Did you know that 1 in 5 women experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the year after a birth? This statistic doesn’t shock me one bit. For me, it’s always been anxiety and being a new mother didn’t help my anxiety, especially at the beginning.
I’ve always been honest about my experience with motherhood. It’s something I like to be honest about because I feel if you are not honest about it, then you are causing a huge disservice to other women. We live in a world where we only share the good moments, the highs, never the lows and this can be very damaging, especially to a new mother. We are all guilty of putting up the happy, smiley picture of our children on social media, because at the end of the day, who wants to see a picture of a child crying or throwing a fit? Nobody. We choose to only show the good side, not the bad side. There may have been twenty pictures before the “good one” of your infant or child throwing an absolute tantrum and refusing to pose for the picture because they were tired because they didn’t take a nap that morning or simply because they were having a bad day. We almost forget sometimes that children are like us, they have bad days too and won’t cooperate half of the time. This is normal. Not every day is going to be a good day and this is something we need to highlight instead of only talking about the positives. We need to be honest with ourselves and other people. With motherhood, there’s always positives, but boy is there negatives.
When I had my daughter, I assumed it was all going to be text book. Eat, sleep, change, lots of cuddles. repeat. This was not the case because she had a cow milk protein allergy which caused her to eat, scream, change and sometimes sleep. This was completely nerve wracking for me especially as I was not expecting anything to be wrong with her. I was so using to seeing only the good portrayed in films, social media and sometimes in my own real life by other people I knew with kids. They never talked about issues that babies could have like a cow milk allergy or reflux. Those first eight weeks of her life I was a mess because I couldn’t help her as I didn’t know what was wrong, which led me to believe I was failing as a mother. Having suffered with anxiety for most of my life, this only heightened it, which ultimately led to even poorer mental health. I didn’t want to take her out of the house or go somewhere for coffee to try and relax because I was terrified of her screaming the place down and people judging me or looking at me like I was a bad parent for not being able to console my child. Nobody knew though that I spent all my time trying to console her in any way that I could at that time. Nobody knew the nights my partner and I would spend walking up and down the halls of our house trying to get her to sleep. It was draining to say the least and it was hell. Sleep deprivation and thinking your child hates you definitely wasn’t my idea of motherhood. Luckily, after trial and error with medication and then a milk change, she was cured and bam I got the baby I finally wanted. One that was content and happy. I still feel robbed to this day of the eight weeks where she was unhappy and unsettled. I’ve since learnt that my experience at the start has been a lot of other peoples experience as well and it’s not uncommon. But because nobody really talks about the bad, I was led to believe this was not normal and that I should have a baby that sleeps all the time and that is generally in good spirits. We need to talk more about the bad for this reason alone. No parent should be led to believe that they’re failing or doing a bad job. Sometimes there’s going to be things wrong and that’s normal.
My daughter is now 13 months old and she honestly is the most amazing little girl. Our days are mostly fantastic but we do have our bad days too. This is normal. Not everyday is going to be perfect. As a parent, you are going to have those days where you generally can’t cope because you might have been up all night with a sick baby or your baby is teething very badly and just can’t be consoled in general. Our maybe it’s just a bad day. All of these situations are normal and EVERY parent experiences them. You are not alone. It does not make you a bad parent. And remember the good days always outweigh the bad ones. My anxiety when it comes to motherhood is a whole lot better now because I’m honest with myself and others about how I’m feeling and coping. If you’re ever feeling down or you feel like you’re struggling too much, please talk to a family member, friend or your GP. Look after your mental health.
Please share your own stories of maternal mental health.