When my very much wanted and precious daughter was born two years ago, after a difficult pregnancy, we both suffered from an infection and were in hospital for a week.
As overjoyed as I was to have my dear little girl, I felt numb and overwhelmed. I did not have a family support network, as my mum was ill with vascular dementia and my father was bedbound from a stroke.
The lack of sleep and effectively trying to look after a tiny baby by myself whilst my partner went back to work to look after us financially took its toll. I felt exhausted and lost. After talking to my doctor, I was diagnosed with postnatal depression and they suggested that I took anti-depressants.
The guilt and stigma associated with PND is hard, and living in a rural area, I felt very alone, days would go by where I would only see my partner as well as my daughter. Having an adorable girl felt like such a gift, and I didn't want people to think I was ungrateful or didn't feel blessed. I also didn't want to be seen as someone who couldn't cope. At the time I just wanted to be able to speak to my mother and ask her advice but I could not. Leaving the house was also equally as hard.
All new mothers experience some anxiety of course, but I was terrified, especially during the early days. I remember a van had parked on a pavement on a bend, which meant I had to walk in the road with the pram. That was a really hard thing for me to do, but luckily another person kindly stopped for me and watched the traffic whilst waiting for me to pass.
I want to reach out to other new mummies out there who may also be struggling and, or be too embarrassed to reach out. It’s hard suffering from mental illness at any time, but it is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. No matter what the situation or circumstances.
It took me a while to bond with my daughter but now I love her with all my heart. I have found that mindfulness sessions at the local women’s centre and practising gratitude regularly has helped. If a mum is struggling she may stay quiet and not talk about it. This is often because they fear being judged. They might think they will be seen as an unfit mum, as someone not capable of looking after their baby. They might fear having their child taken away from them.
I don't think the media helps by painting this perfect picture of motherhood, where it's all soft filters and roses! Motherhood is rewarding but it’s also hard. Sometimes more for others, and that's when a mum needs the support the most.
Because new mums often stay silent, it’s helpful to be aware of any signs that may indicate PND and be open about it. I think talking about it just gets it out there. I hope that the more we talk about it the less taboo it is. We should not feel ashamed or weak to admit that we are struggling.
I would like to think that if I just reached out to one mum, then I have done what I have set out to do. And I would hate to think of others, like me, who felt like I did and battled it by themselves.