Welcome to my new weekly blog series which is looking at how becoming a parent impacts upon emotional wellbeing, from the extreme highs of having a baby to the baby blue, post-natal depression and everything in between. I’m opening the series with my own story, then each week guest bloggers will take to the stage and give their experiences. I really hope that through publishing a diverse range of stories we can lift the lid on emotional and mental health and show that it’s not as clear-cut as either being fine or being depressed, so that other parents may be able to feel more confident to reach out for support if they need it.

I never wanted a big career, I never even planned my wedding day growing up, I just wanted to be a Mummy. Growing up in a close-knit family with Mum working as a childminder I knew that babies weren’t easy, I knew that they were a huge responsibility and not a fashion accessory so I also knew that I wanted to wait for the right man, settle down then start a family. I was lucky, I found my dream man when I was a month off of 25 and within 2 years and 1 month we were married with pregnancy following a month later. All very cutesy and sickly, right?!

Toby was born in July 2014 and if you’re a regular reader then you will likely know all about the difficulties he had suffering from silent reflux in the first 5 months of his life. Phil and I both struggled, as I guess any parent would when caring for a baby who is screaming for a good 8 hours a day and not sleeping at night. Breastfeeding in itself was going really well after a tough start, but Toby was so unsettled that being the only one who could look after him for more than half an hour took its toll and once Phil was back at work I basically spent some of every day crying. At the time, I asked Phil and my Mum to keep an eye on me but I even wrote about my certainty that I wasn’t actually suffering from post-natal depression. I did the quiz at a Health Visitor appointment which said the same thing so I carried on, not exactly thinking that I was fine but putting it down to the tiring job of being a new parent and having a poorly, unsettled baby.

By 5 months of age Toby was on prescription formula for cow’s milk protein intolerance and almost overnight he was a different baby, so much calmer and happier. I found my flow for the first time since having him and life seemed much better for us all. In the last week of January we went to Bluestone Wales, followed a fortnight later by a week in Tenerife which were both absolutely fantastic holidays, but totally upskittled Toby’s routine and boy did he let us know about it! I was no longer an exhausted new mum recovering from giving birth yet I crumbled. The crying returned, I suddenly doubted how well I knew my own son, felt that I was failing him, Phil, our home, my blog…

Slowly a cloud started to descend over my mind and initially I concluded that it was just PMT but when it continued I realised that it was more than that and having experienced depression in my early twenties I knew that I had to do something before the cloud became darker. I’m very lucky to have such a supportive husband and I also have great friends and family so unlike in dark days passed, I reached out this time and told those closest to me that I was struggling. Nobody patronised me, nobody judged me, everyone responded with words of support, with hugs and love. Phil encouraged me to take a blog break so I scheduled some posts and took a step back, taking more time to play with Toby rather than hope he would nap just a little longer so that I could get more work done. I went out for longer walks, drank more water and if Toby was having a challenging day I took a deep breath and went through the options of nappy, food, nap, play time etc instead of letting my own tears start. He was going through a development leap at the time and our gorgeous boy never does that quietly yet, instead of appreciating that fact I had been torturing myself that I didn’t know how to comfort my own son. As soon as I stopped letting myself think that and instead went through the logical steps, things got a lot better. Generally he needed a nap or even an extra bottle but he’s a growing child so that’s hardly surprising!

My family and friends took time to reassure me and Phil was always there, even just as a quick phone call when he was at work. Before I knew it the cloud was lifting and I was smiling and laughing again. The best part though, is that Toby was too!

I do think that I could have spiralled further down and I am very grateful that I recognised how I was feeling and that the people around me wanted to help me. I know it’s not that simple for everyone but the point of my story is that it’s not either utter joy or PND, there’s a huge in-between area which can be really tough to live in so if you feel like you’re not quite right then it is so important to ask for help. I didn’t need to speak to my GP in the end, but I was prepared to if I had have continued to struggle. There isn’t really a ‘normal’ for parents, irrespective of how many children you have. Most mums in particular but also many dads experience the baby blues to some degree after a baby is born and it’s about taking a moment to analyse your emotions, take stock of them and monitor whether you start to feel better or worse as the days go by. Speak to family and friends, to health care professionals, get them to keep an eye on you and be honest with them because they will want to help.

I am not a professional, but the NHS and PANDAS are so please take a look at their information if you feel like you need help.

Please come back next week when I’ll be handing over to my first guest blogger, Alex from Lamb and Bear. If you would like to feature as a guest blogger in the series then please pop an email over to [email protected] and I will add you to the list. If you’ve got experiences to share but don’t want to feature, leave a comment below or get in touch via Facebook or Twitter.