My name is Niamh. I’m a first-time mum to a now 9 month old baby boy and I suffered with post-natal depression after he was born.
For many other mums who have gone through similar feelings, that sentence can be extremely difficult to admit to yourself, let alone saying it out loud to your family or even in a doctor’s office.
But there it is.
In black and white for the world to see and judge.
I’ve blogged before about how I hit rock bottom almost 2 months after my baby boy was born. I was feeling completely overwhelmed. I looked in the mirror and I didn’t know who I was. Every day I woke up and I hoped to feel like myself again and to feel more of a connection to the baby, but no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t feel it. To me he was this little stranger who had torn me apart, inside and out. I was in a constant state of anxiety, I had no appetite. I said very little to anyone, but cried every single day. I was alone a lot and felt completely isolated, as if no-one could understand how I was feeling. Was I the only one? At times it seemed that way. I felt as though I was failing at every attempt to be a good mum. Some days I felt as if I was completely worthless, useless and so undeserving of the word mum. I’d try rocking my baby boy, soothing him, singing to him, lying him down, and picking him up. I’d bring him for walks, I’d play soft lullabies, I’d read to him, I’d take him for long drives in the car, but some days, nothing stopped him crying. Everything converged like a perfect storm around me. Fear, panic, loneliness and this prevailing sense of feeling constantly overwhelmed, dragged me into a very dark place. I thought the most terrible things that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to tell anyone about.
I was drowning.
Yet I didn’t reach out for help. I didn’t tell anyone I was feeling so overwhelmed. I’m quite sure my close family knew I was a little ‘teary,’ but they didn’t realise the extent of my feelings. I hid it well. If they had known just how bad things were, they would have intervened.
Why didn’t you just reach out for help? Why couldn’t you just pull yourself together?
Looking back now, it’s hard to explain. I suppose I didn’t want to reach out for help, for fear of what might happen. For fear that I’d be branded an unfit mother. I didn’t want to be judged, or pitied, for being seemingly ‘flaky’ or ‘over-dramatic.’ For someone to look at me and say oh why can’t you just get your shit together and get on with it. Being a mum is supposed to be natural, instinctual; you’re lead to believe that you’ll just know what to do, but I didn’t. I didn’t seem to fit the mould.
9 months on from when I gave birth and my life is very different. There’s light in it now and I don’t wake up every day with a sense of dread. I can see the road in front of me instead of seeing nothing but darkness. I don’t spend every day in tears. I wake up most days (albeit at the crack of dawn with dark circles under my eyes!) but I wake up eager to see my baby boy. My love for him has grown into the most extraordinary, all-consuming feeling I could never have imagined back in those hellish days of January, when I thought I’d never see the light again. Some days are still shaky, life is not perfect, but nobody’s is. What’s important is that I feel more like myself and when you feel more grounded, you’re better able to cope with what daily life throws at you.
So why am I telling you this?
I’m telling you this because, if you’re a new mum who’s feeling this way, I want you to know you are not alone.
You are not alone.
I promise, you are not alone.
You are not failing. Your feelings aren’t something to be embarrassed about.
You can overcome this. The light will return.
Sometimes you can work through it yourself. Sometimes you can work through it with the help of family, but often you’ve got to reach out. And reaching out is one of the bravest things you can do.
My biggest regret, other than hitting rock bottom, was that I didn’t reach out for help. I don’t think I was brave enough to verbalise how I was feeling. I wanted to hide it from the world. I wanted to paint on a smile, wipe away the black mascara marks from my eyes and cheeks and just hold in my tears until I got in the door and I could close it behind me. I felt ashamed and I shouldn’t have.
I think the more we talk about these experiences, the more we’ll let other women know that it’s something so many of us share. It’s something so many of us go through. I wish we didn’t, but we do. We need to talk about post-natal depression. We need to spread the message that post-natal depression doesn’t make you a failure. It doesn’t mean you’re not cut out to be a mum. It just means you need some time and support.
When I was in the middle of the maelstrom, I was unaware of organisations such as Nurture, who specialise in helping women who are going through feelings of post-natal depression, as well as depression in pregnancy, fertility issues and grief counselling. I would urge any mum feeling overwhelmed to reach out to them.
I know that’s easier said than done, so I’m letting you know I’m here for you. I know we’ve never met and we may never meet, but I’m here if you need me. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m not a doctor or a counsellor or an academic on the subject. I’m just a new mum, who’s come through the darkness and I want to help.
And I’m here.
And I’ll listen without judgement.
Information on organisations who can help if you’re feeling overwhelmed or going through feelings of post-natal depression –