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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Tue 09-Oct-18 16:50:25

Guest post: “Becoming a parent is one of the most life-changing experiences and we have to learn how to do it.” Join webchat about parental anxiety with author Anna Williamson, Monday 15 October at 9pm

Author Anna Williamson endured a traumatic birth when her son arrived two years ago, followed by anxiety and depression. Now she’s sharing her experiences in the hope of helping new parents.

Anna is joining us to answer questions on Monday 15th October at 9pm

Anna Williamson

Anna Williamson blog

Posted on: Tue 09-Oct-18 16:50:24

(28 comments )

Lead photo

"I had what can only be described as a thoroughly crap birth.”

I was diagnosed very swiftly with birth trauma, and post natal anxiety and depression. Not a fun cocktail of mental health issues I’m sure you’ll agree. At first, I felt guilty and embarrassed that I was struggling and that I wasn’t enjoying anything about motherhood. The demand of having to feed my little one was making the anxiety so bad that I made a sensible (yet heavy-hearted) decision to switch from breast to bottle 10 days in. It was the best decision I made because it allowed my husband to feed him, to bond with him, and for me to rest and get well. A happy well mum is what makes a happy well baby in my case.

I am not alone in my experience. There are many, many parents (some of them friends of mine) who thankfully have had wonderful births, but actually in truth, it matters not how your birth experience pans out, because we are one and the same in that we are human, we have feelings, and we can all find life challenging from time to time. Being a new parent can test even the most positive of us.

Around one in six new mothers experience a challenging time with their mental health, and the stats aren’t too far off for new dads too, although many guys don’t feel confident talking about their feelings and struggles. ‘Post-natal depression’ seems to be the catch all label for anyone suffering with mental health problems around becoming a new parent. But it’s not particularly accurate as anxiety, PTSD /birth trauma, OCD, obtrusive thoughts, to name a few other mental health concerns, can also cause a new parent some jip if they go undetected and supported.

I felt guilty and embarrassed that I was struggling and that I wasn't enjoying anything about motherhood.


Becoming a parent is one of the most life-changing experiences, and we have to learn how to do it. Some people take to parenthood like a duck to water the moment the blue line shows up on the pregnancy test, so many absolutely love and embrace it, but others take a bit of time to get their head around it. Whatever your experience of becoming a new mum or dad, remember that there really is no ‘one way’ to feel or make choices.

Commonly reported anxieties in the foggy early newborn weeks and months include bonding with baby worries, relationship concerns (I mean, it’s a heck of a shock for any couple!), and obsession over sleep (or lack of it).

It can appear and feel like everyone around you is nailing it, that they’ve sussed out this parent malarkey, and you’re the only one flailing around in a pit of muslins and Jellycat soft toys. But you are far from alone. Pretty much everyone is winging it, anxieties are completely normal and understandable, and the worst thing you can do is to keep it all bottled up. Talk to your partner (if you have one), tell them how you’re feeling, have a bloody good cry if you feel like it (it can help), and allow others around you to help.

If you’re feeling consistently down, anxious or just not yourself, do always speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor, they really are there to help. They won’t judge and they won’t take your baby away just because you’re having a tough time. The best thing I did was trust my doctor and get the medication and talking therapy I needed to get well.

Two years on from becoming a parent, I don’t recognise that sacred, anxious, terrified and depressed new mum of yesteryear, the mum that stares back at me in the mirror now is one full of pride at recognising that I needed help and for asking for it. I’m a mum who is completely and utterly in love with her son. We got there, and you will too.

By Anna Williamson
Anna Willamson is author of Breaking Mum and Dad

By Anna Williamson

Twitter: @awilliamsonTV

Harleypuppy Thu 11-Oct-18 12:19:53

What is really hard is after buying loads of baby/children parenting books and learning how to be a parent, and those parenting courses that the health visitor recommends that for some reason they don't work. I thought I must be doing it wrong. I'd talk to other parents and they'd recommend things that worked for them, but they don't work for me. Most babies are soothed by cuddles, like baby groups in church halls with high echoing ceilings, go swimming, want to play with you... My baby was like this, he also met all his milestones. We struggled so much and we didn't know why he was different.
Aged 13 he was diagnosed with asc and add. Now we know. But all those years of not knowing why things that worked for others didn't work for us was really damaging for my mental health. He screamed all the time as a baby, and now as a teenager he screams a lot. I feel such a failure as no matter how hard I try he is stuck in a destructive pattern of behaviour, that is hurting everyone in the family. I'm broken and I don't have any energy left. It's not depression, it's fear of what the future holds for him because at the moment I see him being so aggressive he really hurts someone, more than he has already.

Harleypuppy Thu 11-Oct-18 18:28:52

Oh dear, I broke the thread.sad

ouchr Thu 11-Oct-18 19:03:45

Aw @Harleypuppy no you didn't, it sounds like you have had a tough journey. I hope you have a good support system in place for you and your son.

Harleypuppy Thu 11-Oct-18 22:05:03

Thank you. It is tough and it's just me and my dh. We bonded over having abusive parents, who we don't see anymore. It's funny how the abusive people keep the family! We can't see extended family as we don't want anything to get back to them as they involved their grandchildren (our dcs), in their abusive games.

Sophia1984 Thu 11-Oct-18 22:29:57

That sounds so so tough Harley but you sound like such a caring Mum who is really in tune with your son and trying your absolute best. Have you read about therapeutic parenting? www.goodtoknow.co.uk/family/therapeutic-parenting-what-it-is-and-how-it-can-help-you-and-your-child-421087

KatyBeau Fri 12-Oct-18 14:18:35

I think looking back I had some trauma from my first daughter's birth, but at the time just accepted that giving birth is a horrendous, painful experience. I thought, I'm no different to anyone else, so why should I make a fuss about it. Women have given birth in pain and distress for thousands of years and we just get through it. I didn't want to dwell on it.

It's only after having a much quicker and straightforward birth the second time around that I realised how broken I was after the first time. I wish I'd got help with anxiety sooner and realised that the night terrors and confusion which lasted a whole year afterwards we probably a result of trauma which I could have sought help with.

Intstead I went into my second pregnancy terrified of giving birth, anxious sick probably contributed to even worse postnatal anxiety.

I think we need to help mothers realise that, yes it's common for birth to be distressing, but that doesn't mean you don't deserve to get help with dealing with the psychological effects afterwards.

BESTMOMMY Fri 12-Oct-18 18:54:36

Hi. My little boy who was 4 in July started in reception this Sept.Im a very active parent and have asked the teacher several times if he settling well and get on. She has been positive and said I should be very proud of him. Today I found in his bag a letter saying an appointment had me made for me at next week's parents evening with the Senco. I have been through a range of emotions in the last couple of hours, but mostly I'm just so concerned. How can they just arrange a Senco meeting when there have been no issues or concerns highlighted.Is this normal procedure, it seems very unprofessional. Thanks in advance

Spankyoumuchly Fri 12-Oct-18 19:15:58

I think it's good they've highlighted an issue. My ds1 went through the whole of infant school and got a level 2 in his sats, even though I was sure he had a problem reading. I asked many times. When he got to to junior school, within weeks, his teacher came to see me as she thought he couldn't read. He couldn't read the whole of the alphabet, not even blends.
Re-arrange the appointment for a private time. See the teacher to find out what's going on.
It's a good thing, as if there's an issue it's going to be sorted early. Rather than ds1 who had to learn to read after school!

Mummymoon18 Sat 13-Oct-18 15:16:07

I have 7 nieces and nephews and thought I'd be sorted when I had my little one. She's 10 weeks old on Monday, I love her to pieces and wouldn't change anything for the world! But I honestly thought because id had "practice" shall we say that I'd be pretty on it. But there has been times I've found myself struggling. I found it a struggle once I'd had my little one as I had to have an emergency c-section and I hate asking for help or relying on people i always feel like I'm getting in the way and what not. Plus I don't think it helps that me and my partner went from living in our own flat to giving it up because it wasn't practical once little one arrived to living with my mum and her partner who then told us a week after me having my little one that they were moving into a bungalow and we had to find somewhere else to go. We knew they had been looking so signed up on the council to cover our backs but that failed big time and now we are staying with my sister and family which isn't ideal. I don't honestly know what I'd do with out her but I can't help but feel a burden to her. Unfortunately no one prepares you for this situation. But the no own home situation makes me feel like I'm already failing my little one sad

Sorry for the slight rant

lovetherisingsun Sun 14-Oct-18 14:58:07

Sounds like my first birth experience. Hell, all of it was hell, the baby was hell, the next few years was hell. I'm just now starting to be able to enjoy being a mother. What never, ever helped, was every book, website, parenting course, and other mothers saying how it's the best thing ever, how the baby sleeps through from 6 weeks, how this is easy, that is easy, breastfeeding is natural etc etc etc. I had no one IRL to relate to, and no book to read from that would help me understand otherwise - none of the advice applied.

3out Sun 14-Oct-18 22:13:47

‘A happy well mum is what makes a happy well baby in my case.‘

We had the opposite issue. I was happy, confident, realistic about how tough parenting would be but happy to roll with it, but our son cried 24/7, did not sleep, could not be put down, did not gain weight (3oz a week). We told the GP our concerns, but we were met with reassuring platitudes. We told our HV our concerns (weekly), but nothing was done. Our baby was miserable, we knew something was wrong, but all the health professionals said was ‘there there’. At six months old he was finally diagnosed as having a dairy intolerance, but the paediatrician (who we were seeing for the first time) said that at this stage they’d normally start reintroducing dairy, so don’t bother cutting it out. Stupidly, we believed the consultant. Finally, aged 3, I decided enough was enough and cut dairy and gluten from his diet. He turned into a different child.

I’m so glad for the OP that her GP helped, but in our situation it was the lack of help from any HP and the ongoing unhappy (ill) baby which in turn made me ill.

mumto2babyboys Mon 15-Oct-18 19:36:55

It’s just so exhausting with young children! I am going to have catch up on this tomorrow because as soon as my 18 month and 3 yr old fall asleep I am going straight to bed so will be asleep by 9pm and up around 6am and several times during the night as 18 month old won’t sleep through yet.

I miss my old life before having babies and sleep l exhaustion and not being so tired all the time.

Not enjoying motherhood; days out and trips to the park are good but the rest of it is constant hard work.

My 3yr old threw the iPad mini earlier and smashed the screen for the 3rd time this year and it’s in a rubber childproof cover and I limit screen time so you think he would appreciate when he is allowed on it, but no! he’s going through that tantrum threeager stage. It’s all so exhausting!

AnnaWilliamson Mon 15-Oct-18 19:52:53

Hey all, looking forward to chatting at 9pm and answering all your mama mental health questions
Anna x

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 15-Oct-18 21:02:46

Hi Anna

Thanks for joining us and for writing such an important blog post. Handing over to you...

AnnaWilliamson Mon 15-Oct-18 21:08:07

Hey @harleypuppy gosh it sounds as though you are one strong woman!! Sorry to hear it's been such a rough road for you, you are NOT a failure ok, it sounds like you're coping with some really tricky circumstances. I wonder if you've looked into what other support might be available from doctors? In my experience it's about pushing and pushing til you get the answers and support you need. I get that extedned family isn't an option, perhaps some QT out with your DH and son and you? Try to take each day as it comes, as opposed to feeling over whelmed with an endless road ahead. Keep talking, and keeping asking for help. You're doing a GREAT job ok xx

AnnaWilliamson Mon 15-Oct-18 21:09:55

Hi all, thanks for joining me on here tonight....hopefully you've got little ones down and are having some well deserved mummy time with all us fab ladies.... I welcome any questions you may have about my experiences so far as a mum (Enzo is 2) and my pre and post natal mental health challenges x

Louc1286 Mon 15-Oct-18 21:11:39

Hi Anna,

I have suffered with depression my entire adult life (now 30) I am on medication and have learned to live with it.
Since having a miscarriage last January I started to suffer with panic attacks. I have now had a huge increase in my anxiety since having my boy in June. Its getting to the stage where I'm scared to meet people/to go out and leave the house. Let alone think about returning to work.
I have a lovely GP but he just wants to increase my medication and send me to Talking Therapies (which I have tried in the past but haven't felt it has done any good) Is there anything else I can try to reduce my anxiety? Its starting to get crippling 😥
Thank you
Lou
P.S I ordered Breaking Mad last night😜

AnnaWilliamson Mon 15-Oct-18 21:14:22

@KatyBeau totally hear you about feeling like you have to just 'get on with it' and that we in some way should accept how birth has left us feeling i.e. awful! and just because millions of women have done it before us, it doesnt in any way mean our feelings aren't valid Birth is so unique for each mum and I also felt the crippling post birth anxiety and trauma from a very scary and long birth experience. I did not enjoy those early few months in the slightest and I feel so passionately about letting other mums know that you don't have to just 'get on with it' if what would help would be a proper debrief and help post birth. I'm so glad you're 2nd birth was much better - you've given me great comfort! x

AnnaWilliamson Mon 15-Oct-18 21:18:55

@BESTMOMMY bless you i can TOTALLY get why you;'d be a bit concerned about this letter...it sounds very slack of the school to not actually talk to you about this face to face and just put a piece of paper in his bad - that's not on. It's sounds like you're quite rightly confused too as everything they've said suggests you're boy is doing just fine. I think you need to call the school asap and ask them to clarify the letter any why this appointment has been made. Perhaps it's just routine? Or maybe they have flagged something which might be better supported by SENCO...if so, it's nothing to get upset over, extra help can be perfectly normal for loads of kids. Talk to the school and ask them to communicate MUCH better with you from now on x

AnnaWilliamson Mon 15-Oct-18 21:25:17

@Louc1286 oh babe I soooooo hear you!! You're not alone ok. Anxiety is my pain in the butt issue too but I manage it fairly well most of the time. Talking therapies are effective along with meds, I'm not sure what therapy you've had but it may be that it's not the right kind for you? I find NLP and hypnosis really effective, and mindfulness to try and calm the anxious feelings day to day can also be useful - have you tried the Calm app? It sounds like you may have a form of PTSD from your miscarriage, I'm so sorry for you loss, have you spoken about what happened to anyone properly? If not it might be really helpful for you to process all the feelings surrounding your loss, often anxieties bed in when we haven't dealt with a previous trauma....and the more we let them play out, the more they can take over. I think perhaps trying a different talking therapy, working through any unprocessed feelings and gradually step by step trying to engage in things/activities to prove to yourself that you are safe and the anxiety isn't serving you helpfully. DO talk to your health professionals too, and PANDAS Foundation can be a really good source of comfort too. Sending love and I hope Breaking Mum and Dad helps honey xx

AnnaWilliamson Mon 15-Oct-18 21:33:27

@Mummymoon18 you rant away honey!! Wow congrats on your little one and welcome to the mummy club :-) I can hear how tough you're finding it at times, and be kind to yourself babe, you've a lot going on and you've just created a wonderful human being - if that's not overwhelming then what is huh! Well done for being brave to admit you're struggling, I did too....BIG TIME....I also felt I would have motherhood nailed as I've been a kids TV presenter and counsellor for donkey's years, but when my son was born I literally fell apart!! I didnt know what I was doing, I was sore, spaced out and in pain from a forceps delivery and haemorrhage ...so no wonder I didnt love motherhood to start with! I didn't;t even really feel love (not the love I have for him now) in the early weeks. It's normal ok.....you're not alone. It sounds like you have a load of mum guilt that needs to do one ;-) you are recovering from a c-section and you're learning how to be a mum to your own child - much different from looking after relatives. Be kind to yourself, take each day as it comes, accept the help from your family for now - I bet you'd help them right! - and when you're feeling a bit more in the swing of things you can perhaps start to think about the next stage re living arrangements etc. Trust me though, no mum guilt ok, your little one couldnt give a toss where you live right now, as long as she has her mummy, milk and cuddles she could live anywhere. sending love xx

AnnaWilliamson Mon 15-Oct-18 21:36:19

@lovetherisingsun OMG I hear you girl!! You have met your mum twin here in me....ditto to all you said and that's why I wrote Breaking Mum and Dad, I needed so much help and support in the early weeks and months, I did NOT enjoy motherhood and that terrified me and I daren't admit that to anyone at time....I was so worried and felt so guilty. But we're normal ok....so many mum don't feel the love instantly, enjoy it, or find any of it easy. That's why I decided to shine that light to day 'it's ok ladies to not be loving it all the time'. Sending massive hug for all you've been through...well done!! xx

AnnaWilliamson Mon 15-Oct-18 21:41:35

@3out thanks for sharing your situation, gosh that sounds so tough and I can't believe you had to go through all that for a dairy intolerance diagnosis. I've heard a lot recently about babies having this and that is so bad that you had to endure all that, and your baby too being so dissatisfied, before a final diagnosis now!! I can quite understand how that has perhaps had an impact on you mentally, draining and traumatic I'm sure. You might find it useful and helpful to have some counselling now to offload any negative feelings or frustrations, do ask your GP if its something you'd feel you might benefit from. Well done for keeping the fight going, you're a trooper of a mum. I salute you xx

AnnaWilliamson Mon 15-Oct-18 21:49:00

@mumto2babyboys oh lovely...hopefully you're fast asleep and enjoying some well deserved kip right now and are reading this tomorrow. Motherhood can be tough huh, you really are doing such a great job...you have two of the little ones, that deserves a medal in the first place! I only have one and struggle to cope frequently. Are you able to get some more help perhaps? A family member or pal so you can have some time out? Some time to just recharge a little....sounds like you're running on empty and the toddler chucking iPad isn't going to help how you're feeling huh. My LO made my clean pile of washing dirty earlier and I wanted to cry - they are little pickles but soooo exhausting, some days more than others. If you're not enjoying things consistently, it's really important not to just plod on in silence and in misery, do go and see your GP and talk to your HV about how you're feeling. If they dont know they can't help you. Mind charity can also offer some support and advice. Have you joined any clubs or mum groups? I found these a huge source of comfort - just the chance to have a moan and a laugh with another equally frazzled mum can do wonders for you mood. Have a look for local groups on Facebook or NCT, or Hoop app is good too for free kids classes. You're doing the right thing getting out and about too, some time for you and some mummy friends, and talking to your GP I think might be worth a think about ok. Much love xx

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