The click, click beats a rhythm
It calms and rests
And my mind soars and roams
(Claire Arnold-Baker, 2011)
As a knitter myself I have long held the view that knitting is therapeutic. It is an activity that requires concentration but is repetitive enough to allow your mind to roam and wander. There is a rhythm to it, that you create with your needles, a click, click, click. It is creative and purposeful as you create something new, maybe to wear, or to use in your home. It is a way of meditating, your body is taken up with a repetitive act which calms the mind.
It was therefore really interesting to read this article about a mother who turned to knitting as a way of overcoming her postnatal depression. Jacqui’s struggles began when she decided to become a stay at home mum, having given up a career in law. She turned to knitting, although an extreme, oversized version of knitting, and found that it was “really therapeutic and a way to meditate”. In the process she also created her own business creating throws and other art works with oversized needles and wool.
Although it is not always possible to find the time to knit when you have a small baby, although I have knitted with a baby on my lap in the past, it may be a way of creating an oasis of calm in what may seem a chaotic time. Creating a bit of time and space for you to regain a sense of yourself in this often challenging time and in the process create something warm and comforting. Equally knitting isn’t for everyone and not everyone will find it therapeutic. As is always the case it is about finding a solution that works for you, as an individual.
I recently read an interesting article on the possible link between how ideal images of mothers can effect the mood of mothers’ and which may contribute to postnatal depression, ‘Do ideal images of mother impact on postnatal depression?’. I think this is a really important issue and one that needs to be challenged in our society. We need more realistic views on the many ways in which women can be mothers. So that new mothers can find their own way of being a mother without feeling like they are failing. One of the ways in which we can challenge the dominant discourse in society is for mothers to begin talking about and sharing their own experiences with other mothers in an open and collaborative way.
Becoming a mother involves a huge upheaval in a mother’s life, whether it is her first or subsequent baby. Life with a baby can also be very different from the one that was imagined. If you are feeling low or sad or are having negative thoughts about your baby or being a mother it might be useful to remember that:
- It is normal to feel low after having your baby
- It is also really good to talk about those feelings with other people such as your family, friends or a professional, so that they can support you
- Sharing your experience openly with other mothers will also help and you will probably find that the other mothers are feeling similar things to you
- It is important to take time for yourself too, to give yourself some space to make sense of how your life has changed and what you are feeling
- You don’t need to be the perfect mother, each mother is different and each mother and baby relationship is different too, you just need to find your own way of being a mother
- You will not be judged for seeking help, in fact the sooner you seek help the sooner you will start to feel better
Sometimes it is hard to know as a new mother if what you are feeling is what you are ‘supposed’ to be feeling. There are no right and wrong responses. Motherhood is a time of great change and as with any great change in life it will be challenging and can stretch your resources. It also takes time to make sense of what your new experience is and your feelings about it. Mothers need supporting at this time of great change. Some mothers may need more emotional support than others, but this doesn’t mean that they are somehow failing or lacking in their abilities to be a mother. The Royal College of Psychiatrists have produced a really good leaflet about Postnatal Depression (PND). Recognising the signs of when things are getting difficult is a way of being aware of when you may need to seek out some more support. These are some of those signs:
- Feeling depressed, low, unhappy or tearful most of the time
- Feeling irritable
- Feeling utterly exhausted and lacking in energy
- Sleeplessness, unable to fall asleep or waking early and worrying about things
- Changes in appetite
- Feeling unable to enjoy anything
- Having negative or guilty thoughts
- Feelings anxious
- Avoiding other people
- Feeling hopeless
The important thing is not to suffer alone.
The Baby Blues are a way of describing how a mother feels emotionally after having a baby, Postnatal Depression (PND) is another. A 2010 research study showed that between 25%-33% of all mothers in the study reported experiencing PND. PND might be seen as being at one end of the spectrum but there are a multitude of ways in which a new mother might feel emotionally after the birth of her baby. Becoming a mother is a life changing event, for which most mothers have little preparation for, or experience of, caring for a new-born baby. Mothers are also given little preparation for how they might feel or the emotional responses they might expect after the birth of their baby. Little has been written about the real life experiences of mothers who are struggling to come to terms with their new life, or who feel sad when they think they should be feeling happy with their new baby. This means that mothers can sometimes suffer in silence because they feel that what they are feeling is not normal or that in some ways they are not being a good mother. It was therefore good to come across Sarah Jane’s blog, who wrote about what it was like for her emotionally after having her fourth baby and her struggles with PND. These real life experiences show that motherhood can be hard emotionally for the mother, even for seasoned mothers of four. They also show that mothers don’t need to suffer alone and that with support things can begin to feel better.