“Don’t you just LOVE being a mum?!”…”Isn’t it THE BEST job in the world?” is what they would say. As everything in my body screamed “no – it’s bloody horrible, I am really not enjoying it, and, actually, I much preferred my old job”, my lips uttered the words they wanted to hear….”Yes, it really is. I am so so blessed”.
And I am blessed, don’t get me wrong. My daughter (now 18mths) is my everything. I love her to pieces and wouldn’t change anything. But I haven’t always felt this way, and I have really struggled at times. And now I feel like an insensitive arse-hole putting these words out into the ethos for others to read, but I feel it’s important that you know that it’s not always peaches and cream becoming a mum. Perhaps, if I was a little more prepared….if I had read more about what happens when the baby is born (when shit gets real), rather than just focusing so much on the pregnancy, then things might not have been so bumpy…..
I had a very cruisy pregnancy – for the most part, I felt amazing. Better than ever, in fact. I assumed, as I am sure many people do, that motherhood would be an adjustment, but something I could definitely make an easy, seamless transition into. I had read about post-natal depression (PND), but kind of pushed it aside and thought “that won’t happen to me – I’m a very happy, optimistic, person”, completely failing to acknowledge my history with depression as I was growing up. That was in the past, after all.
So Little O was born into this world in a completely natural, no issues, labour in a local birthing centre. Happy days. We spent a few beautiful days bonding as a family in our little bubble before heading home. I won’t say this part was easy….getting home with a mini-human who you are 100% responsible for….but we did pretty well. The baby blues that apparently EVERYONE gets a few days post-birth never came. Sweet! I was smashing this. The only thing that bothered me was the breast engorgement when my milk came in. Holy moly that was unexpected pain! All I can say is have some cabbage leaves in your freezer for when this happens!
It wasn’t until a few months down the track that everything started falling apart. Little O was not sleeping well (still isn’t amazing at this, little rascal), which meant I was sleep deprived, my hormones were all over the place (as tends to happen post-partum), and I was mourning my past life – who I was, what I did, where I could go, whenever I wanted. Yes, I know this sounds selfish, but I’m trying to be as honest as possible, as I don’t think people talk about this enough. I think they feel it, but they don’t say it.
I found myself crying (sobbing) more often than not. The happy moments were few and far between. I had many “what have I done?” moments. I hate to admit that there were times when I needed to put Olivia down and walk out of the room for fear of hurting her (I never did, thankfully). Just typing this now brings me to tears as the guilt takes over me. I had times where I would head out to get the groceries while hubby looked after Olivia and I thought “maybe I should just keep on driving….”.
My midwife was absolutely amazing and so so supportive. She admitted to me that there were many times she found herself in the corner of the room, curled up in foetal position, balling her eyes out. I had friends with kids, too, who also admitted having regular meltdowns and “shit mum” moments. It was good to know I wasn’t alone.
I realised that this couldn’t go on. It was destroying my life and, no doubt, having a negative impact on my husband (though he never admitted it) and daughter (little ones are very good at picking up on your emotions). So I went to see my doctor and told him how I was feeling. Answered some questions. Cried a lot more. He has 5 kids. He got it. He said I probably didn’t have PND that required medication (he knows I’m not keen on meds), but was borderline, and it would be a good idea to chat to a counsellor. I agreed.
So I spent the next few months seeing a counsellor who came to my house. I’m not going to go into the details of what we chatted about, but I will say that she helped. Slowly, and with a lot of work and self-compassion, the fog started to lift and the happy, more content moments increased, and the dark days decreased. I wouldn’t say I’m completely out of the woods now. I still have times where I feel like just crying, but I think this is just part of being a mum – kids are very good at pushing your buttons and testing you! But you know what? A good cry every now and then can be very therapeutic – much better than bottling it all up, don’t you think?!
A few other things that I implemented, which helped a lot, included:
- Making sure my diet was REALLY nutrient dense (think organic chicken liver, lots of veggies, plenty of good quality protein and healthy fats, daily fermented foods, minimal packaged and processed foods; plus I continued to take my prenatal supplement as a safety net)
- Gratitude – each night I would write down 3 things that I was grateful for. This helped to change my mindset to VERY negative into a more positive one
- Hubby encouraged me to write down 10 things that made me an awesome mother. This was HARD, but with his help, I managed to do it, and it did indeed make me feel better, and less of a failure
- I made sure I got outside every day for fresh air. It helped that Olivia loved sleeping in the pram, so there was no issue with regular movement outside
- I made an effort to make time for me. Now this is hard for all mums, not just those with PND, but it is really important. My “me-time” moments included weekly yoga at the local studio (more if I was lucky), going for coffee with friends, and 2 showers per day (sounds a bit silly, but somehow they made me feel better!)
Becoming a mother is life-changing – in positive AND negative ways, no matter what anybody tells you. Be prepared for a roller-coaster of emotions. Be prepared for some down days, where you just want to cry. But also be aware that if these days outnumber the happy, bright days, then it would be worth going and having a chat to someone about it. I cannot speak highly enough of going and seeing a counsellor/psychologist. Having someone who is external to you and your family, someone who will not judge you, someone who you don’t feel like you are burdening with your “troubles”, someone who you can just pour your heart and soul out to, is truly invaluable and could, in fact, save your life (or at the very least, your sanity).
PND is real, and it can strike anyone, at any time (i.e. not just in the few months post-partum). If it does happen to you, this is not a reflection of you as a mother, or as a person. It does not mean you are a failure. Do not be afraid to admit that you are struggling. Do not be ashamed to seek help as soon as possible, please. Us mothers need all of the help we can get, right? And if you need medication, then that’s totally fine, too. Chat to your doctor about your options. There are also some herbs that can be very helpful, but always work with a practitioner on this, and be mindful that some can interact with certain medications. You need to do what is going to be best for you and your family. Depression kills. It’s really not something to take lightly.
I truly hope this helps some of you out there. Please feel free to share your thoughts below, and I apologise if this has come across as selfish or insensitive to anyone. That was not my intention, whatsoever. I struggled with the idea of writing this, given that most of my clients are women with fertility issues who would give anything to have a baby, and I really should be grateful for what I have. And I am, believe me when I say that. My intention is to raise awareness, so you don’t go through what I did AND, if you do, then at least you will know what to do about it.