hello, I have just become a parent for the fourth time and I've been struggling with depression. If you have any advice i would be truly grateful. I would love to try and help. I have to admit I’m not fully educated on the medical condition of Post Natal Depression, so I have to stress that I’m not offering any medical advice. I can only comment on a few ways to shift perspective, possibly finding relief and moments of parenting joy.
I know how overwhelming having multiple children can be, especially when they are all at a very young age. It seems that your attention is always needed and the beautiful image of a new mother cuddling up to her newborn and spending time gazing in their eyes can seem very far off as you rush from child to child and then try to squeeze in dishes and dinner, let alone see a partner alone for 2 minutes! Within that constant juggling act we can lose a sense of self and start to feel like we’re drowning.
You don’t mention the age of your other children, but no matter what, parenting a new born is such a different journey than parenting a toddler, and then again, the journey shifts when we hit school age. Each stage brings their own challenges, but also their own joys, provided we can find them in all the muddle.
Usually, my first advice is to find a moment to connect, to appreciate and go within, finding the calm centre of the real YOU so you can sense answers, but considering 4 kids and one a new born, let’s assume that that seems too much to ask. Without that moment how to find your core centre, so you can start to feel yourself again. For that is the key to it all. So often in those depressing moments we cry out that this isn’t the life we dreamed of, that we had ambitions that we feel we can’t follow anymore, or that we never get anytime, but at the root of it all comes the need to feel connected, to feel part of the flood of wellbeing that is ever flowing, and to feel ourselves, fully ourselves, not a robot in motion. It’s when we feel like we’re unfulfilled, and then start to look at others as the cause of that un-fulfilment so we feel helpless, that we truly sink into despair.
So, YOU. Wonderful, spectacular YOU. You need some expression and some wonderment.
Let’s swerve from children for a moment, as really that’s probably what’s going on most of the time for you right now. You don’t have to feel your children have to bring you joy. You don’t have to feel like they are the be all, end all. You don’t have any emotional requirement put upon you. We’re here to feel good, that’s how we connect to our pure, positive, spiritual selves. (That doesn’t mean leave the kids in the house and go for a walk for any readers wondering at my concept of feeling good, it never feels good, deeply good to let others suffer, let’s just keep that clear).
Focusing our thoughts, even in imagination can trigger feeling good emotions. We can remind ourselves of lying on a beach in the hot sun on a winter day and we will feel warmed. Take a moment to imagine a place that you love, even your partner’s arms in bed. Hold that moment in your thoughts, and don’t let any negative voice tell you that it doesn’t exist any longer since “the kids”. Life works in cycles, and the universe recognizes how we feel. By imagining things, scenarios, and moments that make your heart feel better you are training it to feel better and revel in new moments that feel good. Does that make any sense? Therefore start to compile a tool box of feeling good thoughts, jokes that made you smile, memories of when you first fell in love, a trip to…anywhere. That thought will trigger a feeling better emotion, starting to end the barrage of thoughts that can build up negative steam.
The same things go for appreciation. Now it’s too much to ask a tired mom to lie in bed before sleep and make a list of things you really appreciate (but if you can squeeze it in, great). However, there are moments of things to appreciate daily. Try to make it your mission to appreciate as many things as possible, and when you appreciate them, don’t just tick them off a list, let the appreciation be pushed a little bit to the point of your heart lifting slightly, or until you give a little gasp. If one thing doesn’t work, look for something else. It can be that first cup of coffee, seeing a sunset, lying on your pillow (aren’t pillows wonderful, really?), a comfortable chair, your favourite sweater, a dish your mother gave you, your friend’s wacky laugh. Throughout the day take a split second back over everything and see if you can appreciate it rather than run past in, or get upset about it. It sounds impossible at the start, but soon you will notice all sorts of things that you couldn’t have before… and yes, they will involve your children.
Here’s the funny thing about children. They mirror how we feel, especially when they are younger. They match us, rather than try to help us. When you think of being in an argument, it takes a lot of practice to not match the other person emotionally. If someone is mad at you, it’s easier to fall into getting mad back at them, rather than walk away. Young children react like that too, so if life’s overwhelming to begin with, often our children feel it, get overwhelmed and then it really does go into a spiral. When you start to take a moment to appreciate each moment than there’s a feeling shift. When you start to feel a spiral, change the feeling space, grab everyone and go for a walk, put on some uplifting music that has always made you feel better, eat something that you love, leave the housework and play dress up with your children, even ask your kids to tickle you if you think it would make you laugh. The children will react to the new feeling space you set and they will then mirror it. Life gets easier.
Young children sense your pain and when I say they mirror it doesn’t mean they don’t want to help, they just don’t understand how to. It’s not their job to make you feel better, that’s no one’s job, but it will feel better to involve them. Tell them you’re trying to make yourself feel better, and you are looking for things to feel good about, ask their help. It’s a great car game to look for things to be thankful for, or things that make us feel good. We also learn a lot about our children when we hear what does it for them. Share with them, join in with them. They can also help with the other overwhelming parts of life by putting away toys, or watching the baby, they can set tables, or turn off tv’s. Children thrive in a group effort, and if they've been feeling your pain, they will want to help, if you suggest how they can. Your baby might seem to hold up the ship a bit, but if you take midnight feeds and focus on the fact that it’s the only one on one time to connect to them, then take a soft moment to remind yourself that babies have just come and therefore are spiritually connected almost all of the time. They let us know when they aren’t! Appreciate how simple things are, how clear for them, and let yourself sink into how they feel, in the warmth of your arms. Count his/her toes, kiss their hair, and watch their movements, you were like that at one point to.
It’s a question of little bit, by little bit, moment by moment. It doesn’t need to add up, we never need to fully know where it’s going, but when we appreciate the little things, even the fact that our bodies can grow other bodies inside of ourselves, and that we create new organs to feed and nurture it, and then give birth, and then provide nutrition for it, then our truest parts of ourselves scream out that Yes, we are part of something beautiful and wondrous. We don’t need to figure it out, we just need to feel a bit better and than a bit better to let life flow through and balance/wellbeing to be restored. Your children chose you before they came. Not because they knew you would be super mom and do everything perfect straight off, but because you are YOU. They know you as you and they knew the experiences you could create TOGETHER. They knew that together you would take each other to new places and new growth and that’s what this whole process is all about. You are doing exceptionally well! You are doing great, being YOU! Even just by saying I want to do better you offer the request up and it will be heard, you just have to feel your way there, feeling better little bit by little bit, appreciating and savoring.
I hope this helps a little bit. Please let me know, and if you have any questions, or want to discuss anything at anytime, just write. You aren’t alone in this, we’re all in this together. We raise children for the same generation and together we are working for feeling better options.
Be well and thrive.