With Maternal Mental Health month coming up I wanted to share my after birth story to shine a light on an issue we often never speak of.
They say that for every positive, there is a negative. For there to be light there also has to be shade; It’s the way of the universe. However, I (naively) thought that this universal rule of thumb wouldn’t apply when it came to the world of motherhood. That out of all the pockets of society that this law touches and infiltrates, that the sanctity of motherhood was immune to this law. Motherhood could be challenging, yes. Motherhood could be tiring, yes. But motherhood could not be dark or cast a shade of the most sinister. There could surely be no dark and ugly side to being a mum?
Unfortunately, when I became a mum, I learned first hand that motherhood was by no means immune to this law. As I was handed the head screw of a juxtaposition that was receiving something I’d always wanted and dreamed about (a beautiful baby girl) alongside being “gifted” with the terrifying maternal mental health illness, Postpartum Psychosis.
It shook me to my core as before, becoming a mother I was an extremely optimistic person who’s glass was always half full. I had no history of mental health and was living a happy and healthy life with a husband I adored. I’d always wanted to be a mum and thought that I would take it in my stride and that despite the sleepless nights, endless nappy changes and the whole matter of childbirth to get through, that the experience would be one that would be mostly magical, fun and life affirming.
Don’t get me wrong, it was and is all of these wonderful things in abundance. However, for me, the negatives of the experience expanded past sleepless nights and into the realms of living with a darkness so soul consuming that I often questioned if I would ever find my way out.
The darkness my Postpartum Psychosis plummeted me into, had me seeing demons flying around my home threatening to kill my baby and quickly developed into me living with what I came to call my “dark stranger” who would follow me around the house, filling what should have been precious moments with my daughter, with debilitating fear. Watching my every move and telling me in no uncertain terms that he was here now and me and my baby were in unthinkable danger.
It was a living hell. It was terrifying.
However, now with the beauty of hindsight and looking back to that time as someone who is now well, the most terrifying thing is that I had no knowledge of the illness. It makes my blood run cold that I went into motherhood unaware of my maternal mental health and what could happen to my mind after having a baby. And more so , that if I’d have received the same amount of information educating me on my maternal mental health as I did my physical health, I would have recognized the warning signs of the illness earlier. I’d of got help sooner. And the precious moments I lost with my daughter would have been fewer.
This realization is the most terrifying. And this is why it is vital to start shining a light on the darker sides of motherhood. We need to be empowering women to talk and share their experiences no matter how terrifying. We need to ensure every woman going into motherhood knows how to take care of their maternal mental health as well as their physical health.
Until we do this, we are doing a disservice to women worldwide and surely this is the darker side of motherhood we all need to address. This is the darker side of motherhood we all need to be scared and more aware of.