As a new mother, I embraced the chaos that a newborn could bring. I laughed at urine stained bedsheets. I smiled at 2am feeds. I rejoiced at staying in my pyjamas for two weeks in a bubble of bliss. I was a mummy and this tiny, innocent little being was everything I had ever wanted. I was in heaven.
As the days went on however, it became harder to cope with daily life. I became disengaged, I lost pleasure in 'the little things' and I was anxious 89% of the day. I would snap at my husband, silently cry into my pillow at night and struggle to motivate myself for the days ahead.
Self-doubt crept closer and closer until there came a time where I simply only thought of myself negatively. I would use examples of mistakes I had made to reinforce the belief that I was a useless mother, and then I would replay them in my head on a loop like a destructive (and poorly made) feature film. I would look at other mothers I knew and question why they had it so easy. Why they coped and I didn't. Why I was such a failure.
I was feeling some of the most intense emotions I had ever experienced, yet I also felt incredibly numb. I couldn't make sense of anything. I felt trapped behind a pane of glass and sometimes that glass was foggy, sometimes it was clear, and sometimes it was completely dark. Everyone was going about their daily lives but my view was always distorted. My lack of energy meant that whilst I fought hard, I could never break that glass. It was always there; as a constant reminder that everyone was there, and I was here.
Through the rollercoaster of postpartum life and the emotional struggles I faced, the one thing that never faltered was the love I had for my baby. Her wellbeing, happiness and safety were paramount (and about the only thing I could successfully ensure each day). I'd go a couple of days without showering, I'd wear the same clothes for a week, I'd let the wash basket overflow; but she was always clean, fed and very, very loved.
'Maybe this all comes with the territory? Maybe every mum goes through this?'
After little while I tried convincing myself that everything was fine. It was just a blip. People could cope with far worse and 'just get on with it', so I should too. Why was I being so ungrateful? Thousands upon thousands of women would give anything to be in my position. Why was I depressed? I didn't deserve her. I didn't deserve to be a mother.
By telling myself daily that I was 'overreacting', I was adding an ever increasing negativity to my already fragile mindset, and causing my mood to fall even lower. I was forever putting pressure on myself, and then beating myself up for not achieving unattainable goals. Round and round in circles I went, all the while expecting a different outcome.
The power of thought is truly unrelenting and our minds can be our own worst enemy
The reason for this post isn't pity. It's not from a 'woe is me' angle. I don't want your sympathy, or for you to pat me on the back and say sorry. It's purely for awareness. Awareness that you can be the happiest you've ever felt in life; yet undeniably sad at the same time.
Postnatal depression doesn't discriminate. It doesn't skip a go if you've got a degree, a hefty sum in the bank or five older children. It happens when it happens, and the worst thing you can do is brush it under the carpet or tell yourself to get a grip.
It doesn't mean you don't appreciate your baby, it doesn't mean you don't love your baby, and it certainly doesn't mean you don't want your baby.
It is really quite the opposite, and the majority of my worries stem from feelings of inferiority. How could someone like me deserve someone like her? How can I ever be everything that she needs?
It's about feeling defective in a world of 'perfection'.
The main concern I had in openly discussing my 'feelings' with strangers was judgement. What if it leads to them questioning my ability to parent Winnie? What if they think I am an incompetent mother? What if someone takes her away?
After weeks of drafting this post, I am thinking of the greater good. I am exposing myself for all to see and I am learning that that's okay.
Vulnerability is not a flaw.
I am sharing this with you in the hope that it helps you to see you're not alone, that you're not a failure, and that if you're consciously worrying about how to be the best mother you can possibly be... chances are you already are.