Things are never what they seem.
No matter how perfect someones life looks, no one’s really is.
After almost 4 months of struggling I am finally ready to talk about my truth. I finally ready to tell you what becoming a Mother was really like for me and how common it actually is to struggle.
Women are expected to be happy following the birth of a child, and there is a lot of judgement and stigma surrounding any other emotion. Sure, people allow for a brief period of the baby blues, but you’re supposed to get over it and settle into motherhood, right?
For most people, yes. But that’s not what happens for everyone, and the stigma only makes things worse. Women don’t feel like they can talk about their negative feelings surrounding motherhood, their babies, and themselves.
I’m talking about Postpartum Depression.
So many women are unlikely to receive appropriate support from family and friends who can’t understand, and they’re less likely to receive treatment.
All because we don’t talk about postpartum depression and anxiety enough.
So that’s why I am finally talking about the truth of what I went through and continue to battle every day since I had my son. I wish I had someone to turn to who didn’t paint their life as perfect. Someone I knew wouldn’t judge me for the thoughts I was having towards myself and towards my baby. And that’s why I’m writing this. Because my story is not unique, and yet, I felt completely alone.
I’m writing this for YOU, New mum. I know you are battling your every emotion and fighting to feel “normal”. I know you are struggling and it’s okay mumma, because these feelings are part of an illness that has NO reflection on you as a Mother or as a Woman. I’m going to be brave for you, new mum. I’ll share my story so you have the courage to share yours.
Here’s my story:
Following the birth of my son I experienced an insane high. It was a “floating above the earth” kind of high. The high where nothing could touch me because I was so far out there in the atmosphere soaking up all the bliss around me. After experiencing 3 miscarriages in my life, the moment I had my son in my arms I finally felt like I could take a deep breath of relief.
He was here, safe in my arms, and I didn’t have to worry anymore. It’s something that unites us all if you’ve had the privilege to experience it. You know the high that I’m talking about (and the relief). I’d been waiting so long to meet this person and when it finally happened, it took my breath away. I was in an impenetrable love bubble. If cloud nine was a real place, I was there.
But shortly after Danny was born I fell from that high. I came crashing back down to earth at a rate that almost burnt me up.
It didn’t happen straight away. For the first two weeks after I gave birth to Danny I stayed steadfast in that little love bubble together with my partner Matt and my family whose farm we were staying at for those two weeks. But once we came home to our own house things started to rapidly change.
It was at this time that Matt had to go back to work, and I was taken from the supportive nest of my family home. I was thrust back to the reality of life and I really wasn’t ready for that change. At the time Matt and I had two flatmates living with us and though they were happy to be there despite our tiny new housemate, we really didn’t think about the effect that would have on us as a couple moving into parenthood.
We found ourselves tiptoeing around the house. Being in complete stress whenever he started to cry as we frantically wanted him to not disturb our flatmates. We were sleep deprived zombies that had to pull ourselves together for the company that lived with us. We could never fully relax.
I felt myself edge closer and closer to breakdowns but in my own home I had to hide. It was a less than perfect situation.
I found that there was a wedge between my baby and I. This wedge came in between our bond and I blamed myself entirely for this. There were times he would cry and I’d think to myself “won’t you shut up!” .
There were times when he was hungry and I’d do anything to distract him before I had to feed him. I didn’t want him to be hungry but I wanted my body to be my own. It seemed like: If I wasn’t breastfeeding, I was pumping and this endless cycle of feeding never stopped.
I had no ownership of myself and I started to feel like I was loosing who I was. Who was Allie? Did she even exist anymore or had I just become “Danny’s Mum”? Was that my only identity now?
I was weeping every day for no reason. Every day while Matt was at work I’d sit on the couch alone with my son in my arms and sob uncontrollably, the sadness felt so consuming. If there were people home I’d “go to the toilet” sit there and cry.
What was I sad about? I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. That I was letting my son down. This voice inside my head was telling me I wasn’t good enough, I loved him so much but I felt completely unworthy of being his mum.
On top of that I was so terrified of what people would think of me if they saw me breaking down. This wasn’t just a few days or weeks that this week on. I was upset every single day for two months straight. It was more than just a case of the “baby blues”. I felt confined to the house and I had only a couple of friends who ever made the effort to visit me. I had no energy to reach out to others or go anywhere. I felt like I was suffocating and trapped.
But no one knew that. No one knew how I was feeling. I hid from everyone, even my own family. I felt so ashamed of the thoughts in my mind, the emotions I was feeling, the way I was “coping” with becoming a new parent. I felt like I had no where to go, and no one to talk to. I’d go onto my social media and see other mum’s I know talk about their perfect babies and about how happy and amazing they were feeling. How could I reach out to those woman? They were so unrelatable to me. They couldn’t possibly be feeling as isolated and alone as I do right now.
I was the only one feeling this way. I was completely alone.
The more I hid, the more isolated I became to everyone, and from there I plummeted into a very deep depression. I started to be distant and not text anyone back. I would stare into space all day just numbing out everything I was feeling. I didn’t want to cry anymore so I became stone cold. I was completely overwhelmed with being a new mum. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I had no energy beyond breathing.
At the beginning I resented my partner for not knowing me better and bringing it up himself, while simultaneously worried he would love me less if I ever mentioned it myself. I had tried my best to communicate with Matt what was going on, and though he was supportive of me and loved me through the sadness I was experiencing, there was nothing I could say to help him understand what was actually going on. He (like most men) just wanted to “fix” the problem and this was the last thing I needed.
I felt inadequate and hopeless.
I continued posting happy photo’s on my social media, commenting on how beautiful motherhood is and how much I was enjoying it but that was far from my truth.
Honestly I look at these two and I wonder how it could ever get any better than this… 💘I'm so full (and no I haven't had a big breakfast) I mean it in the way that I have been completed! The things that were always missing from my life have been restored, and it's such a great feeling to be genuinely happy day in and day out simply because of that. For some reason God sent me my soul mate and then blessed us both with the most gorgeous baby 👶🏻 We don't need the accessories in life to go with this, because us three alone is enough. This photo is it, this is my happiness 👪🏡
The real truth was I was getting ready to end my sadness for good.
And at the same time there were people out there spreading vicious rumors about me and my family. Talking behind my back and it was pushing me closer and closer to the edge.
I was thinking of how and when I could take my life because the sorrow was swallowing me whole.
All I could think about every day was that my son and my partner would be better off without me.
So In my moments of numbness, I began to think about how I’d leave them. I felt like they both needed someone better than me, and that surely there was someone else out there that could give them what they needed because I just couldn’t anymore.
I was hopeless. Alone. Consumed with guilt and shame.
But I survived it.
I couldn’t leave them, through the pain and the despair I held onto that unbreakable love I have for Matt. I trusted his love for me even if I wasn’t being the woman he fell in love with. I trusted his promise to always be there for me and I used him as a sort of torch light to shine hope on the thing that mattered to me the most which was my son.
He urged me to go to a Doctor, and finally I did like I promised him I would.
I went into the Dr’s office and all of my emotions spilled out.
I told him how desperate I was to find the bond with my baby and that though I loved him more than anything, I felt so unworthy of being his mum. I felt so ugly laying my heart bare to him.
And even then I wasn’t being truley honest about my thoughts of leaving my family for good.
But from all that I told him, he concluded I was suffering from a pretty severe case of postpartum depression. He gave me a script for anti-depressants and together we came up with a plan of how we would tackle this illness.
The first step was opening up to others about what I was going through. So I let a few people in, my sister, my best friend.
I needed to take back my identity so I made the decision to take a few hours once a week for me to hang out with friends without Danny. He was in the safest possible hands with Matt and I knew he enjoyed it. I decided to stop pumping my breast milk, to give a little piece of my body back to myself and just continue breastfeeding to restore a positive relationship with Danny and feeding, rather than a resentful one.
I began to go to a sensory class with Danny, which gave me a reason to get out of the house, network with other mums and have a little bit of “mum-fun”, I found seeing Danny smile and learn gave me a boost of oxytocin that my brain really really needed.
A combination of these things have brought me to where I am now. I needed that to get here. I no longer believe that there is anyone in this world who could replace me in either Matt or Danny’s life. I’m the best mother to him I can be. I know my son inside and out and I realised we actually have an extremely close bond with one another. I’m the best partner to Matt, we make an incredible team and we have each others back undoubtedly.
Experiencing postpartum depression is NOTHING to be ashamed of. It’s a Maternal-health issue not a Mental-health issue. Unfortunately it is a illness that takes away a woman’s ability to feel joy right when she needs it the most
Although everyone experiences things differently, You may be able to relate to any of these feelings:
- Feeling distant from your baby. I sometimes felt like my baby wasn’t mine. I sometimes felt so emotionally detached from him that it scared me. And yet, there was literally nothing I could do to change this. I loved him so much. I just couldn’t show it no matter how much I tried.
- Feeling so overwhelmed that you don’t understand how you’ll make it through the next hour, let alone day. There were days that felt like they lasted years. I was convinced I wasn’t cut out to be a mum and I had made a huge mistake. I recall sitting there begging for hours to speed up so that the day would end quicker. Even though I knew it wasn’t normal, I just assumed it was because I wasn’t meant to be a mum.
- Crying all.the.time. I cried every. single. day. There was not a day during that first 3 months that I didn’t cry. I attributed it to my hormones. In reality, I knew it wasn’t normal to cry in spurts all day long, even when I felt spurts of “happiness.”
- Not experiencing the “joy” everyone else seems to talk about. This was the biggest, most prominent symptom for me. I’d watch my friends with their newborns and they laughed, hugged, and snuggled their babies. I watched my partner experience a pure joy I’ve never seen from him before. I knew I didn’t feel the same. It simply wasn’t what I was experiencing. I convinced myself it was because I was a horrible mum.
- Begging your partner to come home. I wanted to call Matt literally every day begging him to come home. I resented that he got to work and I had to stay home with my baby. He constantly told me he wishes he could trade places with me and I couldn’t agree more. Yet, that wasn’t the reality. I somehow thought these feelings were “normal.”
- Fantasizing about “getting away.” This may sound bad, but I always thought it would be wonderful to be able to just go for a walk without my baby for like an hour. And yet, when Matt was home and offered, I always declined because I felt guilty for wanting it. When the days were extra rough, I sometimes wished I could just “run away” from the situation.
We’ve all heard about it but no one seems to talk about it.
But we need to because too many Mum’s have been lost to Postpartum depression.
Suicide accounts for 20% of postpartum deaths and is the second most common cause of maternal mortality.
I was too embarrassed and scared to tell anyone about my symptoms, knowing that it was more than just “baby blues”. Of course, I certainly didn’t tell my parents or close friends for fear of judgment. There wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t question whether I was qualified to be a mum. I was convinced my son saw that I was ill-equipped to take care of him and I felt bad for him that he didn’t have a better mother.
But now I realise how nonsense this is. And just how many other mothers out there actually have these exact same emotions with no one to relate to.
We need more woman willing to say “I’ve been there and I’m here to talk to without fear of judgement”
I’m one of those women… talk to me. Talk to your friends, role models, family, professionals. Talk to any one and you will slowly find how surrounded by support you really are.
Please if you are struggling through postpartum depression, seek help.
The world needs your presence.
There is no one out there who can replace you as a mother.
We are not better off without you.