(I wrote this post with Bupa, for PND Awareness Week)
“You are not alone.”
“I am here for you.”
Will you join me and close your eyes for a moment, after you read over those words a few times. Let them sink in and feel the power there, the sense of connection.
Imagine if every new or expectant Mamma, who was feeling alone, unsure or sad could hear these words. Imagine if they could somehow truly understand and believe that they were not alone, and how valued they are?
As new Mums, it can feel like everyone is always focused on what is best for our baby. All of that measuring, checking, comparing and people staring in wonder at the freshness and beauty that a newborn radiates! (For good reason of course!)
Imagine if every-time someone checked on your baby they also looked you in the eye and asked ‘How are you doing Mamma?’.
It was during those long nights of the first few months of motherhood that I struggled. The light of day always seemed to sustain me, and as the night darkened my anxiety and panic saw an opportunity. It had been so well managed up until then.
I know now that the broken sleep may have made things worse. How can a new Mum already prone to anxiety and depression possibly stay on top of things without a good sleep?
Never underestimate the (negative) power of a lack of sleep. I had never really had a problem with sleep until becoming a parent. Suddenly there was another human being relying on me to provide an endless supply of milk throughout the night! Even with co-sleeping, it takes its toll. I think I worked myself up into such a state that things were always going to get worse before they got better.
Gradually it worsened and the anxiety set in during the afternoon too, knowing that the dark night lay ahead. Everything seems so much worse between midnight and dawn, don’t you think?
Often it’s the anticipation itself that causes most of the anxiety! I did everything I could to cling onto the light that was my precious newborn. He was not enough though; I needed help. Yes he was a form of therapy, with his delicious new-born aroma and adoring blue eyes, but the help I needed came in adult form: an expert and some carefully planned care.
Luckily I knew the signs and, despite my best efforts, I knew when to reach out. For a brief amount of time I toyed with denial, something I would not recommend. As soon as you sense something is not right, that is the time to reach out.
It is actually one of the bravest things we can do as parents, to admit that we need help.
There is so much pressure to get it right, measure up and strive for the perfect balance. I’m sorry, but there is no such thing.
Balance should be about a gentle mix of the things that make you happy, not trying to cram as much into a day and a life, without it exploding in a crazy mess!
As parents we need to go more gently on ourselves and into the world. Our little people will be what we are, so we need to remember to be what we want them to be. The energy that we embody naturally, becomes theirs too.
I remember working myself up into a panic over nap-time. The books were telling me we needed a structure and a consistent routine, but most days he would just not cooperate. It seems mad now looking back! I know that small babies do crave rhythm and that routine can be good. But I have also learned that rhythm is sometimes less about forcing and more about surrendering.
If only I could have surrendered a little more, I may not have forced myself into a state of panic so many times a day!
Thankfully I was looked after by some of the most wonderful health professionals, and I cannot praise the system we are blessed to have here in Australia enough. As soon as I raised my hand and let someone know that I was not OK, it set off a chain of support that lifted me out of my dark place.
It took time, and perseverance, and a combination of things that were unique to me and my needs. That’s the thing about mental illness, it is incredibly subjective and sometimes impossible to articulate. This does not mean that you are ever alone though, there are always similarities and common threads, and people who can help.
Thankfully Bupa is aware of the need to support Mums and Mums-to-be at this important time of their lives, and they know that everyone is different. We all need the care and resources that suit us personally. Bupa is a healthcare provider that really does care, and they have developed a new mobile tool called mummatters, which helps expecting or new Mums track how they are going. Mummattters asks a few questions and then provides tips, resources and sources of support to help make life that little bit easier. Best of all its been developed by specialists, so you know it will be worthwhile and helpful.
Something like this could have made a real difference to me, back then. I’m so happy that more Mums will be supported with their emotional wellbeing, and hopefully feel less alone.
What I did do at that time though, was find blogging. What better way to connect late at night than through the interwebs! Mummy blogging was really becoming a ‘thing’ and I felt an instant sense of connection, authenticity and relief through my sharing and discovering the sharing of others. Technology, social media and the online world has really changed the way we connect and seek support.
There are so many amazing resources out there, you just need to know where to look for the credible ones. It is no longer necessary to hide away, afraid to share your story.
I hope that you know, you are never alone.