Here’s a little back story about my post for you
When I was asked to be a part of ‘We are the face of motherhood: A series on Postpartum Depression‘ organised by the amazing Jamie from Mommy in Flats I panicked a little. It was a no-brainer really, of course I will always say a big fat yes to raising awareness and ending the stigma surrounding postpartum/postnatal depression and anxiety but I got a little nervous that I wouldn’t have much to say because I realised suddenly that things were good. Things were finally feeling really, really good. In fact, I considered that perhaps I had bested the beast once and for all, and that I wouldn’t be lost in the darkness again. Ha! Life loves to remind me that when you have kids you don’t get to be in control of something like that, so after a while of living in blissful ignorance I got the sharp reminder that I needed and out came my post.
I was a full-time stay at home mother from 2012 until earlier this year. I have three boys who are now aged four, two, and one. It’s a lot. I changed nappies all day. I made snacks. I yelled too much. I breastfed. I bottle-fed. I googled ‘my babies poo is yellow, is that normal?’ I educated. I battled postnatal depression. I cleaned. I also didn’t clean, a lot. I wore pyjamas all day. I avoided social interaction. I watched reality shows. I made play dough. I played cars, babies, and doctors. I cried, and I wiped tears. I kissed owies. I laughed. I learnt to speak toddler. I toilet trained.
I didn’t do everything I should have done, just everything that I was able to do at that time. Yes, there’s a difference. Sometimes it just isn’t possible to have a spotless house, happy kids, and a happy mumma all at the same time. Sometimes there are bigger, badder things at play and you really have to be okay with doing the best that you can do, and speaking up when your best might not quite be enough. There is no shame in saying ‘Hey, you know what? I could actually use some help here, I’m not coping very well.’
I said that I battled postnatal depression. Past tense. I’ve realised that I really need to stop talking about it that way. I’m still battling this beast, it just takes longer naps now.
Today I have all three kids at home just like the good (sometimes) old days. It was only around 0940 when I realised that it was a bad idea. I am not in the place to be a stay at home mum again. I did it. I did my time. Some people just aren’t made to stay home with their bubs, they spend their days longing to go to work because they feel trapped. Some people totally rock it, thriving in the lifestyle. Some people just get through it, never knowing which parent they will be each day, trapped, or rocking it. I was one of those. I genuinely don’t know how I did it for so long.
I don’t feel bad saying this. It’s okay to be a square peg in a round hole. We don’t all have to conform to the definition of ‘mother’ that society has set for so long. Things aren’t black and white, especially with postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression, for me wasn’t like a loud, gaudy costume that everyone could see. I didn’t let it show for a long time. With my first son I denied it myself for a while. I mean, I knew, but I couldn’t bring myself to say the words. Instead, I would go to my sons check-ups and say to the midwives oh-so casually ‘hey when do I have to do that depression scale thingy?’
The second time I was more prepared, and pleasantly surprised. I was on medication from the start and my PND was there, but relatively in control.
After having my third, things were completely different. Things were bad. I didn’t want to get dressed, or clean, or talk to anyone for a long time. I forced myself to go out occasionally, when I had cancelled or said no too many times in a row. It was really just to keep people off my back and I was never fully in the moment. I went back on my medication, but it just wasn’t cutting it this time. So I started my blog, and it truly helped for the most part. I kept it anonymous for a while. I’d totally recommend it to anyone looking for a way to expel some of the darkness.
There were days that I’d be waiting at the front door for my husband to come home. I remember standing there, holding my baby, repeating over, and over ‘stay calm, he’s nearly home, stay calm, he’s nearly home.’ My husband wouldn’t have even crossed the threshold before the baby was shoved into his arms and I was rolled in a ball in the middle of our bed, or burning away the horrors of the day in a steaming hot shower.
‘What is wrong with you?’ was something I asked myself daily. I really expected too much. I was once told that I was selfish and wrong for having more children after my first, because I had postnatal depression. That line still haunts me even though it shouldn’t. That person was wrong. I know that now, but the pain that it caused me at the time is inexplicable.
The fact is that postnatal depression is common. It is not something to be ashamed of. It’s not something to hide. It’s not something that should dictate how many children you have. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad mother. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just is. It’s just a thing that I live with. I have blonde hair, blue eyes, postnatal depression, and three kids. I am left handed, I like to write, I have anxiety, and I’m married to my high-school sweetheart. It’s just a part of me. And I am not now, not ever again, going to be ashamed of this frustrating, yet fundamental part of what makes me, me.
Things are getting better. I’m working in childcare (go figure, right?) and in August I will start at the local University, studying my way to becoming an Early Childhood and Primary School Teacher. I am now only a stay at home mumma two days a week and it’s the perfect balance for me. I don’t regret the time I spent at home with my babies, and yet I do regret not studying or working sooner…I guess that doesn’t make sense, it’s ok, it doesn’t have to.
It might seem odd to some that I ended up working in a field that is based around children, but my postnatal depression was never about the children. It was about me, and the first time I left the house, in my brand new work uniform, the mum in me (the one that has watched Frozen too many times to count) felt like Anna when she sung the line ‘there’ll be actual real live people, it’ll be totally strange, but wow am I so ready for this change.‘ I may not have found true love like Anna thought she had, but I found myself, and I’m taking the time to get to know me.
I am a strong woman. I am a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter. I am a gym-goer. I am a cook. I am a maid. I am grumpy. I am dedicated. I am a student. I am a shoulder to cry on. I am a mess. I am a window shopper. I am unorganised. I am silly. I am loving. I am the face of postnatal depression. I am the face of anxiety.
I am the face of motherhood.
Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit Postpartum Support International for great information on maternal mental health and more. If you fear you or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and get to your nearest emergency room.
If you’re located in Australia you can also get in touch with PANDA
Please consider buying a PPD Awareness t-shirt, all proceeds go to help mothers in need.