Postnatal illness (PNI) is a nasty, horrible and invasive chameleon that gets it’s little feet into you. I call it a chameleon because it adapts, changes and mutates to fit you. Almost to the point where there doesn’t feel to be any commonality with anyone else. It eats away at your confidence, feeds on your joy and can often destroy your relationship with the people around you. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the way it can affect the relationship you have with your child.
And people hide it. It feels like a shameful thing to admit that you can’t cope as a parent, especially if it’s not your first child! What makes this one any different from the last? And if its your first baby, it can put you off having more because, well, who’d put themselves through the potential of that happening again? But what about those people around you? And what if you don’t know your ill? I didn’t.
So today I’d like to talk to the people around you, not you. You go sit down and take some “you” time. That’s right, it’s time for the other folks out there to listen up, step up and do. But, if you do have or think you might have postnatal illness, then you can always pass this to someone else to read……
Okay so you’re worried about your friend, sibling, cousin, neighbour…..that’s good. Why? Because it means you’re paying attention and that you’ve taken the first step in getting to the bottom of the problem. Because you’ve noted that there is a problem, even if no one else had. Also note, I am not just talking to the ladies here; no, no! Men can be affected by postnatal illness too. So let’s not get all stereotype-y on each other and just think this is a “lady problem”. It certainly is not!
And for those of you who like figures, 1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men can get post-baby crazy, just like I did – and, looking back now, I’m fairly sure my hubby did too.
Spotting the Signs
You’ve noticed. Step 1 in the bag! I said at the top there that this damn illness is a chameleon and can look different on different people. That’s true. But there are a few core things that might start to show themselves and these are the things that you’ve noticed.
Something a little off? Someone not quite the same as they were pre-tiny-human? And remember they’re going to be tired and different in some ways because they have a helpless person to look after. But something else? Things you might notice:
- A sudden or new indifference or anger towards a partner, friend, new baby or other children
- A lack of joy in their being – something fundamentally different about the way they are (and not just exhaustion!)
- Acting unusually, making decisions that surprise you or are different from how you predict that person might have behaved
These are things that you can notice from the outside but no one really knows about from the person we’re talking about. So, here is a printable checklist that lists some common feelings that someone with postnatal illness might experience. Get yours free by clicking below:
Whether diagnosed with PNI or not, parenting is hard and can massively suck sometimes. It’s also awesome, draining, amazing, frustrating, fulfilling, demoralising…..throw me some more adjectives! The point is, offering help and support outside of the first few weeks is vital to helping a new parent, ill or not. Some tips:
Offering help but knowing the line – this one is tricky because offering help is all well and good but, your good will could be perceived as suggesting the person can’t/won’t do these things themselves. Let’s take the washing up as a random little example. You know it will really help by doing it, you’ve seen it piled up there and you’re sat having a cup of tea talking nicely. You know the person well enough to decide whether to:
- just get up and do it
- ask with huge emphasis on you wanting to help but not saying they can’t
- just outright ask and see what happens
- offer to wash while he/she dries (compromise help)
- do something else to help – like offer to hold the baby
- ignore the washing up – friendship/love first!
These are the areas that are most difficult because it’s easy to be perceived as interfering or suggesting a person is incapable – when in actual fact – you’re just trying to help. It’s borderline so be careful. Judge each scenario by how well you know the person and how they’ve been reacting to similar situations since the baby was born. Don’t upset the apple cart over “just trying to help”.
You can grab the free check list of other little examples. All things you can do, offers not forced, to help someone with a new baby or someone you think is/diagnosed as suffering with PNI.
The most important thing, above all else, is to listen. It sounds shockingly simple and people will say they do that anyway. chances are, you don’t. You hear and your brain tries to solve the problem. Stop. Listen without judgement, without solution or problem solving. Just listen to them. Which brings me nicely onto the final point today…..
Show them Love
you do not have to be a rocket scientist, or at least a psychologist to look after, help or support a person with PNI or a new parent. It’s soooooooooo hard and shocking to the system, whether it’s a first child or fifteenth; each kid is different so it doesn’t ever get easier. It gets different. So, as a spectator, the best thing you can do is love and forgive that person. Never be a “bigger, blacker dog” (which is one of my favourite sayings about people who have been there, done that, eaten the pie and worn the tee shirt!) It’s annoying in this instance because each person experiences emotions differently.
Of course, advice on how you did things when you’re kid cried for 1000 hours of the day is fine. But know that it might not make them feel the same way it made you feel. Know that what worked for your child might not work for theirs. Know that you are your own person, with your own experiences and that someone else, whoever they me be will see each thing, each experience, each event, each emotion – differently.
The one thing you can do & say is this:
I love you because…….I care for you because…….you are special because……
Provide the person with a solid network of ears, arms and heart (listen, hug and love), and you cant go far wrong. Doing this solidify’s the persons belief in themselves, which can be shaken to it’s very core when a new baby is born. Just be there like you always have been and love them like you always did. Forgive small indiscretions; this thing is the hardest thing in the world and you can hurt people you love. Remind the person every day that you are there, you are listening and you are ready to help when they need it. Get them talking!
You can get a lovely little bundle of all the tick lists mentioned above, plus a copy of a beautiful printable (a little quote I made up for me and my little family that I wanted to share with you all) below. It’s all free, and you never know; you might just find it helps someone, somewhere, to love themselves and get through the other side.
I’ve told my story to help others and you can get a copy here: