Baby, I’m going crazy.
This week it is Maternal Mental Health Awareness week.
But what does that mean? Well, I think, as mums, we can all agree that we all feel a little crazy after the 100th time of asking your little cherubs to put their shoes on, or the 120th feed that day but for quite a lot of us those feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, depression and even just feeling ‘bleugh’ happen more often than not.
You may or may not know that I suffered from postnatal depression after Charlotte was born.
I was only officially diagnosed with this at 9 months postpartum. It came to a head and I finally saw the doctor when I just could not deal with the thought of having to leave her to go back to work and sort of lost my shit. Looking back on it that was probably more anxiety than depression but for a lot of my maternity leave, I felt like crap.
I generally put on a smile, and after the first few weeks I got out to bump and baby coffee mornings and saw friends but my home life was awful. My husband worked long shifts at evenings and weekend which left me alone to deal with a colicky baby more often than not. Evenings and weekends were generally when everybody else’s husbands and partners were home so I didn’t feel I could spoil their family time by suggesting lunch or coffee. I also had a husband who gave very little support, either physically or emotionally to me throughout that time. I get it, he had to go through the traumatic birth too and he didn’t know what to do with this wriggly, red-faced screaming thing any more than I did but rather than joining up as a team to figure it out we went our separate ways emotionally. Which left me feeling incredibly lonely.
I think even if my baby slept through and I wasn’t surviving through a fourth-degree tear and leaky boobs, those early days would’ve been tough.
I eventually went on anti-depressants (which helped a little) and went back to work because I had to, despite work actually having the option to take another 3 months of leave, and not remotely comfortable in the decision I’d been forced to make. I was now the breadwinner (haha) and I had no choice. I went back to work to a completely re-structured organisation and no familiarity at all and every single night of those first few months back I cried. Usually whilst trying to keep Charlotte’s babygro dry, as my tears fell during our marathon night feeding sessions because she was still breastfed and wasn’t particularly fussed about taking a bottle during the day at nursery.
It did get easier to deal with as we got into a routine but sadly the routine was mainly Charlotte and I figuring it out as my husband was less and less present in our lives. He was suffering from depression too but rather than seek help through friends and a counsellor, as I had decided to, he shut himself away with his head in the sand pretending nothing was wrong. Sadly this was the end of our relationship and eventually, after 2 years we split.
Ironically this was where my mental health took a turn for the better. A weight was lifted and I only had one dependant to look after. I came off my medication and although life was mo-foing stressful, l I did not have that black cloud over my head all the time. Every now and then a few rays shone through. I was making decisions that worked for me and we had our own little routine which kept us on an even keel.
That definitely isn’t the end of my Maternal Mental Health story though.
I was diagnosed with anxiety last year and had to take some time off work to get my life back on track. There have been other blips along the way too, but over time I have learnt to deal with the bumps in the road a lot better and although this parenting lark can throw new things at you every bloody day I seem to be getting better at dealing with them sensibly, rather than feeling like the whole world had ended and wanting to hide under my duvet for a few days.
My honest opinion as to why so many of us find being a mother so difficult is because even now we are expected to do it all with no cracks showing. It even starts before we’re officially a mother. We’re supposed to keep miscarriages and infertility hush hush, but this makes no sense as this time is exactly when you most need love and support around you.
General western society expects us to be a perfect wife, mother, friend, career woman, housekeeper, chef, gardener, taxi, smooth legged goddess and shockingly we can’t keep up with this so we always feel like we’re failing. We’re not feeding our children the right thing, we’re not having enough sex, we haven’t ‘sprung back’ from pregnancy, we’re not aspiring to become CEO in the next 2 years or we’re not looking fully made up when the postman comes to the door. Well, I call bullshit. TV isn’t real, magazine pictures aren’t real. Princess Katherine had a full style-squad to get her ready for the steps of the Lido Ward a couple of weeks ago, and who knows what massive pants she was wearing underneath. For all we know she put her slightly bobbling nightgown back on and sat there with a boob out for the next 4 hours before she left. Ok, her nightie wouldnt be bobbling I’m sure but you get the picture.
There are a few things that have really helped me break down these ridiculously high expectations of myself. Ten of which I shall post about tomorrow (so make sure you’ve subscribed to my blog so you get a notification) but in the meantime tell me three things you have utterly rocked whilst being a mum in the comments below. As big or tiny as they come, let me know.
- I host a great kids party
- I cook Charlotte’s favourite spaghetti bolognese and she has no idea there’s veg in there
- I can make wine disappear in a matter of minutes!