When the baby blues hit without warning

Nine weeks into new motherhood with her third baby, Annie Ridout was surprised when she started feeling blue. But a good pep talk with her mum and some self-care helped to keep her on track. Here’s what happened…

I woke up on Sunday morning feeling down. I’d had a few drinks Saturday afternoon, nothing too wild (gin, though…). But as soon as I opened my eyes, I knew something was up.

I tried to meditate but could only see darkness. I tried my mantras but didn’t believe the words. I went down to the kitchen and sat with it all for a while before telling my husband I didn’t feel very happy.

He was kind, and listened, and we agreed to do something with our day as a distraction.

We got everyone ready and headed for Islington. It was rainy and grey and we thought the Daylight Music at Union Chapel would be perfect: a drop-in family event. That day’s concert would include two grand pianos (my dream, as a piano-player). The kids were really excited.

We got to Angel, had a vegan lunch at Wild Food Cafe that went down surprisingly well (nice big space if you have kids), then headed to the event. But it was empty because I’d got the day wrong; we were 24 hours late.

I sat on a pew, breastfeeding, while we decided what to do. But I couldn’t decide because I desperately didn’t want to go home, the thought made me panic, but I knew the baby probably did. I felt really indecisive.

When my mind isn’t quite right, I try desperately to adjust my thoughts and my day to improve it. And usually, I can. But it wasn’t just about me – there was a five-year-old, two-year-old and nine-week-old to consider, too…

In the end, we got the Tube back, bought some craft materials and set the kids up. I don’t normally care about screens but I felt strongly that I didn’t want them to just slump in front of the telly. Maybe because I know it can put them in a grump and I couldn’t deal with that.

They were happily playing and I was drinking a cup of tea but started to feel weird. I put it down and couldn’t remember if I’d started or finished it. My body felt odd – like it wasn’t my own. I passed the baby to Rich and said I needed to go upstairs.

My fear, all day, was that postnatal depression was about to hit. I’ve escaped it each time and thought: right, now it’s happening. I phoned my mum, who was abroad, and burst into tears. I knew that I needed to cry, and I knew that speaking to my mum would make the tears flow.

She gently explained that how I was feeling was ok, and normal. I have crazy hormones, I’m functioning on not enough sleep and have three young kids. She suggested I run a bath. After our chat, I did exactly that – with loads of bubble bath, candles, hormone-balancing oil.

I cried more. I think I’ve been storing up lots of emotional stuff, as I don’t cry often enough and when you don’t have that release, it can begin to darken and block your thoughts. It made me feel calmer and cleared my head.

Then I got out of the bath, put on fresh pyjamas and a lovely soft dressing gown. I pulled out some new thick, soft socks and put them on for the first time. I’m not normally into daytime pyjama-wearing but I needed to feel really comfortable and cosy.

The baby wanted a feed so my husband brought him up and I fed him. Then I went downstairs and sat with the kids while Rich went shopping and made dinner.

I left my phone on the side and chatted with the children. We had good conversations. Interestingly, they were so well-behaved all day; uncharacteristically so. I wonder if they picked up on my low mood?

After dinner, I started getting the baby ready for bed (at 6pm). I felt exhausted. He didn’t settle, Rich helped too, but at 9pm I brought him to bed with me and he slept soundly for a few hours – until the wind started and he writhed and fed and we somehow got through the night.

This might be over-sharing. It might seem like nothing. I might sound like I’m over-dramatising. But it might be how other new mums are feeling, so that’s why I’m putting it up here.

I’m feeling this way because I’m a tired, hormonal new mum. I think I had a panic attack – that was the weird body thing. These feelings will shift and everything will be fine. I know, because I’ve been here before. But it may just take a day or two.

So I’m going to stay cosy, try to not let guilt seep in – about everything, because at times like this it really tries to – and keep moving through it.

Did you get the ‘baby blues’? How did you deal with it?