We need to use our words and voices to share our own experiences.
From the minute we go into labour – however long and traumatic it may be, our duties of motherhood begin from that moment onwards. And so it begins, the seemingly endless cycle of sleeplessness, all the while raising another human begin. It is very tiring to say the least.
So is it really surprising then, that women who have just had babies (one of the most life changing things a person can experience), who are already riddled with the anxiety that comes with this new found responsibility, are feeling overwhelmed and perhaps a bit "flat"? especially when a lack of sleep is thrown into the equation?
Whenever we hear the words "postpartum depression", as a mother or otherwise, we immediately create these images in our mind of the struggling mother, crying into her cereal while her poor child runs around aimlessly in a dirty nappy. It's taboo, it's negative and it's not something we feel we should ever admit.
The word depression holds so much gravity that we shy away from it, burying our head into the sand and shunning any association to its very meaning. Yet, studies show that as many as 1 in 10 women will experience some kind of post natal depression and what a lot of people don't realise, is that it can affect a mother, anytime from birth onwards – even for many years afterwards.
But the problem with this type of depression is that women are too scared to admit that they are feeling this way. They're too scared to admit that they're struggling and to ask for help in fear of judgement. We're too scared to not be okay.
I'm lucky to not have had too much personal experience with postpartum depression, however I'm sure anyone reading this will know of someone who has suffered.
And this is not to be confused with the "baby blues" – a natural phenomenon that occurs due to a sudden change in hormones. It causes the bursts of tears when our baby sneezes for the first time or when we put the kettle in the fridge for the hundredth time that day – I'm sure we can all relate to the those post-birth emotional "wobbles"!
Full postpartum depression is something much more than this, something more lasting and more debilitating. You begin to feel physically weak and unwell, as well as mentally worn out and exhausted, which can make raising a baby almost impossible.
And we are all susceptible to this kind of depression. Of course, women who have already suffered from previous mental illnesses are perhaps more predisposed, but that doesn't mean that we should overlook anyone just because they appear to be more "with it".
Although postpartum depression manifests itself much the same as ordinary depression – sadness and worthlessness and a lack of enthusiasm, it can also go further. It causes anxiety and fear to the point where the mother can't connect with her baby and doesn't want to be alone with her own child. This behaviour should raise questions and suggests a woman might need more support.
Postpartum depression is a massive issue that affects so many. When you think of it in terms of what your body has physically gone through, as well as the emotional and mental transition, it's almost logical that the mind would behave in this way to attempt to adapt and cope.
So we need to stop the judgment, stop these issues from being hushed up and kept out of view and start the conversation honestly, about how we are feeling after birth.
We need to use our words and voices to share our own experiences, so that other women will feel empowered to do the same. We need to support new mothers and experienced alike. We need to ask how others are coping, be prepared to listen and check ourselves.
We need to sleep! Whenever the hell we can to allow our minds to switch off and whatever it may be that works for you; reading, a walk, a coffee – switch off for ten minutes and be kind to yourself.
Most of all, we need to know that saying we're struggling doesn't make us any less of a mother; it in fact makes us all the better.
When my daughter started daycare, I spent a lot of time trying to find the right fit for her and our family. I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions. Over and over again though, the answer to my question would come back the same, "she'll be fine."
I want hours upon hours of delicious sleep followed by hot cups of tea, reading my book and nothingness. But I'll have to get up now to comfort, feed, clean, dress, entertain, love, laugh, play, and repeat.
Like I said when writing, I don't have any personal experiences on the topic, but i do have friends who have suffered - this was a general overview from things they've explained experiencing along with the results of my own general research. Not to say this is the same for everyone and I'm sorry you found it unrelatable. this was my way of highlighting an issue that is often overlooked and my way of explaining it to people who perhaps have no knowledge.
As someone currently dealing with postnatal depression (22 on the Edinburgh Scale), I feel that this article is close but not quite relatable.
I certainly agree with the point that it needs to cease to be taboo. The supports are there and the professionals actually prefer that you admit that you've had thoughts of self-harm or suicide if you are experiencing this (since it's unlikely to happen if addressed), and they are very good about emphasising that your child will not be taken away just because these thoughts are intruding at present. They're more likely to say that admitting it shows insight, and insight is what will keep your baby safe.
I've battled depression most of my life and this is nothing like anything I've ever experienced before. I don't have the loss of energy or the inclination to just give in and sleep (although I am fatigued due to having a newborn).
It's more of a series of intrusive thoughts that my child is better off without me and that I'm failing him, even as I sing to him and mirror his expressions and tell him stories. I feel a strong love and connection, and I'm my happiest when I am interacting with him.
It's just a dark cesspool of self-doubt and second-guessing myself as that little voice in my head tells me I'm doing everything wrong.
It's different to typical depression because there is a focal point; I love my child, and I want to do right by him, and I'm consumed with guilt every time I make a mistake (or think I have).
I don't feel that it's something that can be adequately described unless you've been through it, but your point is accurate: seek help, admit how you're feeling, and don't be ashamed of it. You are not a bad mother just because you're not coping as well as you might like.