I was talking to my hairdresser the other day and she was telling me how hard and emotionally draining her day had been the previous week. She had had a full day of discussions with women who were struggling mentally, most of them mums.
From our discussion, it seemed like these women had nowhere to turn, no one to offer them the guidance or support that may help them. Or, they were too embarrassed or afraid to talk to anyone about what they were going through, except for their beautiful hairdresser. Don’t we love our hairdressers?
And even my hairdresser (a mum herself who had also been on her own amazing and, at times, incredibly difficult and heart-wrenching ‘mum’ journey) did not know what advice to give them or where to refer them, because it seems that we still don’t want to talk about any struggles we are having emotionally or mentally as a mum. It seems many of us think we should just struggle through; that periods of feeling low, struggling with all of the changes that our lives and bodies are going through and often feeling like you’re doing it all by yourself, even if you do have a partner, is normal and it’s something we just need to deal with.
And, you know, I felt exactly the same. I struggled emotionally in the early days with my little man and he wasn’t a difficult baby. But I really wasn’t prepared for the rollercoaster of emotions, the sleep deprivation, the challenge of breast feeding, the changes in the relationship dynamics with my husband and the immense responsibility of caring for such a small being who was completely dependent on me.
Then came the arrival of my baby girl almost three years later, very quickly during an unplanned home birth, followed by a significant knee injury sustained when she was two weeks old. Those two events alone had such an impact on both my and my husband’s emotional and mental wellbeing, though we didn’t realise it until a few years later, after it almost broke us as a couple.
The smile on my face in this photo is not authentic. It was me thinking I was supposed to be happy because I had two beautiful children. What did I have to be down and upset about? I had sought help from my doctor by this stage but I didn’t see it through and I really did not know where else to turn. My girlfriends did their best to support me, but I really needed professional guidance and help.
This is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about supporting mums, especially new mums. There are resources out there that can help you and you are not alone on this journey. If we, as mums also, are not there with you right now, there’s a very good chance we have been there already.
Whilst people may not openly discuss many of the challenges in the early weeks of parenthood (if at all), there are so many common hurdles we all face during these early days.
And if you are not able to deal with your stress, anxiety or depression, it is ok to seek help and there is help out there.
So if you are struggling and don’t feel you can talk to a friend or family member, please speak with your doctor, your child healthcare nurse or go online and seek information from such organisations as the Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE) or PAND A (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Awareness) or Beyond Blue. There are national helplines that you can contact.
Remember, your babies are only little for a short time so try and enjoy the precious, happy moments and know that the challenging times will pass. Take the time to breathe slowly and deeply when things are getting hard and you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Have a cry if that’s what you need to do – it’s ok to feel…
And if that is not working, make sure you talk to someone or seek the help that you need.
It doesn’t make you a bad parent to look after yourself. In fact, taking the time to care for yourself and seek help if you need it will lead to you being a happier, healthier mum. And it will have a positive impact on your relationships with your child, your partner and your friends and family.
So, amazing Mumma, please know you are not alone…
Jody runs specialised mums and bubs sessions in Carine, Perth, WA – please see her profile page for more information and to get in touch.