This is me, holding my baby boy, about five months old here, on the day of his Baptism. My hair is done (sort of…), I’ve whacked on some jewellery, a splash of make-up and, out of picture I am even wearing high heels.
I look like a woman oozing pride, love and maternal bliss. I look like a woman who has got the mothing-shiz GOING. ON.
What this picture doesn’t show is the anxiety that is belting through my veins like electricity. That the cuddles my family want to have with my son, the tickles they plant on his belly just to hear him chuckle, their sweet and innocent attempts at getting him to babble their name, or in the very least answer what does the puppy dog say? is chipping away at my “I’ve got this together” appearance, like a jack hammer.
My smile is so forced, that the muscles in my face are shaking. Shaking like the rest of my body, as I try to contain the true emotions that are zapping, and have been for the five months leading up to this photo, through every fibre of my being. I feel resentful, fragile, scared, alone, angry, confused, envious, explosive, useless, guilty and broken.
Some days, I want to hide in a cave with my son; block out the world and only emerge when I know what the hell I am doing. I want the doorbell to stop ringing. I want visitors to stop coming.
Other days, I want the world around me. I want them to love and admire my boy. I want to hear their advice. I want to brag about the milestones he is reaching.
Most days, I genuinely want my husband to quit his job. I want him to stay at home and take care of us, because I feel so fragile and, to be honest, I don’t trust myself and the intensity of the emotions that possess me.
I suspected it, but didn’t know it, that I was suffering from Post Natal Depression.
My tale of PND is fairly bland – and that’s the point. It doesn’t take much. In short, somewhere between my son not feeding well when he was born and then crying for up to nine hours at night, I started weaving the word “should” into every thought, or allowing the “shoulds” from well-meaning family, friends and health professionals sink into my consciousness like boulders.
He should be sleeping.
He should be drinking quicker.
He should not be hungry.
He should have teeth by now.
He should be sleeping for longer.
He should have a dummy.
He should be able to get to sleep on his own.
He should be having more than just catnaps.
He should self-settle.
He should fall asleep in the pram.
You should sleep when he sleeps.
You should be able to get out for a few hours.
You should put him on the bottle.
You should let him cry.
You should not rock him to sleep.
You should love being a mother.
My son was over two years old when I finally got some help. And it was a relief. The diagnosis alone lifted the weight of guilt, worry and concern that I was just bad at being a mother. My psychologist was incredibly helpful, supportive and empathetic.
Eventually only one “should” remained in my mind:
I should have sought help sooner.
This past week has been Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Awareness Week – a time dedicated to raising the profile of condition that affects around 100,000 Australian families per year.
My business was born as a result of wanting to help women, whether they are suffering from PND or not, have a physical, social and emotional outlet. Because parenting is without doubt the hardest job in the world. And it’s okay to put your hand up and say I am not oozing with love, pride and maternal bliss and I do not always have the mothering shiz going on.
If you think you could use some help, or you’re concerned about how one of your family members or friends is coping with the rocky road that is parenting, check the PANDA website for some great resources, checklists and support numbers.