Maternal Depression – my lifelong battle with Selma & Patty

I’ve suffered from Depression & Anxiety disorders for as long as I can remember, except they were not given a name to me until I was in my twenties & went to my GP & saw a checklist of things that if you experience for more than two weeks is considered depression. I cried. They were tears of relief. They were tears for all those times I pulled out of social appearances, put up appearances or just wanted to disappear.

The biggest depressive episode occurred after the birth of my first baby 4.5 years ago & was actually termed Postnatal/Postpartum Depression. I was admitted to a Psych clinic with my daughter, was medicated, received intensive therapy & slowly recovered. To say that I have not suffered from Depressive episodes or anxiety since then would be a complete lie, but I have learnt how to cope, to deal & to move forward even though I want to stay in bed & sleep the days away. At these times, I am less visible on social media & it takes more energy than normal to look ok & to get on with the daily chores tasks of motherhood & parenthood. And two years ago, I went on to have another baby after my PPMD & although I wasn’t sucked back into the eye of the storm, I was certainly tested.

So, nearly five years on from my PPMD, I’m still battling the Demons that are Depression & Anxiety disorders. I’ve actually named my depression Patty & my anxiety Selma – giving them names helps identify who’s with me on any given day or impacting my decisions. And then I read a book as part of the Warrior Mom Book Club called, ‘ The Ghost in the House: Real Mothers Talk About Maternal Depression, Raising Children, and How They Cope‘ (by Tracy Thompson) & the same sense of relief I had in the doctors surgery many years ago was felt again. You see, I now consider my Depression as Maternal Depression. I have a new profound understanding on what I am battling against – it’s depression that affects mothers of older kids & no longer infants/toddlers (although I still have two preschool children). My Depression does not only impact me, but impacts my children too. And more so, I can’t sleep the days away as I have a family to look after & take care of.

Searching for information & resources for ‘maternal depression’ & the results that come up focus on Postpartum Depression/Postnatal Depression which ‘medically & scientifically’ speaking occur/commence within the first 12 months following the birth of a baby. However, what happens after that? Is it still considered PPD/PND years later when you’re still suffering the cyclic pattern of low moods, apathy, irritation etc? When researching Maternal Depression, you find articles discussing the long-term effects on children whose mother doesn’t read to them, sing to them, interact with them etc. They’re also referring to those mothers who are unable to work & contribute financially to the family also adding financial stress to the equation. I’m neither of the above. My postpartum period is well & truly reached its expiry date & I interact all the time with my kids BECAUSE I don’t want them to experience any lasting effects of MY ongoing mental illness. In fact, most of my exhaustion stems from showering my kids with my emotional availability that by the end of the day sometimes I am too exhausted to show my husband the same amount of consideration.

There are not many resources for us mums suffering maternal depression, other than being pigeon-hold with other women suffering depression or those suffering with PPD/PND which I think is wrong. I think we need special consideration as our depression doesn’t affect just us, but can also affect our kids – the very people that learn off us & who actually ‘see’ with us & see us without our masks on. They aren’t old enough to rationalise it like our partners/friends can – they feel responsible, learn how to not cope & handle situations etc. I’m not just a female that suffers depression, I’m a mother looking after preschool aged children. My depression is not as severe as above & I’m able to interact with my children, I just have those episodes that can last a few days or a few weeks. I am still capable of caring for them.

In my teens & twenties, I would retreat during my depressive episodes. I would throw myself into my work, being extra ambitious & working long hours. With maternal depression it’s impossible for me to retreat & hide away until I feel up going out. I can’t throw myself into work either because being a mum & taking care of my preschool aged children is my work. There is nowhere to hide except into my own head & with my ongoing internal dialogue.

I have often forced myself to playgroups, to walk to the shops for adult & social interaction & to ensure my kids exposed to other faces, places, sites & experiences. I make the effort to not let my moods impact them. I work really hard on this. We know that kids are smarter than we give them credit for. They’re able to spot a fraud a mile off & this sometimes scares the hell out of me on the days I’m wearing my mask or forcing a smile on my face.

I also feel guilty at times that my mood disorders are preventing my kids from having a fulfilling childhood – the times where I don’t have the energy to take them to the park or the times when planning a trip to the zoo becomes too overwhelming because of sleep schedules & my anxiety linked with this. I know that day naps will not be forever & the future will be filled with concerts, movies, zoos & aquariums etc, but not now & not yet. I want them to look back on their childhood & remember feeling loved, safe & secure more than I want them remembering giraffes & fish anyway!

So where does this all leave me? I am a work in progress. I’m not sure I’ll ever be cured or free of Patty or Selma accompanying me throughout my, or my children’s lives, but I am learning strategies on how to better manage these episodes & instances. I want my kids to know that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. I want them to be accepting of me & the experiences I bring to our mother & child relationship & to motherhood. I want them to one day know that I did my best to shield them from anything too scary or long term by having ongoing therapy & by being medicated. I want my children to be proud of me – by not letting my mental illness or mood disorders affect my decision to start a family & bring these two amazing little people into our life.

 

Source: The Ghost in the House: Real Mothers Talk About Maternal Depression, Raising Children, and How They Cope by Tracy Thompson

You’re not alone

After the birth of my daughter 4.5 years ago, I experienced the complete opposite of what the books, movies, other mums had told me about birth & the overwhelming love you feel when you see your newborn baby & when you bring your baby home. I felt like a fraud for acting as though I was in love & bonded with my baby, I felt ashamed, numb, confused, angry, robbed & mostly alone.

As my journey of recovery continued, I met many other mums that had suffered the same experiences in early motherhood than me & I no longer felt so alone. It didn’t matter whether or not their stories were ‘worse’ or ‘better’ than mine – it was just that they had been ravaged by the same Demon & were desperately trying to return to the same person they were before it attacked.

DH & I kept it a secret that I was unwell & admitted to a Psych facility (aka nuthouse) with our baby & told our family & friends that we were at sleep school. It’s not that I was ashamed, I just wanted to focus on my recovery & not what people thought of me. It was Valentine’s Day 2012 where I first shared my story. It was my hope that through my words I would be able to reach out & talk to mothers out there suffering in silence.

By opening up & sharing my story, I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable, whilst at the same time acknowledging that shame & judgment are likely to be their companion. I had to make a conscious decision to not care about that. I can’t control people’s opinions or thoughts, so I decided that the fear of judgment was not going to get in my way of spreading awareness & finally taking my mask off & telling my story.

The things I’d like to share in this blog hop are the things that I’ve learned as a result of my journey. Mental illness, specifically a Postpartum/Postnatal mood disorder (depression, anxiety, OCD) or Postpartum/Postnatal Psychosis – it’s just not something you choose to have or want following the birth of your child or following an adoption. It’s a hard time for our families, friends & social circle to understand what we’re going through & it’s challenging as they don’t know how to help us which makes as frustrated in kind. Our symptoms are invisible & unobvious so it’s easy for people to distance themselves from us if our illness goes beyond ‘the expected time for recovery’. I’ve learnt that PPMD’s don’t discriminate – it doesn’t matter what socio-economic status you are, what faith you are, what nationally, race or creed. It doesn’t matter what support you have, what means you have or what your social standing you are. It is one of the most levelling of life’s experiences one can have.

But here’s what I can tell you: I can tell you however is that recovery is possible & that help is out there. I can tell you that you’re most definitely alone & never will be in your journey to recovery. I can tell you that the way you feel today will not last forever & you will get through it. I can tell you that there is NO shame. I can tell you that there are some absolutely wonderful peer supports available online (#PPDChat on Twitter, #PPDChat closed FB support group, Postpartum Progress to name a few & also my group on having a baby after a PPMD) if you’re not comfortable attending an IRL group or if there’s not one close to where you live/work. And I can tell you that there are the most AMAZING & brave women that I’ve had the honour & privilege of meeting & calling my friends through opening up & sharing my story.

I want you to all know that you are worthy. I want you to all know you are important. I want you to all know that you matter. I want you to know that being ‘good enough’ is ok. I want you to all know that you now have an Army behind you, supporting you, loving you & are your biggest advocate & voice when you’ve lost yours.

 

To read other blog hop posts, please click here:

 

In May 2011 Postpartum Support International (PSI) declared May as Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. Since 2011, more States in the US & many counties across the globe have now designated May as a time to bring awareness to maternal mental health. This year, PSI is launching their first maternal mental health awareness month blog hop &  the topic being explored is mental health recovery & coping skills. If you are a blogger who has experienced postpartum depression (PPD) or any other PPMD, please consider joining the blog hop to help spread awareness. Visit the two blog hop host blogs, Kathy Morelli’s Birthtouch Dr. Christi Hibbert’s blog, to review further information & guidelines & also see all the other bloggers that are participating this year.

We don’t all abandon our babies

I’m a sucker for reality TV. I’ve been known to obsess over cooking competitions, losing weight competitions, renovating competitions & those medical documentaries featuring women having babies i.e. One Born Every Minute & more recently, The Midwives which are both documentaries from the UK.

Last Thursday night I was watching the latest episode of The Midwives (see episode synopsis below). This episode focused on the Midwives visiting the homes of mums & newborns after being discharged from hospital soon after the birth of their babies. The show has showed a range of births (water, natural births with & without pain relief, c-secs etc) & invites you into the lives of women who you would never otherwise know anything about… especially since I live on the other side of the globe.

So, episode 5, a midwife is looking for a mum that was discharged from the hospital. There was a mix up with the addresses & she was driving around an, shall I just say, average suburb looking for this family. The voiceover explained what was going on & somehow the copywriter had decided that this was the spot in the documentary that they would mention Postnatal/partum Depression & provide the statistics of how many mums in the UK suffer from this postnatal mood disorder (that they know about – I know for a fact that some women are still too scared to come forward).

Voiceover: ‘One in ten of the women Di looks after suffers Postnatal Depression. Every year in Britain between five & ten babies are abandoned, so it’s vital that Di tracks down the baby & it’s mother’.

So, to recap, one in ten of the women this one Midwife looks after has PND. This seems plausible & I don’t have any issues that that sentence. It’s the next sentence I have an issue with – Linking mothers with PND as the cause for the rate of abandoned babies in the UK. Sure it may be the case at times, but I dare go out on a limb here & say that the rate of abandoned babies might also be due to economical reasons & perhaps social reasons, like the climbing rate of teenage pregnancies.

This quote shocked me. It’s not often that I hear something like mere stats & figures about any PPMD that angers me. I actually welcome the discussion because, the more we talk about it, the less shame & the less stigma associated with this & all other Postnatal mood disorders. And the more dialogue, the more women will feel safe & empowered to speak up & get help. But, to link the number of abandoned babies to mothers with PND is, in my opinion only, both misleading & incorrect. I’m all for using facts & statistics – but they need to be accurate.

Excluding the social & economic reasons for why someone would abandon their baby, I want to focus on the PPMD as being the cause & impetus for this abandonment. In my experience & from the research I’ve done & from all the discussions I’ve had with other mothers that suffer or are survivors of a PPMD, it’s not the merely the depression or anxiety that makes them act recklessly & spontaneously, rather the hallucinations etc that is linked to PP/PN psychosis. The depression & the anxiety create the basis of the thoughts that plague their minds for days & sometimes weeks on end, but it’s the psychosis that makes some mothers act & follow through on these thoughts – this is what fundamentally separates the depressed & the psychotic when it comes to PPMD’s.

Most of the mums I know that suffer/have suffered with their PPMD talk about the repetitive nature of negative self-talk, harming their baby & even the thought of leaving the baby & their family as they would be better off without them (note: leaving their baby in safe hands as they feel they’re the unsafe ones). It’s not often that I have heard of thoughts them wanting to abandon their baby on a doorstep with just anyone. Certainly in cases of Postnatal/partum Psychosis, but not depression/anxiety & I think making a broad statement like that is both unfair & misleading. It’s painting a very broad stroke & I actually feel (surprisingly) offended by this assumption.

I get how scary mental illness is to people that are lucky to have never suffered from any, I get how scary PPD/PND is to women & mothers that have not experienced it (luckily & thankfully) & I get how sad & awful it looks to people that don’t get it, but what I find hurtful, is people with ‘authority’ claiming & embellishing that PND makes you do things that are evil & incomprehensible according to social mores & values which is not (usually & actually) factual. PPMD education & dialogue can be an uphill battle at the best of times due to fear & prejudice, but if met with people that presume we’re all evil is another unnecessary hurdle we have to climb.

My initial thought after hearing the voiceover on the program was, ‘hang on, we don’t all want to or actually abandon our babies’. And I guess that’s the point of this post.

Am I wrong? Am I right? Am I being too sensitive? Am I reading too far into this?

 

To watch the episode, click here: http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/31614

The Midwives, Episode Synopsis: Episode 05 – Bringing Home Baby

The community midwives of Manchester’s Saint Mary’s Hospital are responsible for almost 5,000 newborn babies every year. Every day they are trying to spot the mums who might need more than just a cursory examination – determining which mums will cope easily with a new baby and which ones might have a struggle.

For 10 days after each baby is born, they go into the homes of new parents to offer help and make sure that mums are well and that the babies are being properly looked after. Midwife Joyce is concerned about single mum-to-be Fizah because of her complicated family background. Joyce has referred Fizah to the Vulnerable Babies Service, so they can keep an eye on how she is coping as a new mum. Midwife Farhana is looking after Monique, who is also single and was homeless until recently. But she has to drop everything to go and help a woman who has chosen to give birth in her own front room. Meanwhile, the mother that midwife Di is supposed to be looking after has gone missing the day after being discharged from hospital. With Britain in the middle of the biggest baby boom in 40 years, this film looks at how midwives look after new mums and new babies who might be at their most vulnerable.

How I live is how they’ll learn

There are times I’m asked a question that literally stops me in my tracks. And this happened to me last week. Sitting at my fortnightly shrink appointment, my therapist asked me how, as a result of my experiences are now shaping the type of mother I am for my kids & what traits & values I’m stilling in them, also as a result of my life experiences. Answering this for me was simple & the qualities rolled off my tongue.

I responded: I would hope my kids are going to be humble, considerate & compassionate. I would hope that my kids are  going to think really hard before making a judgement or sizing someone up & I would hope that they are going to be kind hearted. Simple really.

Most of the qualities I wish upon my kids, I learned throughout my life, (mostly) the older I got, the more experiences I had & by the  friends I’ve had along the way. Funnily enough, it’s been my kids that have taught me the true meaning of some of these traits, specifically, humility & to refrain from judgment.

I think the most amount of learning I did was when I was admitted to the nuthouse (psych facility, parent-infant unit). I learnt that certain things in life doesn’t discriminate, most obviously at the time, mental illness. I learned it didn’t matter about my education, my background, my University degree, my relationship status, my income, my level of class in society, what car I drove, how big my diamond was – nothing mattered. I was no better than anyone else I sat with & spend my time with. In fact, I was no better than anyone in admitted to the facility then & forever. I needed help just like everyone else. It was the most humbling experience of my life (so far) & one that keep me grounded daily. I also hope my kids see mental illness as an unfortunate condition & not a character flaw, an excuse for odd/bad behaviour or social awkwardness or a result of being weak or impressionable.

It’s easy to learn not to be judgmental when you become a parent.Well it’s easy, but not necessarily upheld & practiced. You learn very quickly that what works for you & your child might not be acceptable & approved by someone else, but it becomes their issue & not yours. You learn that no child is the same (especially if you have more than one child), you learn they all develop at their own pace, you learn that they overcome challenges when they are ready, you learn that you will move mountains for your kids in order for them to be happy, healthy & safe & you learn that we all do it that way that we know how & what works for us. You learn that there will still be those that will judge you for choices you make for your kids, but that their opinions are just opinions. You learn to accept others for the choices they make, whether you agree with them or not. You may not know the other person’s background or journey or what led them to make certain decisions, but to try & just be supportive of them. I’m not naive, I know we are all judgmental, it’s human nature, but it’s those of us that have learnt to accept choices of others that tend to carry less anger, resentment & jealousy.

This wasn’t a revelation for me, however I was still surprised at how the words flowed at the time, how instant the words came & how passionate I was when answering. I don’t know if my answer would have been as passionate had I not spent time in the nuthouse, had I had an easy time becoming a mother, had I had a child without special needs or had I had a different upbringing. What I do know is that this has all shaped the person, wife & mother I am & the person, wife & mother I want to be.

Having another baby after your PPMD/PNMD group – register your interest

Hi everyone,

As you know while I was pregnant with Flynn I was part of an amazing group of Survivor Mamas called the ‘baby after PPD‘ group. This group of Survivor Mamas were a much needed support during my pregnancy & in the first six months of Flynn’s life – the nine weeks in hospital & the months following as we constantly worried about his feeding & weight gain.

I’m about to help out some Mamas who are thinking of having a baby after their PPMD, to start a FaceBook support group & am shouting out to anyone who wishes to join up. The group will be completely private so that only those in the group will be able to view your comments or posts.

The group will be supporting each other on various topics including staying on/coming off medication while trying to conceive & during your pregnancy*, ways to prepare yourself for the postnatal/partum period, action plans for the postnatal/partum period, preparing your toddler for their new sibling, anxieties relating to your pregnancy & postnatal/partum period, setting up support systems for when the baby arrives etc. We will also be asking those that have managed to have a better postnatal/partum experience after their PPMD to share their wisdom & insights in order for the group members to get both real life examples as well as the proof that having a better experience is possible.

This is my way of paying it forward as the support I received was invaluable. Thanks Amber for starting up our group back then & the lifeline it provided me.

If you’re interested in joining the group, please fill in your details below or email me at yuz@notjustaboutwee.com & we’ll contact you when we’re up & running.

 

* We are not medical experts or medically trained in any way when it comes to discussing medications, dosages, weaning or staying medicated during your pregnancy. We will be offering support in whatever decision you make in consultation with your OB, midwife, GP or physician.

Things I’m afraid to tell you – my open letter to my daughter

There are a group of bloggers who are all banding together & participating in a series of posts called “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You”. The TIATTY movement was inspired by a post from Jess Constable of Make Under My Life & Ez of Creature Comforts. If you’d like more information on the TIATTY movement, you can read Jess’ interview with Laura Rossi from the Huffington Post. You can also visit Robin at Farewell Stranger to read other TIATTY posts as well. All these women are truly amazing & inspirational & I’m so very honoured to be part of this movement.

This is an open letter to my daughter, Orli, who will be four this September. (The name Orli means ‘my light’ in Hebrew).

Dear Orli monkey/muppet,

As you read this letter, please remember this: You are so very loved. You were wanted & you were planned. I love & adore you more than words could ever convey. You bring me joy each & every day & there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you. You make me so completely proud & I’m so very lucky that you chose me to be your mum.

I ask you from the depths of my being to remember that what I’m about to tell you is not your fault. It’s no ones fault. It just happened, & I’m a better person for it. So please don’t get too caught up in the how & why because, well, because it just was.

When I was pregnant with you I wasn’t being very honest myself with how I was feeling. I know that every pregnant first time mum has certain trepidations & anxieties about having a baby – about having it be completely dependent on you for the first year & a half (at least), about the sleepless nights, about the changes in you & your partners life & your relationship, about staying home with a baby & not going to (paid) work every day, about giving up a career (or at least stalling it), about having less disposable income, about saving more, about making more decisions on a daily basis & also for the long-term decisions to be made i.e. schools etc. Well, I had all of those thoughts & feelings, but also a few more too.

We had a lot going on in our lives during your pregnancy – my job was extremely stressful & I was working really long hours with management that didn’t seem to care that I was throwing up in the bathroom several times a day, excusing myself from client meetings to get air & generally feeling crap. I was covering for someone while they were on long sick leave & they decided to fire my resource, so I was pretty much doing my job, covering for someone & taking back everything I had delegated my subordinate to do. I also had a miscarriage before falling pregnant with you so I was nervous about getting too excited about you too early in case I lost you as well. I couldn’t wait to get pregnant again as we wanted you so much.

During my pregnancy with you, your Zaida’s (your Daddy’s Daddy) wasn’t very well. He’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a little while before Daddy & I got married & was having a difficult time while I was pregnant. Having said that though, he made it to see your first birthday which was special beyond words, but I worried that he might not have ever met you which was so heartbreaking & I didn’t want that to be. But I think on top of the work issues & your Zaida being unwell, the major stress I had while I was pregnant with you was that my parents (your Saba & Omi) spilt up after being married for 39 years. It came as a massive shock for me. I could see that they were no longer happy, but I never thought they would actually end their marriage. I was first told about it the week of my miscarriage, but chose to push everything & anything I felt about it under the preverbal carpet & focus on getting pregnant again whilst grieving the loss of your sibling.

And all of this leads me to why I wasn’t being honest with myself during your pregnancy. My focus was on having a baby, on starting my own family & no longer being an extension of my parents. Work didn’t matter, because I was leaving (although I was miserable each day I went), I avoided anything & everything to do with my parents because I was having a baby & that was all that mattered. I figured it was their crap & I was old enough not to be affected by their separation. I was pretty down & extremely anxious but I just kept on thinking that once you arrived my life would be complete & joy would fill my days so that nothing else mattered.

You decided to come at 36weeks. You arrived just after midnight & were taken straight away to the special care nursery for observation because you were early & so very little & I first held you (properly) about twelve hours later. You weighed 2.025kgs & were a spitting image of your Daddy. I’d love to be able to tell you that the day of your birth was the most exciting, amazing & awe inspiring day of my life. But sadly it wasn’t.

So this is where I’m going to start sharing with you all those things that I’m afraid to tell you.

* I had an out of body experience during your birth & was looking down on myself. I started thinking (whist pushing you out) that I didn’t want to have a baby. My life was good & I didn’t want it to change.

* We were separated after the birth & I was glad of this because I was so scared & wasn’t ready to meet you.

* I felt so disconnected to you after the birth & when I first held you there wasn’t that overwhelming sense of love & attachment that people talk about or happen in the movies. I felt numb.

* Daddy went with you to the special care nursery after you were born & all I could think of was that he loved you more than me & I wasn’t important anymore & was replaced.

* You stayed in hospital after I was discharged & I was relieved as I wasn’t ready to take you home.

* I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding you – I preferred to express & bottle feed you even though it was much harder work. Much harder. (And expressed for the first eight weeks of life). And when I said I preferred to bottle feed you, well, I actually meant I didn’t enjoy feeding you at all, because all you did was scream at me. I actually preferred when Daddy fed you so I wouldn’t have to.

* When you got home all you did was cry. You were so unsettled & when you finally fell asleep, I dreaded you waking up.

* I had no confidence as your Mother.

* I was completely overwhelmed by all the information I was getting about what was best for you, what was right, what was wrong & the good & the bad way of doing things. Every midwife had a different way of latching you onto my boob, every person I spoke to had conflicting advice – it was just all too much & I found it so hard to trust my own instincts & do what I felt was best. My head was a jumble of too much information & not enough clarity.

* Life was so much easier without you.

* I resented you – for not sleeping, for not allowing me to sleep, for being completely dependent on me, for the constant crying day & night, for making me have you & for putting my career on hold, for coming early & robbing me of my last four weeks of maternity leave & for not having the balloons & flowers that other hospital rooms had (we told people not to visit as you were in the nursery & they weren’t allowed to go in). I was crying all the time, I was so angry & miserable & your Daddy & I fought all the time in which was so testing on our relationship.

* I wanted to run away from home. I thought you & Daddy would be better off without me.

* I wanted my life back.

* I resented the fact that my role in life had changed. Just because I was now a mother, I was also the homemaker now too.

* I couldn’t understand why people ruined their lives & had children. And I certainly wasn’t going to do it again.

* I pretended to love & adore you in public & socially, but I was lying to both them & myself.

* I hated coming home after being out for a while as I knew it was going to just be groundhog day & I hated every minute of it.

* I wanted to have you adopted out because I was sure there was another family that would be able to take better care of you. And what I mean by ‘family’, I mean Mother.

* I wasn’t able to eat, sleep or do any menial daily tasks as I could before I had you. It was as though you made me miserable even though these tasks had nothing to do with you.

* I wondered what would happen if you feel off the change table or if I let you fall into the corner of the coffee table. I thought it, although I knew I wouldn’t act upon it.

* I was so very very sad & never thought I would ever be happy again.

* I hated the mornings because it meant that my day was going to be the same as the day before & the day before that. Actually, the days weren’t separated at all – my life just felt like one long day.

* My intrusive thoughts were so overpowering & on loop. I blamed myself for you being unsettled (it turned out you had a diary intolerance & I was craving milk & was drinking it all the time), everything was my fault, if I went out for a bit without you I usually came home to you screaming so obviously it was because you were punishing me. It took me a long time to turn the volume of that self-talk down.

* Overall, I regretted having you.

Orli monkey, the reason why these are the things I’m afraid to tell you is because I feel ashamed about the way I felt about you, the way I behaved when you were a baby & the way I, in my mind, mistreated you. I’m embarrassed because I could handle such difficult tasks at work but when it came to a baby, to my baby, to my newborn that only needed feeding, bathing & changing, I was completely incapable of functioning normally & was anxious about every.little.thing. You were completely innocent of everything I felt or thought at the time yet were integral to why I was thinking & feeling all those things. I need to remind you, that none of this was your fault. It would make me so very sad if even for a millisecond you thought it was. And what’s more, please don’t ever judge me for this because it’s not something I chose or would have ever chosen to have gone through.

I know I had some of these thoughts because I was a first time mum & overwhelmed with an unsettled baby. I also knew I had these thoughts because I was just so very very tired. But mostly I had these thoughts as I was suffering with a mental illness, more specifically, a postpartum (postnatal) mood disorder. It was confirmed ‘officially’ when you were seven weeks old & at eights weeks of age we went to a mother baby unit at a psychiatric clinic. You’ve heard me talk about ‘the nuthouse’, but I really think we need to call it our lifeline, because that’s what it was for our family. I was put onto special medication to help my mind level itself out & had lots of groups with other mums that had my issues (or similar) & the fog slowly lifted & I was started to be able to be your Mummy & not just your Mother. It took another few months until I felt better, but it was really when you were about a year old that I started feeling like myself again.

People always comment to me that you’re such a happy little girl & that when you smile your eyes sparkle. I have to be honest with you, as much as this comment makes me proud, it also triggers a sadness in me which I fear will haunt me for the rest of my life. You see, I thought that my ambivalence, numbness & disinterest in you in the first few months of your life was going to ruin you forever. I have proof now that it’s not the case & that our relationship doesn’t bare the scars of that time, however, the overwhelming fear of its possibility will never be forgotten or minimised by me.

My little angel – you have taught me more than I ever imagined I could learn from a little person. I now get why people have babies & I also why they have more than one. And so we did. You have a little brother. And the way you love & care for him is beautiful it makes me think we’ve done ok.

I’ve spent a long time trying to be ok with people knowing about my postpartum mood disorder (PPMD) as well as trying to not care what they think of me having it, being admitted to the nuthouse or being medicated or whatever. But, what I haven’t worked on & is how I’ll feel one day when YOU know all about it. It’s one thing for me to share my story because it happened to me, but, this also happened to us. I hope you continue to grant me permission to talk openly about this as it’s the only way to diminish the stigma associated with PPMD’s. I’m also passionate about the need to increase it’s awareness to ensure no one suffers in silence or alone & so that all mothers with any PPMD know that help is out there & recovery is possible.

Monkey, those are the things I’m afraid to tell you. What I’m not afraid to tell you & never will be is that I love & adore you forever & ever & you will always be the light that brought me back from the dark.

Love always,

Mama xoxo