Today, 10th October is World Mental Health Day and I think it’s important that we talk about how a parents’ mental health can change after having a baby. It still seems to be a bit of a taboo subject and it shouldn’t be – we should be sharing our experiences and how we are feeling to normalise it a little more and help others. Having said that, I’ve never shared how I was feeling – not even with my closest friends and family. Sometimes uttering those words “I’m struggling”, can be too much and it’s easier to just carry on. But I wish I had been brave enough, if I’m really honest with myself.
From the moment Emma was born, I was in love. Even at my six week check up, there was no cause for concern. It was only a few months later that I began to see that something wasn’t quite right. There is no doubt that our days were full of chaos and unpredictability but I found myself feeling angry often and unable to make sense of why I was feeling that way. I felt there was this huge weight on my shoulders, even though it wasn’t my sole responsibility at all and my other half couldn’t be more supportive.
One of the turning points for our family was when my other half turned to me and said “I know this is hard, but I see what you’re doing for all of us”. It felt like I could breathe again, hearing him say this – he gets it, he sees that this is the toughest job I’ve ever had to do. Every night I would lie in bed thinking that one night, soon, I’ll feel like I’m nailing it ever so slightly more than I am right now. The only way I can describe these weeks is like a fog in front of my eyes, making it hard for me to see how far we had come and that really, we were doing an amazing job. Over time, that fog lifted but in that time I never really mentioned to anyone that I wasn’t okay – even though one of the girls in our NCT group openly talked about her struggles with postnatal depression.
I still feel the fogginess even though Emma is 2.5 years old. I know there is a lot of talk around maternal mental health when your baby is newborn age, but not so much beyond. I still get overwhelmed and in a very different way to when Emma was a baby. Even recently, I’ve had moments where I have suddenly burst into tears and it always makes me feel terrible afterwards. I should be able to cope with this – after over two years of being a mother, I should have my shit together. Except some days I don’t, and that’s okay.
When I look back, all I wish is that I’d have said something. I knew something wasn’t right and kept it all bottled up inside instead of just saying that I’m not okay and I need a hand. I want everyone with a toddler to know that it’s not unusual to feel like you’re struggling at times. Parenthood is incredibly rewarding but there’s no doubt how hard it is and none of us should have to pretend we’re happy if we’re not. It takes such a lot of courage to admit it to yourself and those around you that you might need help and I hope that by sharing my story, it will encourage other mums to speak up if they need to.
If you think you have post natal depression, click this link for a list of charities and helpful resources and please speak to someone about it. Bottling up these feelings will only make you feel worse.