Throughout my battle with Postnatal Depression I have dealt with a variety of emotions from the fiercest of anger and debilitating anxiety through to quite simply feeling nothing at all. As I've become stronger and re-found my inner strength, so I have found my inner voice and boy is it demanding some answers. The person who has lay dormant, silenced by crippling anxiety and self- doubt is now brushing herself down and bombarding me with a barrage of questions that until now I hadn't realised I needed the answers to. Questions, I now realise, myself and fellow mums suffering with this awful illness need answering, if we are ever to recover fully.
Questions ranging from the ones we hate to admit to for fear of sounding whiney and pathetic; "Why me?" and "What did I do to deserve this?" Through to the ones that appear in your darkest of moments; "How am I going to overcome this?" and "Will it ever not be a part of my life?" However, it has only been now that I am starting to feel (dare I say and dare I hope) that it may be behind me that I'm asking "How did this happen to me?" and "Why was PND not even on my radar? Why was it not even a consideration?" This has inevitably lead me to the question of "How could I have been so ignorant of it?"
I think here in lies the crux of the problem when it comes to PND and the lack of awareness we have of it as a society, as mothers and mothers- to- be. The subject of maternal mental health is not on our radar. It is a subject we have only vaguely heard of in passing on a news report or touched upon briefly in a mother and baby book we have read. It is a subject we find too uncomfortable, too dark and too shameful to talk about. In our minds and culture becoming a mother is a subject that should only be a positive one. A topic only littered with talk of baby names, growing bellies and hopes and dreams of the future. It is a subject we shouldn't be seen to "tarnish" with talk of anxiety, depression, self-harm and trauma.
As an expectant first time mum, my mind and heart was filled with nothing but love and excitement for the tiny person growing inside me and a joy filled anticipation for the amazing future we were going to have together. Was I wrong in thinking and feeling this? No. However, with the beauty of hindsight I can see that I was not best armed for the reality of motherhood and all it had in store for me. Yes, I had a beautiful, healthy baby who I loved with every part of me, however, I was also "gifted" with 18 months of Postnatal Depression which I was not just under prepared for but knocked sideways by due to my lack of knowledge of it.
The fear and misconception surrounding the area of PND and mental health issues in motherhood is leaving thousands of mums like myself not only unarmed and underprepared but thanks to a lack of knowledge we are also left feeling alone and isolated. We are terrified about what is happening to us, we don't understand why we are feeling the way we are and we are unaware of where to go for the right help and support. Unless this changes how can we as women be fully prepared for motherhood? How can we as mums help ourselves and each other if we happen to be the one woman in ten diagnosed with a mental health issue following the birth of our babies if we have no knowledge of these issues in the first place? How can we recognise these issues in ourselves and others if we don't know how they manifest? And most importantly how can we arm ourselves against maternal mental health issues and empower ourselves to ask for help if we can't talk about them with our family, friends and health professionals due to the stigma associated with them?
The answer is we can't and what a truly terrifying acknowledgement this is. What a shocking thought that with hundreds of thousands of women giving birth in the UK every year, how many of these women will be entering into motherhood with no knowledge of maternal mental health issues, but will, unfortunately, be one of the one in 10 diagnosed with one? How are these women firstly expected to recognise they may have a problem and know where to turn to for help and support if they are unarmed with the knowledge in the first place?
So who is responsible for putting PND and maternal mental health issues on our agenda? Following recent reports in the media regarding the lack of government funding when it comes to the issue of mental health issues in motherhood, I am a huge believer that more money needs to be spent and more resources need to be allocated to provide all mums with the support and care they need when they enter into motherhood for the first or a repeat time. However, I am also an advocate of "If you want a job doing properly then do it yourself." Therefore, I am going to be bold and stick my head above the parapet and say that the people who should also be responsible for making all mums and mums to be aware of PND and motherhood mental wellbeing is in fact US. US mums who have suffered and overcome a mental health issue, US mums who are currently suffering, US mums who have a friend or family member who has been a victim of it. US mums who up until reading this article were not aware of what PND stood for or the high statistics of developing a mental health problem in motherhood. All of US need to start talking openly on the subject of mental health amongst mums. All of US need to be brave enough to talk openly and honestly about our own experiences of it. All of US need to embrace the subject of mental health rather than sweep it under the proverbial rug. All of US need to arm ourselves and others with the knowledge of PND , how to recognise and overcome it. As with every conversation we have about it, every article we write, every piece of information we read, every friend we support through it and every question we ask about it, we are one step closer to abolishing the stigma attached to it and ensuring the armour we all need to survive the battle that is motherhood does not have a chink of the mental wellbeing variety.
We need to change our mind set and reprogram our view of motherhood. Yes, becoming a mother is a true gift and our tiny humans are truly amazing. However, our view of motherhood, our expectations and portrayals of it need to be better balanced and give a truer reflection of its realities without judgement. We as women need to feel empowered to talk about our experiences of motherhood, the magical and the challenging, with both the ups and the downs of our journeys being given equal floor space and column inches.
As a mother of two daughters who will hopefully one day be lucky enough to go on to be mothers themselves, I feel it is my duty to bang the awareness drum of PND and maternal mental health as loud and as clear as possible. My promise to myself, my daughters and fellow mums is to keep banging this drum until it penetrates the consciousness of society and Mothers worldwide.
Who else fancies joining me in making some noise?
If you want to join the fight to make Postnatal Depression a discussion point not to be ashamed of please visit http://www.the-baby-bible.com/ , join the public Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/thebabybible or email firstname.lastname@example.org to join the closed Facebook group.