The Emotional Rollercoaster
You’ve just had a baby, how wonderful! It’s the most amazing and joyful time isn’t it? Well, yes. But not all the time! In motherhood it is not unusual to feel a huge spectrum of emotions - maybe some you've never experienced before - and you may feel them stronger than you've ever felt them before.
It might surprise you, but one of the most common feelings as a new mum is feeling irritable, angry or even full of rage. Does this resonate with you? Other very common emotions are anxiety, overwhelm, sadness, exhaustion, guilt and those feelings of failure we talked about last week. This roller-coaster of emotions can feel pretty scary and overwhelming and it is easy to get stuck in them, especially when they are new to us.
It's so important to remember that these emotions are very human reactions to the situations we face. These evolutionary mechanisms were designed to communicate something to us to motivate us to action. They are not our fault and our emotions do not define us.
Here we want to open up the conversation on this roller-coaster of motherhood emotions. Talk about the good the bad and the ugly - the realities of them all. We want to share strategies and tools for riding this roller coaster. Have a look at these personal stories and get involved yourself - write a post or share on your stories on social media with #letstalkabout and #motherhoodtherealdeal.
What was your experience? What was your real deal? What big scary emotions did you experience? How did you navigate them? What are your top tips for mums struggling right now?
Let's get the conversation going and #LetsTalkAbout ....The Emotional Roller Coaster of Motherhood.
Below we've shared our personal stories and coping tools on this topic.
Mothering can bring out the best and the worst in all of us and when it’s the latter it can be quite a shock. With my eldest nearly 14 and my youngest twins at 6, I’ve had years on the emotional rollercoaster of motherhood and I’m still learning, every day, in every way. Even therapists need constant reflection and work along the ride!
So when it’s good, wow, it’s mega good and when it’s bad, it’s horrid. My heart swells and sinks daily. I cope in several ways, depending on how intense the emotions are that I’m feeling.
Firstly, it’s a few slow, conscious, mindful breaths from the diaphragm and fairly loudly out of the mouth. Secondly, it’s noting the emotion that I feel and sitting with it. For example, “I am angry’, said 3 times. Then I forgive myself and my children and I ALWAYS hug, kiss and explain the why’s. It’s important for our kids to see that not only is it ok to express emotions, but that we must always allow loving space to talk about it, forgive, be compassionate, kind and move on with our day.
Sophie's top tips
Accept that motherhood is full of ups and downs. Do your best not to react as a child would. Take a breath, note the emotion and fill the space with loving kindness and compassion. We all make mistakes. It’s how we learn. The important thing to note is that we can learn and reflect on our emotional reactions so we can manage with a more balanced perspective.
Some people are more “spicy” than others and that’s ok as long as it isn’t harming our children or ourselves. If you think this is the case, please speak to a professional who will be able to help and give you a safe space to talk about it.
Emma Svanberg, @mumologist, has written a great piece for the Nourish app on Acceptance and Compassion. I’ve also contributed a mindful breath and compassion-based meditation on softening and soothing. Olivia’s, @findingmamashappyplace, Ocean Breath and Suzy’s, @suzyreading, Lion breath are both great instant aids too.
I’ve become so much more strongly acquainted with my emotions since becoming a mum. It’s not just the strength of the emotions which surprise me, but the enormity of the range. I can feel like I’m skipping over rainbows and then losing the will to live… sometimes within moments of one another!
I’m learning to appreciate that motherhood is both messy and marvellous. Giving myself permission to feel my emotions has been really helpful - seeing every emotion in my range as valid rather than trying to brush them away. I find great comfort in the idea that by being real in front of my kids, I’m teaching them that it’s real to feel.
Nikki's top tips
My top tip is to remember that even though it might feel like it, our emotions do not define who we are. In those moments where emotions feel all consuming – try to take some deep purposeful breaths and name the emotion aloud (e.g. ‘frustration’, ‘guilt’, ‘tiredness’). Then try to layer on some comforting words to yourself like ‘my emotions don’t define me’, ‘it’s real to feel’ and ‘it’s OK’.
I created the ‘It’s real to feel’ meditation you can find on the Nourish app for this exact purpose – to help me manage the roller-coaster of big feelings as a mum. It’s designed to help you to soften into your emotions a little and reminds you that you are not alone.
I was totally unprepared for the emotional demands of motherhood and the emotions motherhood would draw out of me. I always thought I’d be a really calm, lovely, emotionally aware mum who would just say the right thing and do the right thing at the right time. The reality was that I was in freefall after birth, juggling work and family life & exhausted a lot of the time.
80% of the time it was as I’d expected, but the tiredness and lack of control in my life led to frustration and feelings I hadn’t seen coming. Resentment at my partner, frustration when my baby wouldn’t sleep, moments of rage where I would just need to leave the room and cry somewhere, letting out a silent scream or sometimes a real scream.
Then of course there was the shame and guilt at those moments where my emotions weren’t comfortable and it didn’t feel nice, I didn’t feel nice. These emotions that no one had talked about and I thought I was a rubbish mother and the only one feeling them.
How did I cope? By stepping away, reconnecting with myself and asking for help or taking it when it was offered. Speaking to someone; a friend and also a therapist who helped me see the normalness of those emotions in those situations. Learning to be kind and understanding towards myself rather than beat myself up for being human.
Sakina's top tips
Reach out, speak to someone you trust and if there is no one in your network look at great organisations like Homestart or just connect on social media.
Ask for help, practical and emotional.
Know you’re brilliant and be kind to yourself - this stuff is tough at times. Sometimes you also just need to get out of the house; a change of scene can do wonders for emotions too.
Have a look at these wonderful resources on the Nourish app:
@suzyreading’s quick care tips. You can just slot them into a chaotic day with kids without having to think too much and Suzy’s work in movement and mood is profound - if we shift physically often our mood shifts.
@tenofzen - compassionate mindfulness for just noticing how we feel, holding it without judgement and seeing if we can soften at all.
From the moment we got her home, we entered into our love bubble bouncing around with an overwhelming sense of love for this little person. Our small London flat needed a revolving door for the amount of visitors we had. Then after about 3 months, reality hit. My mum had left me, husband was back at work, visitors started to disappear and I was alone with this little human 100% dependent on me. Oh f*ck...
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I didn’t read baby books in the run up, I felt like we couldn’t get into a “routine” because every day was so different and I just told myself it would all just fall into place. Quite often when she cried it was because I’d probably set her off with my own wailing.
I was breastfeeding, she refused a bottle and was feeding like a demon, every few hours. I hated myself for wanting a break. I was in a permanent state of exhaustion and all I could think about was running away, just for a few hours to be “me”. As much as I loved my child I craved adult conversation. The girls I’d met in my NCT class plus a couple of other mum friends were my lifeline, but there were days when I couldn’t even face getting dressed to go and meet them.
I spent many hours sitting crying on our couch with my big veiny boobs leaking everywhere staring at my baby thinking “you deserve a better mum”. My husband would get home, the house would be a mess and I looked just as bad, he would say “go to my mum’s and they will help you”, but I couldn’t help but think they would judge me too.
I realised I needed help and once that had settled with me it was like a turning point. I trotted off to the doctors and was diagnosed with PND and prescribed Sertraline.
Even then I remember stashing the box, refusing to accept I was depressed and saying I could fix myself. It was months later when the feelings of loneliness and self doubt crept back that I gave in and took the tablets.
I’ll never forget the Doctor saying “this isn’t a reflection on you, it’s not a failing. This is a chemical imbalance in your brain, almost like two crucial parts have separated and these tablets will bring them back together”. It was a real turning point for me and all of a sudden it started getting easier.
Joanna's top tips
Being honest about how I was feeling opened up so many stories from others who were going through the same thing, not that you’d know from their social media posts! That’s when I decided to blog. For me writing down my experiences was a release. What I loved most was when it resonated with people.
I learned that stay at home days are ok, some baby classes are sh!te and specifically designed for mums out to compare themselves against others - so what if you don’t know the words to nursery rhymes? Not wearing make up, but wearing clothes two days in a row is also ok.
Some friends will get it when you have to let them down for some baby related issue, some won’t. Let go of people who don’t support you and cling on to those that do.
Most importantly put your hand up for help when it’s getting too much - we’re not superheroes. Your house might be a mess, piles of washing in every room and you look like Edward Scissorhands, but if your child is happy, warm, fed and ALIVE at the end of these long days then you’re doing something right.
Stay strong x