As parents of all ages will agree, having a baby is a truly life-changing experience. Arriving home from hospital with a tiny bundle of joy is both exciting and surreal, and though parents-to-be have spent nine months anticipating this moment, nothing can really prepare you for it! It’s a highly emotional time too, especially for new mums, says Irene Lowry, CEO of Nurture. Irene set up this charity just over seven years ago, as a means of offering immediate, affordable and accessible counselling to women and men who feel overwhelmed in the days, weeks and months after having a baby.
Though post-natal depression is incredibly common among new mums, it’s still not something that’s openly talked about in Ireland, according to Irene. “Post-natal depression is still massively stigmatised. Women are often afraid that if they admit they’re battling post-natal depression, their baby will be taken from them. It’s a very sad situation.” Nurture has a no waitlist policy, which for Irene is key. Help is at hand as soon as a new mum starts to feel overwhelmed. “Nurture offers a sense of hope”, she says. “Everyone needs to believe there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Perceptions of Motherhood
One of the issues that lead to these feelings of despair, according to Irene, is the pressure put on women to instantly and naturally take to motherhood. Online groups and blogs, though often useful and supportive, can inadvertently set unrealistic expectations. “Women often put pressure on themselves to be the perfect mammy”, says Irene. “But then if birthing plans go awry, they often can’t cope – which can lead to massive feelings of shame and guilt. They bring the baby home, and most women haven’t got a clue what to expect. After a couple of weeks, their partner has to go back to work, and most women will tell us they’re gone from 7am until 7pm, so literally she’s there all day long with the new baby. If she starts experiencing mental health issues, she may not even know what’s going on.”
New Dads Feel the Pressure too
This period can be highly emotional for new dads, says Irene. “Research has shown that men can get post-natal depression too. Most men will tell us, ‘once she’s ok, I’m ok’, but in fact they may be struggling. If you think about living with someone with depression, of course it’s going to affect you. We offer counselling over Skype to men, so they don’t have to be gone for the evening.”
For parents expecting a baby, or who’ve just brought their little one home, Irene offers the following tips around supporting each other during this incredible, challenging and emotional time:
Spend Time Together
Take a half an hour each evening for each other. When the baby’s asleep, turn off all screens, sit down and talk to each other like you did before. Have a date night if possible, though this will probably only be possible when the baby gets a little older.
Get Some Sleep
Sleep deprivation is a massive issue. Try to give the baby to someone else to mind while you rest – otherwise everything else will be exacerbated.
Connect with your Friends
Don’t put your friends on the back boiler – you need support around you. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about how you’re feeling.
Be Kind to Yourself
Take a little bit of time out for you – even if it’s just having a coffee and biscuit.
Have a Shower
This can be difficult to do. But try to have a shower or get your hair done – these small things are important. Women can often lose all sense of self when they’ve just had a baby.
Take Support from Friends and Family
If they want the baby, give them the baby!
For more on Nurture and the services they offer, click here.
Irish Life Health members will contribute towards the cost of counselling sessions provided by Nurture for antenatal and postnatal depression, fertility issues and miscarriage support on a number of plans. Get in touch of find out more on 1890 71 66 66.