Today is Maternal Mental Health Day, when we celebrate all the many ways women can go completely bonkers when they have a baby.
I knew I’d get post-natal depression with my first baby. Gwyneth and I went to the pre-natal classes at the hospital (NB: NOT the NCT classes – they were for people who were grown up about having a baby whereas Gwyneth and I had yet to even move in together and imagined having a baby would be ‘cute’ and a bit like having a dog without the fleas and much less demanding).
At the class one night they showed us a film about PND featuring Denise Welch who told us some of the risk factors which included:
- A history of depression ✔
- Family members with a history of depression or mood disorders ✔
- Job insecurity ✔
- Moving house ✔
- Unstable relationship ✔
- Little or no family support ✔
- The pregnancy is unplanned ✔
- You have a hideous birth experience which makes you scream at the doctor to just CUT YOUR HEAD OFF NOW AND PULL THE BASTARD OUT THAT WAY which would have been far better than the butchery he inflicted on your vagina ✔
I remember after watching the film, Gwyneth whispered to me, with all the breathtaking arseholery of the pre-natal male, “you’ll get that” and me whispering back, “I hate you and your sperm.”
Three months later I was ironing babygros at 3am with my baby screaming in a pouch strapped to my chest, my tears drenching her little head as I persisted in ironing these damn babygros with invisible creases lest I be thought a bad mother who doesn’t iron babygros even though ironing babygros at 3am while your tiny baby screams and is perilously close to the steaming hot iron may cause some people in your life (your boyfriend) to question if you are LOSING YOUR MIND.
Ten years later and miraculously pregnant with a much longed for second baby, I was rather more in control of my mentalishness and my life generally. His birth was glorious. A planned caesarean. I adored him immediately, even breastfed for a bit and don’t think I let him out of my arms for the first six months.
So I was floored when, just under a year later, I suddenly couldn’t breathe and felt I needed an ambulance immediately in order to get me away from this child who I was clearly incapable of looking after and also because I was convinced that ending my life was the only way to escape the intolerable, constant, self-loathing babble going on in my head.
Having babies is enough to turn anyone catatonic. You don’t sleep. You are lonely and yet never alone. You are told you’re doing ‘the most important job in the world’ and yet you’re treated as if you’re brain-dead and should get back to ‘real work’ pronto and get back to your pre-pregnancy self pronto, as though nothing has happened, nothing has changed.
These daft expectations and pressures mean that mothers feel forced to continue pushing their Mamas and Papas £800 prams through the park whilst secretly plotting to kill themselves, continue to breastfeed even though it makes them want to enact a live mastectomy, continue to tell everyone they’re ‘blissfully happy’ when they’re crying their way through the day.
So especially on this Maternal Mental Health Day, let us be clear that the real problem isn’t the mentalishness of our mothers, it’s the mentalishness of a world which tells them that mentalishness is not acceptable and that if they admit to mentalishness they will be deemed too mentalish to be a good mother and not only that, so mentalish that they surely don’t love the child, when in fact, having babies can send us all insane and the key is to spot it and treat it because it’s not your fault (though may well be your partner’s fault with their hellish sperm) and you need to be able to say you need help and for the rest of us to say, of COURSE you need help, you’ve just had a HUMAN and are clearly insane, you must take these pills immediately and here’s the name of a good therapist whom you can immediately visit free of charge because the good mental health of our mothers is vital for our entire society and no please don’t worry about going back to work until you’re quite ready, we will look after things until then but while you’re at home, remember to never watch Loose Women unless you want to feel as though your brain is being squeezed into a vice of banality and also stay away from other mothers who appear to have it sussed and tell you how sussed they have it because they are the ones who are storing up a sizeable future addiction to vodka and whose children will grow up to be politicians with an addiction to hookers.
Also, EAT THE GODDAM CHIPS.
Hope that’s cleared things up a bit…