* Please seek advice from PANDA or call 1300 726 306 if this resonates with you *
This is not just another blog about how hard it is to be a Mummy. Sometimes I struggle to find topics to write blogs on and other times I find myself writing in my head about anything from the book I am reading to my deepest darkest feelings.
This is the latter, but instead of making it just about me I hope it can reach out and empower some of the many women around me who may be struggling as well.
I think many of those women and my clients see me as Super Herbalist and Mummy and possibly put me up on a pedestal in terms of successful clinic, healthy baby and happy marriage. She can cope with it all! But there is no need. I do have all of those amazing blessings in my life, however you never really know what’s going on in someone’s life and mind unless you are them.
More to the point, I want to stamp out the competitive baby comparisons and have always tried to be very transparent with my mental health to open that conversation for anyone else who is trying and those that are struggling.
I have always been a high achiever and I have always worked my butt off. As we speak I am in bed, having put Callie down three times so far, writing this blog. She is ten months old and this week is the first I have started to truly feel like myself again.
While these glimpses of my old self have made me feel happy and secure (OMG, light at the end of the tunnel), they have also made me realise where I have been mentally and where I can easily slip back into in-between these moments.
I should say, I have a pretty bloody good kid. She has had no health issues, she eats everything, no allergies and she loves to sleep (mostly with me, which I secretly love as well). She is happy and content, she plays with other kids and by herself. She loves people and will give anyone a cuddle and she comes to work with Sam and I most days.
This led to a burden of guilt like I have never carried. How dare I feel anything but pure elation when I have a perfect little baby girl? What is wrong with me and why the baby blues?
When we set out on this baby journey I never thought about the fact that I would have to slow down. Then, in my baby bliss it never bothered me. I would get done what I got done and that would be that (yes, signing a deal with a publisher for a third cookbook is just what I happened to get done in this downtime, cut yourself much slack Mel?!).
Now, for the first time since she was born, I am starting to enjoy things again. This is a big shift.
Before, I guess it was just like going through the motions. There have been unfathomable highs watching her grow, hearing her laugh and feeling her soft skin against mine. But the in-between feels a little fuzzy and the relationships with everyone else a little further away.
I have had moments of Callie and I against the world (sorry Sammy) where I think of just running away with her and being done with the rest, and others of thinking she would be better off without me. I have thought I couldn’t cope and I have felt numb with exhaustion.
One in seven women experiences post-natal anxiety or depression and one in ten men.
These stats feel quite low compared to the reality and maybe this is because many of us feel it is just normal. Of course, you will be stressed, tired, teary, furious at your partner, overwhelmed, out of routine, have piles of washing with no end in sight, and no energy for groceries after having bought a new life into the world and attempting to keep it alive. Right? Right?
Of course, you will be! But we need to know when to ask for help. It may just be family and friends (literal lifesavers), but it may need to be a doctor or health care professional who can tell you what’s normal and if you need extra support. PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) has some great resources and a free helpline which you can access as well. Common signs of depression are common signs of being a new mum as well, so sometimes it is hard to tell and we need someone to look from the outside in.
I have taken support in the form of any and all volunteers and visitors. I take strength from my family and my amazing support group of super strong wonder women who surround me and prop me up. I ask for help, often.
I lean on Sam like he is the hardest brick wall I have ever seen and I tell him how I am feeling. We learnt early on that to manage our mental health best, we needed to share our thoughts and feelings, and tell each other when we were acting crazy, when we needed therapy, and when we needed medication. I have taken support from my herbs and supplements and food. I have taken support from talking to a professional. There is no shame in asking for help and no shame in getting it.
I have seen women in the clinic who still carry their post-natal depression despite their baby starting school or being teenagers. The burden unlifted, their self still lost and hazy. So many of us give ourselves over so completely and so unconditionally that the road back can be difficult.
Sure, we will never be the same and for the better. Most of us are left with a new most important thing for the rest of our life (said baby). But despite this we still need self-care, self-recognition, mummy and daddy time, mummy alone time, daddy alone time and so on.
When I first went back to work, an hour was agony. I would text my poor Mum or Mother-in-law between every client demanding photo updates. Has she taken her milk, did they burp her like I do, were they holding her how she likes, how long did she cry?
Now that the initial anxiety has dissipated around leaving her with others for a few hours and that has allowed me some clarity. All in all, maybe the clearing fuzz at ten months is not so bad. The precious glimpses of my old self are a nice treat. The timeframes where I don’t worry about her dying are getting longer. Most importantly, the breaks allow me to be a better Mum and appreciate all those little moments more. The shift has allowed me to open my heart again and to love people other than my new baby again.
* If this blog has triggered something in you, please seek support from PANDA *