Being a women is hard, being a mum is hard and being human is hard, and i think all of us have at some point suffered or know someone who has been affected by anxiety or depression. This is a subject close to my heart and something i get very emotive about. Here at Rock Up Frock Up we want to make a difference to our local community so for every sale on the night a percentage is donated to the local group for Post Natal Depression. Below Jenny (not me, another one!) tells us her story and how our local group started:
Postnatal Depression and Me
When I initially fell pregnant I was so excited over the prospect of being a mummy. I had so many ideas in my head of what motherhood would be like. I never thought anything could go wrong during labour, despite hearing a handful of horror stories. I lived in my lovely bubble of baby-bliss, where I figured I’d have the textbook labour and birth, which would result in amazing skin to skin contact with my child and we’d have an instant bond unlike anything else in the world. This is didn’t happen though. I ended up haemorrhaging during birth; I then “failed to love” and bond with my child for a good couple of months. The one basic thing that a mother should do and I failed at that, right? Well, actually, no. I didn’t “fail”, and neither do the many, many women who feel like this.
Postnatal depression took a happy time and turned it into the worst time. It made me doubt my abilities as a mother. It convinced me that my beautiful baby boy would be better off without me. It planted anxieties in my head which made it hard to breathe. Whilst my friends were all enjoying motherhood, I was caught up under this grey cloud that meant every smile was just a cover for what really lay underneath: a lot of self-hatred.
“Ah! What a beautiful baby! You are so lucky!”- I didn’t feel lucky. I felt trapped, and like I had failed at step one of this parenting stuff. Once I’d developed a bond with my child PND then convinced me that my child wasn’t putting on weight, so I ended up meticulously measuring his milk intake. I got obsessed with my child getting ill, and would have full on panic attacks if he got a fever or rash, blaming myself for his sudden ill health. My husband would come home and I would be sobbing, having convinced myself that my son was better off without me.
“You’ve got postnatal depression.”- What, me? Noooo! This is a happy time; no way has a mental health illness taken away from my joy. But it had, and it happens to a lot of people. No one wants to talk about it because of the stigma attached to mental health illnesses. People assume that if you’ve got a baby, you’re happy. People assume that if you look ok, and go out to do things, then you’re ok. I wasn’t ok. I was slowly losing who I was as a person, and without intervention from my amazing GP, and the support from my husband, it would have gotten a lot worse. I received counselling for postnatal depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress caused by my traumatic labour. It took a while, but eventually I started to feel less like an alien had taken control of me, and more like myself. I started to enjoy being a mum (although I still struggle with certain aspects… terrible twos anyone?), and actually felt more confident to ask for help.
Let us not pretend motherhood is all sunshine and roses. Let us accept motherhood is a gritty, anxious and difficult time for a lot of mums. Let us accept not all mums can breastfeed and that if your child gets ill it is not your fault.
Once I had started to heal I began to think that a local support group would have helped me at my lowest. Being able to talk with like-minded mums about how hard motherhood can be at times is very liberating. Talking about the good times, and also the bad times can help mums through the darkness. Gaining friendships, in an otherwise isolating time of our lives, can be vital for helping mums conquer the black dog of depression. Mums matter, and our mental health needs to be looked after, just as much as our physical health, which is why I had the idea to set up a perinatal mental health support group. Having never done anything like this before I had no idea where to begin, to which Rebecca McCann from Butterflies, a community support project that aims to help mums going through tough times, contacted me saying that she’d provide the support I needed to set up the group. Although I found it difficult initially to find a venue that was suitable, I didn’t give up as I was so sure a group like this was needed in the local area. Postnatal depression makes you feel like you’re on your own, when in fact it is totally the opposite. I figured providing women with support from other mums would be beneficial to their recovery.
We help so many women at Butterflies by providing group and online support for free. We don’t just help mums going through mental health struggles either; we help women who are just overwhelmed by the difficulty that is motherhood. We build women up, and listen to their experiences. We let women know that it’s ok to not be ok, and that there is no shame in feeling anxious, guilty, low or overwhelmed by it all. It’s ok to not enjoy every aspect of parenthood, and it’s ok to parent however you like. The groups provide a judgment free space for mums to vent over a cup of tea, and build peer support with similar minded mums.
There are several support groups dotted around Hertfordshire in Welwyn Garden City, Ware, Stotfold, Borehamwood and Hitchin. All of the groups are set up and run by volunteers who are fully trained by Butterflies. Groups are confidential, and 100% judgement free.