The Post-Baby Fog

By Steph
In Motherhood
Mar 16th, 2014
29485 Views
sad face www.soc.napier.ac.uk

My experience of the emotions that come post-baby have left me with the view that there is a spectrum from ‘Baby Blues’ to Postnatal Depression. I think a lot of us sit somewhere in the middle shifting back and forth between feeling ok and like it has all gone horribly wrong. And that first year – to quote Ronan – well, it IS a rollercoaster.

I’ve been on that ride twice myself in the last three and a half years, but also watched friends and family climb aboard and I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn to say that every one of them has found it harder than they were expecting and have suffered from ‘down’ times.  The saddest part about this is that most of us beat ourselves up about it – feel guilty for not coping or for feeling less than happy at an occasion that we’ve been building up to in some cases for nine months but for many a longer time. In turn that can mean we keep quiet about how we’re feeling, or even don’t really recognise that something is up.

The best way I can describe how I felt in the months after both of my babies arrived was that I was in a fog. Sometimes it was thick and dark and I felt incredibly sad, other times angry (mostly with my husband). A lot of the time I just felt like what should have been my happy times were in some way suppressed. I couldn’t let go and relax, a constant feeling of anxiety and that there was something that needed doing. That total responsibility for another being felt huge, and my striving to do it brilliantly and to get it right meant I put myself under massive pressure. This often led to the angry exchanges with my husband; he didn’t feel that anxiety so overwhelming and personal, and as far as he could see for the most part we had happy healthy babies, so I should chill out.

I also felt lost and lonely. All the things that had given me identity – my job, my friendships, my body and my marriage – were not as they were and it felt like they never could be. Some women might feel like they’ve found their role in life, and are more fulfilled. I don’t think I’m alone in saying I certainly didn’t feel like this in those first months. A friend that recently had a baby texted me “I feel….up and down & generally a sort of shadow of my former self as all I’m doing is caring for others and have sort of forgotten what I’m actually like or what I do?! That sounds ridiculous but I can’t explain very well”. I think she actually explains it perfectly; for this period, it can feel like everything that previously made you feel good about yourself, or just feel yourself, is absent.

dustbunnyinthewind.com - fog

For many of us, this is probably the first time in our lives when we might spend days on our own at home with only little people for company, and it’s literally a very solitary time. Even if I did get out, I couldn’t usually concentrate on a conversation with small kids around and a severe case of newborn knackeredness. My brain would be ticking ahead to the next task – would the baby feed, would they sleep, would I make it home or would I need to wang a boob out on a park bench or stop the car and feed in a layby watched by truckers. My husband would say ‘but didn’t you meet up with someone today?’ and I’d feel resentful of his journey to work where he could read a paper and switch off from home. Depending who I was meeting up with, often the conversations didn’t feel very ‘real’ anyway. When new mums do get out, it’s often with people who don’t know you - your background, your family, your ‘fun’ self. Just another knackered looking bird at the park that gets her knockers out and looks harassed.

It’s also not necessarily that it’s miserable at all times, which I appreciate is confusing to our partners and friends, but I found this inconsistency bloody hard to cope with too.

One day the baby has slept well, feeds have been spaced out and successful, you’ve managed to wash and eat, the house isn’t a train wreck and your partner makes it home for bathtime. On these days, I felt like a lioness. Then it all comes crashing down so very quickly; when the sleeping or feeding goes wrong, you pack too much in, you don’t look after yourself and suddenly find you’re spaced out and close to tears and don’t know what to do to get to the end of the day. The thing that I found most surprising, especially after my first baby, is that this little bundle had total and utter control over my emotions. Their mood, happiness or upset completely altered mine. The difference with the second baby is that you’re prepared for this – you know it, and you also know from experience that each day will be different and there will be some shitty days but it doesn’t dictate that the next day will be another one.  You also know that these exceptionally tough first months will come to an end.

Adjusting as a couple takes time; the priority shift, the frayed tempers, the lack of time for each other and oh the resentment. My husband had been working hard recently and I texted him to tell him I loved him and hoped his day was going ok. He said he almost cried at his desk because he knew he had his Stephie back. I wouldn’t have texted that a few months ago as I was too angry all the time, and too busy feeling like the hard done by one in our relationship. With hindsight, a more reasonable mind and some goddamn sleep, I can see that a lot of the time he couldn’t help the things I felt resentful for – he had to go to work, I had to bear the brunt of the childcare and our home, he couldn’t lactate etc etc. He didn’t always help himself. He is after all – and don’t get angry lads – still a man. But I am woman enough to admit that sometimes I may have been a teensy bit irrational.

In both cases, I think I probably felt in a funk on-and-off for much of the first 6-12 months. I can remember a while after having Mabel, my husband and I were in the kitchen and he said something daft and I laughed and we both stopped and looked at each other – it was a genuine, happy laugh and it sounded completely strange. The scary thing is when I was in the fog I didn’t always know it, but I definitely recognised when it lifted. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by this never-ending (but often insignificant) list of things-to-do anymore, I wanted to reconnect with old friends and when I did it was as it always was. I could cope with having the radio on, where for a while I’d found another sound too much for my brain to take. Combine this feeling with a ‘lioness’ day and, let me tell you, it’s a feeling like you’re on top of the world, a choir of angels is singing and you feel ALIVE.

this-too-shall-pass-john-rizzuto

The fog will lift. That first year is tough and I don’t believe you’re in the minority if you struggle. It’s important to work out what makes you feel calmer – help with feeds, holing up as a family at the weekend, getting time out the house or all of the above – and do it. If it feels like something deeper, talk to someone and get help. I went to the doctor when Mabel was a few months old and we came up with a plan in case I didn’t start to feel happier. Going to the doctor was admitting I didn’t feel right, and in itself the action of talking about it helped. It won’t always be that the first person you talk to can ‘fix’ you. And it doesn’t happen overnight; but month by month things get clearer and more consistent and then suddenly you’re coping more than you’re crying. Phew.

I’m learning that sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, worrying about things that really aren’t important. It’s hard to see that when it’s all a bit foggy, and it feels like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. But the world can and will wait. And when you reemerge – and you will – on those lioness days and with a clear head, you can stop and take just a second to see how far you’ve come.

As always, I would love any comments on the post or about your own experiences if you’re up for sharing. 

Related posts A letter to a new mum and When new mums get angry

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If you want to talk to someone but don’t know where to start http://www.patient.co.uk/health/postnatal-depression-leaflet

Pictures: sad face www.soc.napier.ac.uk; Fog www.dustbunnyinthewind.com; This Too Shall Pass (New Jersey) John Rizzuto photography

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43 Comments to “The Post-Baby Fog”

  1. Anna says:

    Really well explained/written. I can say that this is a state I have been in for most of my little ones first year of life. Brought tears to my eyes a few times while reading. Thank you for sharing your experience with us ” living in a fog mums” xxx

  2. Rachel says:

    Really beautifully written post that captures that feeling vividly! The only thing I would add from my experience is that I feel like my husband had this feeling as well and perhaps even more so than me. But that just exacerbated the angst and irritation between us I think! Thank god the sleep deprivation abated over time. Interestingly though, we split mat leave, with me returning to work at 6 months and him taking the next 6 off – and I felt that he went through an experience very like what you describe in the second half of the year, as regards that shift in identity and being overwhelmed by things. I was working 3 days per week and also felt resentful that on top of that, I was also having to pick up the pieces and take the brunt of night times etc. And your description near the beginning of your husband thinking you should chill out, as you had a happy healthy baby – that echoes to the word, but with roles reversed, countless conversations we had in that time! In the early months though I’d been the one to really feel that fog, I think for me until about the end of the fourth month – and as someone who both sees myself as pretty chilled and practical, and also as we had been trying for 3 years for a baby and finally had one through IVF, I often felt puzzled and concerned that I wasn’t just feeling simple elation and delight at the fulfillment of my desires to be a mum, every minute of every day. Thanks for putting together these thoughts so eloquently – I wish I could send it to myself 13-14 months ago!

  3. Honest Mum says:

    A vital, strong, important post. I had a traumatic first birth and it took a long time to heal from it. I agree, the first days, months are tough, you go from previous pre-kids normality to a total utter shift, hormonally thus physically and emotionally and it can be a lonely, bewildering time. My second birth was the opposite, a calm elective after the first crash section with family close by. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

  4. Tory Knowles says:

    So so very true. I remember a neighbour moved in when Arthur was about 6 months and she popped in and saw I had a baby’s she said: Oh so has the fog lifted yet? ‘. I hadn’t thought about it before but something clicked and I started crying! Luckily she understood and we were soon able to laugh about it.

  5. Louise says:

    You have so eloquently articulated my thoughts here – thank you!

  6. Lorna Hayward says:

    Thankyou – such amazing honest words that ring so so true for how I have felt/feel. I wrote the below a few months into having Elsie, I thought you might enjoy it…..

    It’s OK to…

    Miss your old life. Mourn your old life. Look at photos of your old life and cry.
    Feel lonely. Sometimes I cry when I am out walking Elsie because I feel lonely. It’s OK.
    Drink sauvignon blanc in the day. In the pub. Alone (with Elsie) to stave off bedtime.
    Drink sauvignon blanc in the day. In the pub. Alone (with Elsie) to stave off bedtime. Whilst simultaneously breastfeeding
    Drink sauvignon blanc every night
    Not enjoy baby classes. You didn’t before. Why should you now?
    To have thought you wouldn’t enjoy baby classes but after you have your baby to enjoy them. It’s OK to change your mind.
    Shout at your baby “What the f*&k do you want from me?”
    Shout at your baby “What the f*&k do you want from me?” then cry because you feel like a bad Mother. Then laugh because you are crying. Then cry because you are laughing and you think you are mad.
    Eat your babies bogies.
    Feel scared. Of yourself. Of your baby.
    Wear maternity clothes when you are not pregnant.
    Taste your own breastmilk. For those of you that don’t want to. You do really. Or you will. You just won’t tell anyone. But we all know you will. Eventually. Just a little bit ;)
    Use Lansinoh as eye cream.
    Feel bored. You might not. But if you do feel bored – it’s OK.

    List to be continued……..
    And the funny thing is…after a long long day – with 5 hours of broken sleep, feeling like a broken woman…I will still – nearly every night – lie in bed on my phone and scroll through all the photos of my baby girl. Because – despite it being the hardest job I’ve ever not interviewed for – I would not have it any other way. She is my absolute world. My bestest girl. My little lady dynamite.

  7. Gezza says:

    Thank you for writing this you have nailed exactly how I have been feeling. As someone who has tried for a baby for 10 years no one wants to hear that the job of being a mum is relentless or I feel resentful. I love my son but I spend equal parts wondering what happened to my life!! Before my son was born and I heard mums moan about how much they did and how little their partners did. I thought that will never be me, I am strong women I will speak up things will be 50/50. How bloody nieve was I!!! This is only the begining of a very special journey but I wish I could bypass this bit and get to the part when its fun. My son is four months old and thank god he has a kiler smile or else………

  8. It’s so funny this piece came up today. I feel at 14 months I have turned a corner with the boy. We went to rhythm and rhyme. And we went to toys r us and had a happy meal. All with the girl. And you know what? I didn’t feel mental. Or sad. Or shouty. It was actually fun! We had fun. Just the three of us. I often shout at my hub and I don’t know why. I really don’t. I’m hoping the summer will come and it will all calm down. I’ve turned a corner. It’s going to be great! xxx

  9. I can so relate to this, you describe my feelings post-baby brilliantly. I wrote a post about this during my first few months of blogging too and I think for me, these feelings boil down to a loss of control (yes, I’m a control freak at heart). Having a baby sends and kind of ‘life as you know it’ to spiral out of control. I found this hard to come to terms with but the good news is that with every subsequent baby, it got easier!

  10. Adele says:

    Thank you for sharing! Your last two posts have sounded like my life. I’ve asked my husband to read them because I haven’t had much success in explaining my feelings properly.

    The fog that engulfs you when you have your first baby is overwhelming to say the least and the comment you make about getting used to spending days alone with a baby to look after on your own is the one thing I really struggled with in the beginning and I used to always wonder what ‘everyone else’ was doing and really felt like I was missing out on the fun things I used to do pre kids. I also harboured resentment for my husband who worked (coffee meetings and evening functions never seemed so desirable!!) and he also spent every spare minute he had before and after work (the first 6 months of our (first) baby’s life) training for an IronMan. Here I was unable to do a thing after a c-section, while my husband was energised and getting fit! Bastard!!!

    Another baby later, still no family support, moving countries and studying.. I now feel like a lioness!

    I look forward to your next post (on my life!!)

    X

  11. gezza says:

    As a new mum of a four month old you have described the last three months of my life, perfectly. As a woman that had tried for 10 years to have a child the two words that best describe my current situation is resentful (how I feel about my partner) and relentless (how I feel about my son). The sad fact is no one wants to hear me utter those words in case I sound ungrateful for having a child and partner when so many haven’t. I look back now and realise how nieve I was about the responsibility of raising a baby. I was going to be different caring for our child would be a fair 50/50 split, after all that’s how we ran our home pre the baby. How wrong could I have been!!! What I actually need is my partner to have the intuition of woman to really be able to help me. Ahhh well the joys of motherhood I know it will get easier but is it wrong to wonder why do we do it?

  12. Sinead says:

    Superbly written piece, described every tiny detail of how I felt 14 years ago when my eldest son was born. The pressure to be everything to everyone in those first months was immense. The resentment…my husband going to work, having a ‘life’ and my life being utterly controlled by a small baby. The loneliness….imagine I actually felt jealous because my son was receiving all of this love from grandparents etc. I just felt like the vessel that delivered their hearts desire and was now cast aside. A fog indeed. Thanks for being so open, I found it hugely balming. X

  13. @myPNDstory says:

    So brilliantly written. I find it so hard to explain these feelings and you’ve done it so well. How do we expose/share these feelings with mums-to-be and new mums and make them realise it is normal?

    • Steph says:

      Hi – thank you so much for commenting. I think it’s tough as when you’re pregnant there’s enough going on without someone telling you it might be a bit miserable for a while! But I do think we can support each other better, and maybe start with some honesty if we’re talking to a new mum that might be feeling it?

  14. this is a fantastic post, so well written and you can tell it comes from the heart. i don’t have a child myself so i find it hard to relate, but i can see how this would be so helpful and such a great post for people going through similar things.

  15. Amazing post. Really resonated with me. I still feel just like how you describe and my son is 4. He has autism and in many ways it is like he is still at the baby stage and it is very difficult. I have good days, your lioness days and then others my head is just cloudy and simple tasks like brushing my hair feel so difficult. I’m plodding on as I know things will get better. Thanks for such a wonderful post.

  16. Kate says:

    So well written.So honest.So true about the ups and downs-I tend to have really good days-the sun is shining, we get out and about, baby sleeps, older child eats well -then the bad days-it pisses rain for weeks on end, stuck inside, partner away all week,baby not sleeping.It’s like a rollercoaster!I’m glad to hear I’m not alone.I am happy-ecstatic even, I am anxious, I am tired, I am proud,I am emotional.Oh and the resentment…don’t get me started on the resentment…

  17. Jen Walshaw says:

    As someone that had PND, I understand that this can happen. Mine came after 12 months. Well done for a great post

  18. My twins are now 24m and during the first year I had days like this but I’m sure a lot of it was down to sleep deprivation. A great post that will help someone realise they are not alone x

  19. It’s great when people share their experiences so honestly – it will help others know that they’re not alone x x x

  20. Beth Hardie says:

    Great words Steph. This goes right to what so many mums I know have exprienced. As somebody looking forward to starting a family, it does terrify me that my history of depression and anxiety might create some problems for me post baby. However, one thing that reassures me is an open and supportive sisterhood that I’m sure will be a crucial resource for me should I need it. Thanks for your honest and considerable contribution to this.

  21. I’m sure a lot of people will benefit from you sharing your experiences of what is a subject that is not often discussed

  22. Bernadette says:

    I remember baking my first cake about 2 months after my daughter was born & thinking to myself, I’ve done it! I’m finally able to achieve something other than just looking after a baby – the fog was beginning to clear.

  23. Nicola Howarth says:

    What a fab post. Not only was it beautifully written and completely honest, it really spoke out to me and as I can see a lot of others – well done Steph!! I’ve just read this in peace and quiet whilst D was giving P her tea and I almost shed a tear of joy to think how far we as a family have come over the past year and how much of a lioness I’m feeling today ;) Thank you for writing this one xx

  24. Ninjacat says:

    I got so foggy once that after changing my son I accidentally left him on the changing mat luckily he was ok , the fog soon sifted .

  25. Great post! I can identify with so much that you have written, Baby will be 1 in 2 weeks so I am nearly at the year marker x

  26. alicia says:

    I absolutely love this blog, tears and laughter! So true u do come out the other side. For all the pain, blood, sweat and tears its worth it when u can spend a day in the garden in the sun with kids playing, man on the bbq and think I am actually relaxed! Have done this today and it felt great. Thank u Steph x

  27. A great description. I also had to leave my daughters father when she was 3 months old so the fog also felt like I was suffocating sometimes. I can truly associate with that. Thanks for linking to PoCoLo again :) x

  28. Jo Bryan says:

    Oh yes I identify with this, I had twins and I bordered on the hysterical which was and is so unlike me. Lots of hormones, huge responsibility and maybe your brain keeps you in the fog to preserve us.

  29. I suffer with depression and having kids changes your world .x

  30. Emma says:

    Another perfectly honest and open blog. I wish more women would be this open and then we wouldn’t feel so alone when we are stuck in the fog. I will be sharing – especially for those friends with new babies xxx

  31. Kate O says:

    This is all so true. My two monkeys are 3 and 4.5 now and I am honestly only just back to feeling like the old me again without my head racing about what I should/shouldn’t be doing or what my little ones should/shouldn’t be doing. Now I am just pleased they are happy and healthy and it is very.liberating :-D
    Great blog xxx

  32. Sonya Cisco says:

    It can be such an incredibly hard time. I feel blessed to have not had to face this with mine, although of course there were the odd hard days! Such fantastic writing, and it is of great reassurance to anyone in the middle of the fog to know that they are not the only ones to have felt like this, and to know that it ends.

  33. Terry says:

    After I had my Daughter, my whole life changed. I had no idea what I was doing and babies don’t come with a manual on what to expect. It does help when you have family that lives close, but I lived in New York City and my family was far away… Good thing the fog does pass!!

  34. Having a baby turns your whole world upside down. I was a nanny pre my own kids and kind of knew what to expect but I still struggled.

  35. Michelle says:

    Having my son 15 years ago, set me off with depression. I don’t remember suffering it before, and sadly, at the time, no one noticed it, until he was around 3 years old and about to start nursery. My health visitor picked up on it and referred me for counselling which helped at the time. I think it’s the worry of having this little person to look after, care for, protect and love that throws your mind into turmoil. And it continues for the ever. I might not be depressed all the time, but I do fall into bouts of it, even now – am I good mum, was a I good mum? I failed as a mum, why didn’t I do this…

  36. SamV says:

    After having Gen I was in a constant state of panic. It was that pit of the stomach fear you get when you have a near miss in the car or you lose one of
    the children for a split second. I couldn’t tell anyone and it manifested itself in six months of illness. Awful time.

  37. Thank you so much for writing this. it’s sad that, even today, it is considered by many to be something that we wouldn’t want to admit to, but, if we did, some of the loneliness would evaporate, as we would realise we are not the only ones. It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, in a way, as we feel down, because we feel we can’t cope, make ourselves feel worse by judging ourselves, which leads to feeling more miserable and not coping. POsts like yours really help!

  38. Beautifully written and heart touchingly open. You are so right – I’ve been oscillating on the spectrum for years post babies and it’s really just as you describe. Well done for putting it into words. xx

  39. Steph C. says:

    Steph Wow! This is just brilliant. Congratulations you have put in to words how I imagine the vast majority of new Mums (myself included) feel after a new baby arrives.
    Thank you for helping us realise we are not alone in this post baby fog :-) x

  40. It is incredibly difficult. I suffered with and to varying degrees with both kids, and I think it was the loss of identity I struggled with. It does get better though and I advise anyonyone whonfeels that fog to speak to someone – doesn’t matter who but it makes it feel so much easier!!

    • SP says:

      No kids (yet) but I recognise the feelings of depression. I’ve always thought of it like a cloud hanging over me. A lady in my choir shared her story at a charity event about how she had to cope with being a single mum to triplets & a toddler. She got help from charity. I often think of her and feel v grateful for my family & friends.