I gave birth 10 days ago to a lovely little girl. Like any newborn, she’s feeding every two hours, not sleeping through the night, cries whenever I put her down in her cot and having to change her nappies endlessly.
And with two older children to look after and a business to run, it’s enough to drive any sane woman round the bend.
To further exacerbate the situation, I am prone to post-natal depression. Because I suffered from it with the previous two children, I’ve learned to recognise the signs. It’s literally like a dark cloud approaching. When the hormones try to take over, it becomes a battle of light against dark.
With child 1, I took 16 weeks for maternity leave. Most of my friends thought I was mad. They swore by their 7 months off (or more), and said it was great spending that amount of time with baby. So when I had child 2, I took 6 months off. On both occasions I suffered from post-natal depression.
Third time round, I’ve decided to not go on maternity leave. Post-childbirth circumstances permitting. I work for myself and, with a magazine to launch in September, there’s a lot I still have to do. I would also continue with my freelance writing and consulting work.
I gave birth on a Sunday and rested that day. But the very next day, I was writing up a feature to file on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I filed a second feature.
All this was part of a little experiment I did on myself to see if working would help keep my post-natal depression at bay. And surprisingly, it did. Work kept me busy. And it took my mind off the physical pain of post-childbirth, the soreness from breastfeeding, broken sleep and that unexplained emptiness sitting in the depths of my belly. That emptiness – if I’m not careful – is the same one that would mature into the dark depression where once it engulfs me becomes very hard to shake off.
I’m not free from PND. It still is a daily tug of war and will probably continue to be so for at least six months. When I’m breastfeeding or in slightly unheeded moments, I can feel that potential darkness looming over threateningly.
Deadlines force me into a routine and give me something else to focus on. Unfortunately domesticity gives me none of the satisfaction that work does. So I’m glad for the pleasant distraction of work.
So if you ask me how to cope with PND, I would say ‘keep on working’.
I wonder if any of you mums out there have also used work to help you manage your PND. Or if you tried other methods, I’m also interested to hear about them.