By Jo Fiddy
Dear new mamas: I see you.
Navigating as a new mum is a challenging time, and the year of firsts is filled with a mixture of emotions, from joy, laughter, and gratitude for this beautiful little human, through to exhaustive tears, frustration, and anxiety as we grow into our role as a mum.
As an expat mama it can be especially challenging, even before the world turned upside down and we found ourselves parenting in a pandemic. We are experiencing life as a parent that we were not prepared for. It is no surprise that some of us are feeling more anxious than usual, especially with sleep deprivation, caring for a little one 24/7 and lack of outside support, alongside Covid-19.
Postpartum depression is widely discussed, but something that is not talked about as much is postpartum anxiety. Around 10 to 15% of new mums suffer from postpartum anxiety and about half of those who have postpartum depression will also experience postpartum anxiety.*
When I became pregnant, it was a welcome surprise, but with that came the looming dread that I was in the high-risk category for pre- and postnatal depression and anxiety. I had previously experienced anxiety and depression, my local language skills are limited and I had only a handful of friends here in Munich. Isolation and loneliness are some of the triggers for mental health issues with new mamas.
According to Anxiety UK there are three types of postnatal anxiety:
- Postnatal generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): This can present as a constant state of high anxiety, with worries about everything about your child’s health, feeding, your ability to parent, or that something bad might happen. This should be distinguished from the normal worries that new mums have, the difference being it will have a negative impact on your life.
- Postnatal obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD): This can be one of the most distressing types of postnatal anxiety. This is because it is often accompanied by distressing thoughts and images, about harm coming to your baby either on behalf of the mum or others (there is never any intention to do this on the mum’s behalf). Mums can often feel very isolated with these feelings and worried about discussing them with family or their health visitor.
- Postnatal health anxiety: A form of health anxiety, with an excessive preoccupation that there may be something wrong with their baby, this leads to repeated medical investigations, but as with traditional health anxiety, results rarely reassure the new mum in the long term.
Becoming a parent can be full of fraught moments, such as taking those tentative first steps outside with a baby, or when they have a spike in temperature or won’t feed. Just being a new mum and knowing that you are responsible for them is enough to bring on a wave of intensity. It is normal to experience moments of anxiety and to feel overwhelmed; however, what can you do when anxiety reaches a point where it is taking over or you feel like something is actually off?
1) Speak Up
Never be afraid to speak up. Shame lives in the shadows and secrets; it cannot survive in the light. Once you out shame by talking to a trusted friend, family member, or a trained professional, shame loses its power. If you are not feeling like yourself these days, know that you are not alone and that you do not need to live this way. Knowing how to turn off the anxiety switch has transformed my life, and you can do the same.
2) Find your Tribe
Before I had my daughter, my friend group in Munich was quite small and isolating. Thanks to the parenting community here in this beautiful city, I have met an abundance of inspirational women who have shown such kindness, generosity, and support. Being able to pick up the phone and ask for help or to receive a reassuring nod of yes, that happened to me, too, as well as the warmth of support, iis invaluable in lifting a tattered sleep-deprived self-esteem.
The friends I have made since becoming a mother are friends for life. We are in it together, with no judgement, no shame, and always here for unwavering support. This is why Über Moms is such a special, nurturing community of women: it encourages mamas to get together, to lift each other up through the good and the challenging times. We have free virtual classes during the Covid-19 pandemic to support our mental health, and then the monthly meet-ups will return once we are allowed to safely socialise again.
For new mamas the following places are also an excellent resource in Munich:
- Pippagina with Lynn and Jacquetta: popular postnatal and baby group classes
- Sweet Pea: a pre- and postnatal group lead by Julie
- La Leche Breastfeeding support is a great resource, especially for those who cannot find a midwife. They are offering online and phone support.
- Facebook group Munich Mums 2020: a busy hive of activity with mamas
- YogaBee, once it opens again, is another resource for expectant mothers.
Sometime all it takes is a coffee and a catch up with a trusted friend to help you through a tough day.
3) Speak to a professional
If you think you are experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, then speak to a trained professional therapist. There is a fantastic selection of skilled therapists and alternative well-being practitioners here in Munich that are offering online services during Covid-19.
CBT: Cogitative Behavior Therapy is one therapy that is highly recommended for postpartum anxiety and depression. With my history, booking a few sessions with a CBT therapist towards the latter part of my pregnancy was very beneficial to check in that I was okay.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is an innovative new technique that supports the fight and flight response in the brain and has a positive effect in calming the nervous system. It is a simple yet effective technique for treating anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.
4) Self Care
If you can, go for a walk with your baby in the pram or carrier and leave the house. Breathe in some much-needed fresh air and change your landscape. Let the house chores wait. Eat something, have a cup of tea (or favourite hot mug of comfort) and keep drinking water. Dial down the negative voice and know that you are doing the most outstanding job in hard conditions. The fact that you continue to care, cuddle, and clean with little sleep and without the support that new mums normally receive during this time is testament to how outstanding you are. You are enough, and please be gentle with yourself and speak up if you are struggling. We are here for you.
Jo Fiddy is mum to her toddling one-year-old daughter and lives in Munich with her partner, Simon. A Life Coach and Integrated Energy Practitioner, Jo is dedicated to supporting women and helping them to thrive in life.
Being in Munich was not part of the plan, but ripping up her roadmap was the best thing she could have ever done. A chance meeting in the Andaman Islands led to a romance that brought her to Munich from London.
Jo thoroughly enjoys exploring the beautiful Bavarian wilderness. A hippy at heart, Jo loves dancing, camping under the stars, meeting new faces and slurping coffee with mum friends.