To my friends on Facebook it might have looked like I had it together when I had Ted and I embarked on this journey of motherhood. Copious selfies, pictures of Ted dressed in cute outfits and tales of the lovely walks we had been on may well have created the wrong impression. The truth is, I found it hard – really hard, and struggled for a really long time. After the drama of having a poorly newborn in intensive care I would say I didn’t have the best start to motherhood, but I felt fortunate every day for my healthy, beautiful baby whom I adored. (and still do!) As the weeks went by and the sleepless nights became sleepless weeks, I began to feel really low – exhausted and foggy, and like I wasn’t coping. I am sure every mother to a young baby feels like this – it’s a whole new lifestyle and you can feel isolated and lonely. The walks I posted pictures of were just to get me out of the house, get Ted some fresh air and to try and pick myself up from this dark feeling. I wasn’t in a very happy place and I wouldn’t have got through this time with babywearing or my very supportive and hands-on husband.
Ted woke up very frequently at night (normal) and was a big baby who breastfed very frequently (also normal) and I often attributed my tiredness to these factors. After every fed I felt completely drained, and started to think perhaps it was breastfeeding that was making me feel so utterly depleted. We decided to move on to formula when Ted was five and half months old to see if it gave my body any kind of respite. Although it meant my husband did some night feeds and I was under less physical demand, I still felt terrible. At this point I felt like my friends were all coping much better than me, and wondered what it was I was doing wrong. They were still up several times in the night as most mothers are, so why couldn’t I handle it? I was never remotely on top of housework, took no pride in my appearance and lacked any kind of motivation. I was really emotional and even when Ted’s sleeping improved to just one or two night awakenings (rather than seven or eight) I still didn’t feel human. I was really tearful and one day I said to my husband “I think I need to go to the Doctors.” So I made an appointment and requested to see a female GP thinking she would be more sympathetic – I realise now this was quite sexist of me and also very wrong. When she asked me what I was there for, I burst into tears. I started to explain how I was feeling and that even though I was now 7 months post-partum, I wondered if I was suffering from Post Natal Depression. She typed away on her computer and then handed me a 6 page print out. I was told to go away and read it and if I identified with any of it to come back in two weeks time, and sent home. I felt really stupid for having gone there in the first place, and felt like I was just being silly.
In the meantime, my older sister who had a baby 5 months before me, had been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. We live in different cities but are very close, and she told me the things I had described sounded exactly how she felt and that I should get it checked out. So I went back to the same female GP (it didn’t take me 2 weeks to read those 6 pages after all) and told her I really felt like I should have a blood test to check my thyroid levels, to which she agreed. When I got called back to see her for the results, she announced “Yep, your thyroid has pretty much packed up.”
Oh good. I was relieved that there was more of an explanation as to why I was feeling so rubbish, why my hair was falling out, why I always felt cold, why I absolutely could not control my weight any more and why I felt so low in mood. Hypothyroidism basically means an under-active thyroid, so your body doesn’t produce enough hormones. The treatment is simple, you take a synthetic version of the hormone your body isn’t producing. It takes a while to get the correct level, so it involved a few blood tests and slowly increasing your dosage. When my diagnosis came, I was 6 weeks pregnant. It is preferable for you already to be receiving the correct dose by the time you conceive, so I was put straight on a higher dose and I am being monitored by endocrinologists throughout my pregnancy. My thyroid levels are now as they should be and I am feeling like myself again. I feel upset that it took such a long time to get things figured out and that I had to get to such a low place for it to be sorted, but it gives me hope that I might be able to cope a little bit better with a newborn this time round.
I would urge all new mums who feel like something isn’t right, whether it be physically or emotionally, to go to the Doctors and be persistent. If you are simply not feeling like yourself there could be underlying medical reasons or you may need other support – which is absolutely fine. Always talk about how you feel to other people and don’t try to ignore it for months on end like I did – I really regret that.
Do you suffer from hypothyroidism? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below Xx