It’s not easy being a mum, and tending to tiny humans can be downright exhausting, so it’s really no wonder that mums are more susceptible to mental health issues. According to a study by BBC Radio5 Live and YouGov, more than a third of mothers have experienced mental health issues related to parenthood.
It really doesn’t surprise me. Stress is daily factor in my life, and I imagine it’s the same for most mums. I’ve got a million things to remember, I can’t remember the last time I brushed my hair properly, and I’m trying to keep little people alive, and happy. It’s hard sometimes, and I’m not afraid to admit that anymore. I’m actually enjoying motherhood a lot more the third time around, but it wasn’t always like that. Here, I tell my story of post natal depression and struggling as a first time mum.
I fell pregnant with my first child when I was just 17. I was still a baby myself, but still I thought I had it all figured out. I was so naive. I didn’t realise the responsibility I was letting myself in for. I struggled a lot through my pregnancy with depression, but then I always had. I thought that when I had Leo, things would be different. I would have this perfect little baby and my life would be complete. I thought having a baby was the thing I was missing from my life. The truth is, I wasn’t ready. When Leo came along I wasn’t overwhelmed with love.
He came all of a sudden, in an emergency. I was having a cord prolapse when my waters broke, meaning the cord had come down before the baby’s head. I was rushed into theatre straight away, and he was out within 8 minutes. It all happened so fast. The next thing you know, I had a baby in my arms. But all I wanted to do was sleep. When I looked down at the beautiful baby staring back at me, I was scared. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. The months that followed I suffered terrible post-natal depression. I was convinced that he hated me, and that I was a no good mother. Nothing felt natural.
And that’s the thing, it isn’t supposed to be. This idea that all women are natural born mothers is a lie. Motherhood is damn hard, and it’s a learning curve. It doesn’t come with a manual, and it sometimes takes time to adjust to the huge transition in your life. It’s okay to admit those things. It’s okay to lose our shit from time to time. It doesn’t make you any less of a mum. I eventually learnt to love Leo, and I realised that our bond was even more special. I never gave up on him, even when I was at breaking point. I may have struggled, but those struggles have made me appreciate my son even more. I’m very lucky that I was able to pull through it, and that I had family and friends around to make sure we were both okay.
Why is maternal well-being so important?
Looking after your well-being is important for any parent, but for new mums it’s vital. With around 50% of women experiencing ‘baby blues’ it’s easy to see how our mental health could decline if we don’t look after it. Public Health Wales is running a campaign at the moment called ‘The first 1000 days’ which highlights the importance of maternal mental health and well-being in those vital first two years, as well as the importance of the child’s development. It’s important to speak up if you’re feeling like you can’t cope, if you don’t you risk putting yourself and your child at risk. I contemplated suicide many times when I first became a mum, and luckily I had a strong support network around me, but sadly this isn’t the case for many women.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for mothers within the first year of motherhood…
In 2014, Charlotte Bevan gave birth to a baby girl Zaani at St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol. Charlotte had schizophrenia. She was advised to stop taking her medication before she could breastfeed. This advice ended up costing her and her baby’s life when she was allowed to walk out of hospital. Charlotte and Zaani were found in the Avon Gorge. She had sadly taken her life. When this news broke I was disgusted at the ignorance on social media. I even saw one person refer to her as a sick bitch. Well, she was sick. Charlotte was very sick and she needed care that she didn’t receive. Her and her child’s deaths could have been prevented, and it’s extremely sad that we live in a society that judges someone who clearly struggled so much to the point they took their own life and the life of their baby. It’s time that we realised how important mental health is in motherhood. It can be stressful. You can get anxious. You can feel isolated. As much as our children fulfil our lives and make us happy, it’s not all sunshine and roses all of the time. So if you’re a mum and you’re feeling low, don’t be disheartened. Your child loves you unconditionally, so give yourself a pat on the back for getting this far.
How can we look after our well-being?
It’s important that mums keep their mental health in check and look after themselves, but it’s not always easy when we’re looking after little people. I’ve put together some simple self-care tips to relieve the stresses of mummy life.
Find mummy friends
A problem shared is a problem halved, and when me and my mummy friends meet up boy do we put the world to rights. We moan about everything from tantrums to lazy partners and mundane housework. But we always leave each other’s company feeling a hell of a lot better. It’s always good to have friends with kids, because you’re on the same wavelength and you can meet up and let the kids play.
Make time for you
I know it seems impossible, but even if all you can manage is a soak in the bath, make sure you put time aside to do something for you. We tend to forget that even though were mums, were also human beings with our own personalities. Think of what you loved to do before you became a mum, if you can reignite old hobbies and do something that you really enjoy.
I suffered badly with my mental health when I allowed stigma to hold me back from being honest. It didn’t have to be that way. There is no such thing as a perfect mum, and we shouldn’t risk our mental health trying to be one either. If you’re struggling, reach out. There are organisations out there that can help you, and I promise you that you’re not alone.
So there you have it, just a few self-care tips to see you through those tough times, and you know what we all have them, anyone who says they don’t is lying!!
So Happy Mother’s day all, may you all get to put your feet up at some point during today! I’m going to be spending the afternoon watching films with the boys, how will you be spending Mother’s day? Let me know in the comments!