well.
It’s going to be lonely sometimes.
Yes you are going to be with someone 24/7 now but that someone can’t talk. There will be lonelydays and nights ahead but they will end. As the weeks go on you will star to see a little personality unfold in your baby and that loneliness and silence will disappear.
You won’t feel like you anymore.
Some days you won’t even feel like you anymore, you will question who you are and where the old you is gone. But on a positive note, you must remember, yes you have changed completely mentally and physically but all for the better it’s a new you and a better one, doing an amazing job. The old you is still there too if you allow yourself to be.
I want to say thank you to you all for taking the time to read this. It wasn’t easy to write or put into words, but I’m glad I gave it a shot. Most importantly I want to say a huge thank you to Jacqueline for giving me this opportunity to speak about my experience.
My main reason for doing this and sharing my story is to hopefully reach out and help anyone who may be stuck in a rut, to let them know, no matter how much it may feel like it, you’re not alone! I am not embarrassed or ashamed to admit I struggled and probably will have more tough days ahead. I am proud and happier than
ever that the girl who always hid behind a smile and showed unbreakable strength has finally learnt how to let her guard down and talk and in turn, deal with situations head on and not alone. I never thought I could change the things I have about myself. But I have and you can too.
Anna x

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