The first Maternal Mental Health Week is this week, May 1st-7th to coincide with International Maternal Mental Health Day on May 3rd. I will confess, I’d never heard of an International Day for this which I’m quite ashamed of. We’ve all heard of postnatal depression and even prenatal depression but a mother’s mental health can be affected in so many ways. I never thought I’d be affected.
H was such an easy baby, mothering him was a breeze. Obviously he wasn’t perfect and I do remember times when I struggled, especially in his early months. I don’t like to ask for help so even though we were living at my mum’s, I did a lot of his care myself. But overall, he was a dream! He slept through at 4 months and has done since then. I never felt the tiredness or understood why some mum’s found parenting hard. Everyone commented on how happy he was and how he never cried. This is why I couldn’t wait to have another. We waited until we moved into a house and 3 months later, we decided to try for another. 2 weeks later, I was pregnant.
It’s been completely different with A. He was needy. In his early weeks, I remember being told it was just because he was newborn, he’d grow out of it. “It’ll get easier as he gets older” is all I’d ever get told. I remember the health visitor coming out to do our 6 week check and me breaking down, telling her how clingy he was. She ran through the usual checklist, put a Muslin down that smells like you, play white noise etc and when I told her I’d done all that, she looked at me and said “oh.. I guess he just wants to be close to you then.” He hasn’t slept through once since being born. On a good night, he’ll only wake twice. On a bad night, it can be 5+ times. As he’s still breastfed, it’s just me doing the wake ups.
My mental strength has been tested. There’s been times where I didn’t think I wanted him anymore, where I thought I wasn’t cut out to be a mum. I hate the kind of mum I’ve become. I have less patience and I always feel on edge. Poor H gets the brunt of it some days which makes me feel guilty. It makes me resent A because before we had him, I wasn’t like this. I wake up for the day, already on edge and dreading what is in store for me. Having a break helps a little bit but when I’m thrust back into mothering alone, it doesn’t take long before I’m stressed and tense again. There’s been many times where I’ve questioned if I have PND, where I’ve cried down the phone to my mum or to my fiancé when he gets home. I can’t keep it inside, it makes it worse.
We need to speak out about this. The daily monotony, the exhaustion from just being needed, the loneliness..it all adds up. Even the strongest mental state would be seriously tested from being a mother. Every mum finds it hard at times and if she tells you otherwise, I think she might be telling porkies! I’ve been embarrassed to admit that I’m struggling and I’ve just muddled through. Because I have to. There’s no one else to pick up the pieces if I crumble. And that’s why we need to be more open about maternal mental health. It’s not a stigma, it’s reality.