Being the first time I’d ever gone through anything as big as this – pregnancy and birth – I was pretty highly strung.

The stories I’d heard about giving birth had distracted me from mentally preparing to become a mother. I was so caught up in the pain I was going to feel, the pain relief options, the potential damage to my body and the complications that could arise for my baby or me.

Because I was focused on this stuff, I didn’t think much about what would happen after my baby was born. As a result, the shock of being a new mum was real. I wasn’t ready for the lack of sleep, the high level of responsibility, or the fear of keeping this little human being alive.

It didn’t help that the birth was pretty terrible. I had the balloon put in to induce me and one of the balloons leaked. Everyone thought it was my waters, except me. Even though I disagreed, no one was listening, and when they took the balloon out I wasn’t ready to give birth.

Then we did the gel, once, twice, three times. I was at the hospital three nights in a row for regular dilation checks, which were awfully painful. I hated them. After three days of this I was mentally and physically exhausted, and I had high blood pressure.

When I was booked in for a caesarean for the next day I felt like a failure, but I also felt a sense of relief. I hated the thought of being cut open, but I couldn’t handle the unknown of vaginal birth either.

After my baby arrived, breastfeeding was challenging too. I had barely any milk. My baby couldn’t latch on due to a lip tie, and I have very flat nipple. It all felt like a bit of a nightmare. The crying (hers and mine!), the stress, the guilt, the pressure – all wrapped up in anxiety! I had a breast pump, and while pumping wasn’t difficult, it took a long time and I found it difficult to do it regularly.

On the day I was discharged from the hospital I had a number of different people coming into my room and telling me all the things I had to do. The list kept getting longer and things started to contradict themselves! Get plenty of rest, but make sure you pump and feed every three hours. Drink lots of water, but make sure don’t hold any pee in. Go for walks, but lay down whenever you can. Have skin to skin time, wash and sterilise bottles and pumps, eat well, sleep when the baby sleeps, go to the doctors for check-ups… How was I supposed to do all of these things, and rest!? It was madness.

Postnatal anxiety

“The shock of being a new mum was real.” Image: Sarah Morgan


Soon enough I began to have some trouble with my mental health.

The first five weeks were okay (if I can remember them clearly!) when I had people around me to help. The nights were long however, and the lack of sleep started to get to me around the six week mark.

I was crying all the time. I started to get scared of being alone with the baby. I felt anxious every time my husband left for work.  Things escalated to a point where I couldn’t eat or sleep, and my stomach would get so tight from anxiety that I could barely breathe. I started to feel regret that I’d ever had a baby. Equally, I felt so guilty for thinking this way too.

When I left my house while people looked after my baby, I’d consider not coming back home. Perhaps I could just disappear for while?

People kept telling me that things would get easier, but this only annoyed me. I thought they were lying, and were just trying to make me feel better.

My mum came over every day so that I didn’t have to be alone with the baby.

My day would start as early as 5am and I’d count down the minutes to when my mum would come over. When my mum left I’d count down the minutes to when my husband would arrive home.

I had such a sense of panic when I was alone with her. What if she fusses? What do I do when she wakes up? When will she wake up? What if she cries? What if she gets gas and screams again? All of these feelings made it literally impossible for me to sleep.

Eventually, my husband took time off work to be with me. He said I needed help. I knew he was right, but I was scared too. He told me that I wasn’t myself and that he didn’t know who I was anymore. This was hard to hear, but upon reflection I thought, “I don’t feel like me anymore.”

So, I made a phone call.

Postnatal anxiety

“After the six months, things started to get easier.”


Initially, talking to a therapist made me feel miserable, but it did help me understand what was happening.

The counsellor explained that my brain chemicals were moving around and adjusting after giving birth. And thanks to a challenging birth, I had a dash of PTSD thrown into the mix.

After a few online sessions I started to feel a little better, but I still needed help. My doctor put me on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills and a mental health plan. The medication took a few weeks to kick in, so by the time I was going to face-to-face sessions I was able to cope better with the postnatal anxiety. With the sessions with a psychologist, plus medication, I felt a lot better – not 100%, but better.

I started going for walks. I slept for a few hours at a time (which was more than before!). After the six months, things started to get easier. I had a routine and I my mental health was improving. My daughter was also very cute and bubbly and fun to play with, so things were more enjoyable.

When my daughter was 18 months old I decided that maybe I didn’t need the pills anymore, and – with discussions with my GP first – I weaned myself off them. Within two weeks things went downhill again quickly. I was angry, stressed and not myself. I went back on them and felt better the next day. When I spoke to my GP about this she explained that I could be on my medication for years if I need to.

My life before having baby is the opposite to what life is like now, and I need a low dosage medication to handle it all.  And that’s okay. Today, I have a lot of support around me and I’m better at asking for help too. I just love the heck out of my daughter, and my husband, and I wouldn’t it any other way!


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