Today there are so many pressures on us to perform to be able to do many things simultaneously and at top speed. The life you had before you became a parent will no longer exist no matter how hard you try and hang on to it.
Nothing else is as important as that new life
I was totally and utterly unprepared for what came when I was expecting my first. Like most new parents, I read up all about looking after baby and giving birth and even attended antenatal classes. However, when that baby comes along none of that really helps. Suddenly, you can’t go anywhere quickly, taking a shower is a luxury and your needs are pushed to the very back of everyone else’s, nothing else is important but that new life.
The birth of my first child went a bit pear shaped. It was all very dramatic and scary, nothing at all like antenatal classes had taught me. My waters broke with a huge gush and contractions never started, meaning I was eventually induced in hospital (the last thing I wanted after deciding on a water birth). After many hours my husband left the hospital to go home, a good thirty minutes car journey (he was tired apparently!) and missed the birth as she suddenly decided to make an appearance. The umbilical cord was entangled around her neck and suddenly there was a room full of medical staff – dosed up on Pethidine, I felt scared and alone.
I remember feeling I couldn’t hold my daughter after she was born, I didn’t feel safe – I was exhausted and felt traumatised. My mum worried I wouldn’t bond because I refused to hold her. The truth is, I felt I might drop her.
Being a mum should be a happy time
The first few weeks were hard. The crying was constant and breast feeding just wasn’t happening. I remember the midwife trying to show me how to feed her, but it never felt right. My daughter would suck and suck, after ten minutes fall asleep and then wake up crying again as if she hadn’t had enough. After six weeks I went back to work. Being self-employed has its extra pressures. I had just set up my early years music classes the year before and things were blossoming so when a mum asked me to do her child’s party a couple of months before the birth of my daughter how could I refuse?
I think I thought I was superwoman. I did not anticipate how difficult giving birth, having a new life to look after, working and managing my emotions, would be.
The following weeks seemed to get harder. I really tried. I felt like I was failing, and I didn’t know why I felt so low when I should feel happy and loving the time with my daughter. Being a mum should be a happy time and I desperately wanted to be a happy mum; however, I didn’t feel that way and as time went on, I didn’t begin to feel better.
I felt such a failure
I am not sure how long the depression had been creeping in, I do remember thinking I might do harm to my little girl. I would put her down and she would scream a blood curdling scream, I was at my wits end, my nerves shattered, I had tried everything! I remember sitting as far away as I could, in the house, to block out the sound and just sobbing. I felt such a failure.
What is incredibly hard to know about depression is that you cannot always recognise when someone is depressed. I knew something didn’t feel right with me. I had been through depression before (however people around me didn’t know) and I was recognising the signs. In my head everything felt fuzzy and my arms and legs felt like they had lead weights attached to them. It felt like I was living in a dream – an out-of-body experience.
There was a defining moment, I cracked and went to the GP who prescribed anti-depressants.
I continued to run my classes (my teacher had left by this point), this involved two or three consecutive hours singing and dancing with young children. It got me up and out of the house and kept me going, having time away from my daughter helped me carry on. In between this I had moments of mixed feelings where I felt like running away but not really wanting to abandon my baby.
Singing saved my life without me even knowing it!
Around this time, I came across a multi-sensory way of teaching music through singing. I LOVED IT! It made so much sense to me and it was fun! I incorporated this into my classes and continue to use this method today through my work in music and health. I am certain that singing helped me alongside the anti-depressants and that singing saved my life without me even knowing it.
Singing reduces cortisol levels which are linked to stress, there have been several studies which have examined singing and Cortisol levels (Daisy Fancourt et al). Cortisol levels have also been seen to rise in people just before a heart attack. The act of singing also releases endorphins (much like when we exercise) which act like a natural painkiller; Oxytocin is released, and our breath regulates helping decrease anxiety. There is an increase in Dopamine (our feelings of pleasure) and Serotonin (linked to mood regulation and memory) – also found to be lower in people with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Research by Canterbury Christchurch University and a study by scientists in Switzerland reveal the power behind singing in this video.
Over the years I have run several singing-for-health groups. Singing together has added benefits of cohesiveness, collaboration; people belong together, they help and support and keep you lifted when you need it. I know through my singing for health groups people have not only improved their health but also their minds and friendships. People would come to the group feeling down, looking fed-up and by the end would leave with a smile on their face and a spring in their step.
Singing boosts wellbeing
When I started Think Cre8tive Group CIC my mission was to help women who had just had babies. I know that having a child is a big change and often big changes are the ones that cause stress, anxiety and depression – this is why I wanted to help other mums and created the Sing It Out! Mama programme. I was lucky enough to secure funding to run a short pilot in my hometown, which involved mums singing together and learning (carefully chosen) songs to enable them to interact and bond with their baby in a different way. Sessions focus on mum rather than on baby unlike other mum-baby groups. The pilot was phenomenally successful and from then on, I secured funding from the National Lottery and NOVA to run more sessions. Before the COVID struck, we were running groups across Wakefield and Bolton however we moved online providing the same support during March this year. I would love to see these sessions being available to as many mums as possible and there is now an opportunity to run these beyond my locality. I have included some further information at the end about Sing It Out! Mama.
Singing is a huge part of my life and what helps keep me going.
I feel lucky I found singing again. It wasn’t something I saw myself doing at all, in fact thought I was not good enough to sing. The thing that I love about singing is the combination of having to concentrate on singing and also the physical aspect, meaning my mind is focussed on singing rather than on something negative and my body is getting a work-out.
I did recover from my post-natal depression and even though life throws its ups and downs at me from time to time, I know that singing is a huge part of my life and is what helps keep me going.
More about Sing It Out! Mama
Sing It Out! Mama is a group for mums and young babies which helps support new mums to strengthen bonds between mother and child, build confidence and self -esteem, increase feelings of wellbeing and create new friendships. Singing is a focus however there is time to relax, chat and share experiences in a non-judgmental space.
Sing It Out! Mama aims to help new mums to:
- Gain confidence in singing and being with your baby.
- Learn how to communicate with your child through music and song.
- Enjoy singing and experience the effects it can bring to your own health.
- Learn how songs and movement can help your baby’s development (evidence suggests that babies can hear from 20 weeks in the womb and that singing is the best way to communicate with your baby developing physical and language skills).
- Nurture a secure bond with your baby through singing, movement, eye contact and communication.
- Form new friendships and support groups to share experiences.
- Feel safe and secure in a caring, non-judgmental environment.
- Have fun, laugh and enjoy singing with other mums and your baby.
- Learn new songs from across the world.
Think Cre8tive Group CIC now has six full sessions available for free online via our YouTube channel and we will be looking at extending our groups and online delivery soon.
Songbooks (1-3) are available via Amazon and all songs can be streamed and downloaded via various services.