I remember the day I sat in my doctors office, my newborn daughter in the capsule next to me, going through the questions that would lead me to a diagnosis of post-natal depression.
I remember it so clearly like it was yesterday. How defeated and low I felt, but how glad I felt to have that name to how I was feeling. My doctor was amazing. She gave me options, talked to me about what I wanted to do, made follow up appointments for me. And the best thing of all – she didn’t judge me and she reassured me that I was doing a great job as a mum.
Those first six months were hell. I was adamant that I wasn’t going back on medication. I’d been on medication previously for depression and it made it worse. I wanted to prove to myself, to my husband, and to my daughter that I could beat this without it.
I remember those sleepless nights just laying there thinking ‘Why me?’
I didn’t want to leave the house and when I did, it was hard to just go and do what I needed to do without stressing about every little thing.
‘What if Emily had a meltdown? ‘, What if another mum judges me for something I do? ‘, ‘What if we get into an accident’. These were silly fears I had that stopped me from living my life. I stayed home a lot.
I pushed everyone away. Deleted most of my friends off Facebook because I didn’t know how to cope with the constant messages of ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘Can I come and see her’.
I didn’t want my friends to see me. Didn’t want them to know just how badly I wasn’t coping. Didn’t want to be a burden so I put this mask on and ignored people as best as I could.
I think the worst part was how badly I pushed my husband away. I wanted so badly to show him that I could do it by myself. I didn’t want to bother him after his long day at work. He would come home and try and help me and I’d snap, desperate to prove that I could cope on my own because I needed to when I was home alone. I wouldn’t let him put her to bed without my help. And because her sleeping habits were so bad, I’d sit there in tears trying my hardest to get my tiny baby to sleep without her dummy, needing a break but not wanting hubby to have to get up and do it.
If Emily was sick, I’d sleep on the couch with her in the bassinet next to me, so hubby could sleep.
I was in the biggest black hole I’ve ever been in. And that’s saying something especially when I went through major depression growing up. I didn’t recognise who I was anymore. I didn’t care. All I cared about was making it to bedtime so I could break down and cry without waking my child.
I can’t remember the day I finally said ‘enough is enough, I need to get out of this’. I think it was a case of an internal ultimatum. Either try and get through this or you will have to go on medication. Try and get through this so you can work on being the best mum you can be. Do it for Emily and Sam.
I’m not going to lie, until that point, I was just one giant ball of emotions. I couldn’t think rationally, some days I would just yell. Yell at hubby, yell at my family, yell at Emily when she’d spent four hours crying and screaming. My daughter didn’t deserve a mum who did that to her…. Oh the times I thought about walking out and leaving her here with hubby. Walking away so I didn’t upset her anymore by being a mean mummy. I honestly thought it would be the best solution.
I slowly picked myself up. Started following some other mums on social media. Started opening up and sharing how I was feeling. I’d started my page Mama Knows Best not long after Emily was born to connect with others but I didn’t want to share too much in fear of being judged. But I saw other mums go through something similar and realised that I wasn’t alone. There were other mums out there who felt just as isolated and alone as I did. Mums who yelled, mums who couldn’t cope, mums who felt like their world was crashing down around them.
Now more than a year on, I’m doing a lot better.
I still have those moments some days where I feel like it’s all too much. Days where I feel like I’m slipping back into that horrible black hole. About a month ago, I broke down again after hubby mentioned how distant and grumpy I’d been. We sat and talked while I bawled my eyes out. I had been slipping back into those shitty habits of not wanting help, not letting hubby do things. Snapping when something was out of my control or when Emily pushed my buttons.
Being a parent is hard. But it also so rewarding.
We are looking at trying for baby number two this year and I need to be able to recognise those post-natal signs so I can get help. I don’t want to sink back into that black hole of depression again. I can do this.
Post-natal comes in so many forms. It might be manageable with medication for one mum, while another might need more help from professionals. It doesn’t make you any less of a mum for it either.
What I wish more people would understand is that while it may look like a mum is being horrible and yelling at her child in public, she might just be having a bad day with her post-natal. Some days I got the filthiest of looks for not coping and it made it 10x worse.
To any mum with post-natal, you are strong and you are a fantastic mum. And I know that you absolutely love your children with everything you have. One day you will look back and see how amazingly strong you were to get through this. I send my love to you and my inbox is always open to any mum needing to talk. It doesn’t have to be about post-natal, it can just be reaching out, desperate to talk to another mum about absolutely anything so you don’t feel so lonely.
You can do this mama. I believe in you xoxo
Check out Rachael on Instagram – @mamaknowsbest_nz