Maternal Mental Health Week: It’s OK Not To Be OK

Today marks the start of Maternal Mental Health Week.

With a family history of postnatal depression, it’s a topic close to my heart. As with mental health in general, it’s something that still isn’t always openly discussed and hopefully awareness weeks like this will help break the stigma.

I found when I had my first baby I had a completely unrealistic, romantic notion to what motherhood would be like. I had worked with babies, I was comfortable that I knew what I was doing. I naively assumed that our little bundle would seamlessly slot into our lives and we would find ourselves locked in our little bubble of love as a family of three.

I had always wanted to be a mum. I felt it was something I was always destined to be. I still feel like that, I adore my kids, but motherhood has been a constant challenge to me since day one. I wasn’t expecting it to be so hard.

There’s a pressure, almost an expectation, for new parents to be instantly swept away by love and to be besotted with their baby. I had a difficult labour that resulted in an emergency caesarean, and when he finally arrived I did feel that immediate rush of love. It was the days and weeks to follow that I started to struggle.

The complete exhaustion, the anxiety, the worry –  it all took me by surprise. I was overwhelmed. I quickly realised looking after babies for a few hours during the day was completely different to seeing to my demanding baby 24/7. I remember thinking “what have we done? This is awful!” I remember looking around at the other mums in Mothercare when J was tiny and wondering if they felt as mentally drained as I did.

I discussed it with my husband earlier today and he seemed surprised that I had felt like that. He knows me better than anyone in the world and even he didn’t realise how I felt. We would both complain about tiredness and just get on with it.  He’s a great hands on dad, for which I’m extremely grateful. I don’t think I could survive having three kids without him by my side.

I think the fact I never made any secret about my desire to be a mum led me to want to appear like everything was wonderful. I was a relatively young mum and I was determined to show I could do it. That I was coping just fine thank you very much. When in reality breastfeeding wasn’t turning out as I hoped, I had a baby who wouldn’t sleep, a painful caesarean scar and I started to wonder at what point things would start to feel better.

I was conscious that there were women out there who would love to have a baby. Those who were struggling to conceive or who had suffered a loss (something I went on to experience myself). How selfish was I?

I don’t claim to have ever suffered from PND. I never reached the feelings of absolute despair or detachment that I know some mums do. The feelings I have described could even be described as “normal”. If that is the case why is more not done to reassure new mums? If we have all felt like this at one point or another, surely the best thing we can do is to speak out about it?

When I had my other two babies I knew what to expect. I didn’t allow external pressures or expectations have an impact on my mental wellbeing. I was doing my best, and that would have to do. I still have feelings of guilt, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve learnt to be kinder to myself.

Surely it’s time we started to support not only ourselves but each other. Motherhood isn’t a competition; we all have our own unique circumstances and battles to deal with. I’ve already written a post about judgemental mothers, and I strongly believe that we should be raising our fellow mums up, not trying to tear them down.

We need to let go of the pressure to be the perfect mum. There’s no such thing! We need to remember it’s ok not to be ok. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed, or exhausted, or just plain miserable sometimes. We all have bad days.

As time has gone on I have found that it does get better. That overwhelming feeling of doubt lessens and you start to have more confidence in your abilities. When I hear my children laugh, or chat excitedly about something, I’m reminded how much it’s all worth it.

I find the best thing to do when I’m struggling is to talk about it. I’m always surprised how many of my friends with kids are nodding along and agreeing when I’m explaining how I feel. It’s therapeutic and it’s reassuring to know I’m not alone. Having experienced miscarriage, it’s easy to feel guilty for complaining. I’m all too aware of the mothers who have lost their babies, but whatever journey we have been on to become mothers, it doesn’t mean we can’t feel overwhelmed.

We are human.


 

Just Hannah Jane

11 comments

  1. Love this post. I was a young mum and I was so scared to admit that I was struggling mentally after my daughter was born. I thought that people would say I was a failure or terrible mum!

  2. We do put far to much pressure on ourselves. I haven’t suffered PND but my anxiety got much worse after having my kids. I let a complete failure not being able to ‘birth them naturally’. I’ve actually been seeing a therapist to help with some elements of PTSD and the resulting anxiety. A lot of that stems from feelings of not being perfect and a feeling of letting myself and other people down. Society has a lot to answer for putting so much pressure on women to be all things to everyone at the same time.

  3. I had this when my oldest was born. Back then it was called Post Pardum Depression but I never went to see anyone about it for fear they would take my child away from me. I’m glad there is more knowledge and more support out there for mothers who suffer from this. I know at least here in my state there are a lot of programs and services dedicated to helping mothers with PND. You raising more awareness about this is really helpful to so many.

  4. I also have to say that I didn’t officially suffer from PND but still felt grim in quite bewildering ways, for a good ten months. I was not OK, but I’m thankful I didn’t go over the edge into full blown PND. It was bad enough and it echoes through life ever after. I think you’ve explained this really well.

  5. I love this post. I have two little ones. I am currently on medication for PND. My experience after my second child has been completely different compared to my first. It has been completely overwhelming! x

  6. Yes! It is definitely OK, to not be OK! What a whirlwind pregnancy and motherhood is! Our mind, bodies and souls are taking through the ringer! We need to show more support for each other! #globalblogging

  7. Thank you for sharing this beautifully honest post, its definitely ok not to be ok and we really do need to talk about it more!! Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink x

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