How Postnatal Depression Makes Me A Control Freak
Scratching our heads, Matt and I studied the open boot of our estate car trying to figure out how we can possibly fit in everything we need. How can such a tiny dot of a baby need such a vast amount of stuff? We have managed to condense our own things into one small bag and the rest of the boot and back seat space seems to be taken up with 7 month old Mabel’s pushchair, travel cot, clothes, snacks, nappies…you get the picture.
I Am A Control Freak
Part of my postnatal depression is feeling the need to be in control of everything and feeling solely responsible for Mabel. I know this just sounds like mum behaviour but it was taking over. It started when she was little. If she gets too hot she’s going to die. If she gets too cold she’s going to die.I haven’t fed her enough. I’ve fed her too much. Have I changed her nappy enough? Too much?! Now it’s more along the lines of what if we forget something? What if I didn’t pack enough nappies? What if I haven’t planned for every possible scenario?
The answer is, I would feel like a failure. A disaster. You didn’t pack enough nappies? Don’t you know your own baby? Don’t you know how to be a mum? And this cruel taunting voice is in my own head. I would never speak to anyone the way I speak to myself and would be utterly mortified if I thought my words had made them feel as bad as the way I make myself feel. I would check and recheck the change bag before leaving the house so how was I going to be able to pack for a whole weekend?
A Challenge For The Control Freak
Anyway, after discussing this with my Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, she explained that hanging on to the checking behaviours, whether mentally or physically, is not helping. I will never mentally prepare for every eventuality and I can always have packed and prepared more so I’m never going to win in this contest against myself. I need to relax. Great, but how? She suggested letting Matt pack for a whole weekend for Mabel next time. Is she mad? This man can barely pack for himself never mind a 7 month old. (I once caught him drying his freshly washed socks with a hairdryer the night before we were flying to Crete. That’s how last minute we’re talking here.) But here’s a professional woman and if she says this is what I must do then I will. And he’s a fully grown man so what could possibly go wrong?
So I packed my things and waited. Matt was totally up for it; “I just need a few nappies and some clothes, right?” I tried not to visibly wince. My anxiety levels were starting to soar as he went from room to room collecting the things he needed. I tried not to watch but couldn’t help mentally ticking things off the list in my head, the things he missed seeming to jump out at me as they sat unchosen on the worktop or coffee table. “Gah! You start packing the car, I’ll finish off in here!”
I crumbled. I just figured that I could let him do it and I know the world wouldn’t stop turning if we forgot her favourite bunny or enough pairs of socks, but it would annoy me and probably cause an argument. Yes we could cope if we had no nappies but it would mean a trip to the shop and wasting time on our weekend so why not just be prepared in the first place? But even though I thought I was doing the right thing by taking over at the last minute, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had failed. I was desperate to help myself but had ignored advice from an expert. Silly me.
Round Two…For The Control Freak
Skip forward to Sunday lunch time. Matt, Mabel and I, along with the couple of friends we were visiting, decided to go out for a pub lunch. Now’s my chance, I thought. Matt can pack the change bag and I can relinquish control. OK it would be on a smaller scale, but if battling postnatal depression has taught me anything, it’s that getting better is all about the small steps.
So again, Matt starts collecting items for baby girl. Feeling edgy, Mabel’s water beaker glared at me from the table, her bowl was still tucked away in the cupboard and I was pretty sure no toys had been picked out of her bag. But I sat with the feeling, and to my surprise, it didn’t get worse but gradually faded. When we arrived at the pub and I started rifling through the change bag for all the things she needed, I found he had actually packed a couple of toys, but no water beaker or bowl.
Now, I don’t mean this story to end in an anti-climax but the world didn’t end. Mabel didn’t have a meltdown. We didn’t argue. We managed. In fact, we more than managed; we had a lovely relaxing afternoon. Mabel drank bottled water out of my glass, even if more water went on the seat/floor/table/me/the waitress/the woman on the next table. And she ate food from my plate. Crazy right? And I relaxed and realised I’m not the only one capable of looking after our baby… At this moment, unsure of what to write next I read the post to my partner in crime, Matt (rather apologetically, as I don’t exactly give him an easy time in this piece!) He said, “Sometimes you need to lose control in order to be free” He can’t remember who said it originally, but wise words all the same.
About Me: Im Laura: 31 year old mum to scrumptious 7 month old Mabel Lavender. I’ve been battling postnatal depression and anxiety for about 5 months and think I am gradually winning the fight! I write a blog about my experiences to spread a bit of awareness and give some reassurance to women who are going through the same thing. You can find my blog at babymabymama.wordpress.com
Edited By Mummyitsok