In the wake of a new bouncing baby Royal, personally and I wholeheartedly support how mum and baby are taking the time to get to know each other away from the public eye. We have no idea how mum is feeling at this precise moment, I truly hope it is a beautiful bubble of love and support. These boundaries are so important when you become a mother and you are finding your way.
When you become a mum its one thing, if you become a mum who is suffering with a mental health illness, one of the biggest things you feel that is stolen from you is your voice. The illness unapologetically rips it from you, leaving you bereft, gagged and in complete and all consuming silence.
When we suffer with our mental health, unlike if we were suffering from a physical injury (where we feel free to talk and tell all and sundry about what we are going through) we are instead silenced. We feel we cannot talk about what our minds are putting us through for fear we will be judged, stigmatised and labelled. This fear has to stop. This stigma has to be beaten. These labels torn into tiny pieces and this silence broken.
Following the birth of both of my children I suffered with Postnatal Depression and Postpartum Psychosis. My ill mental health clothed me in a blanket of silence, gagging me and leaving me empty of words to explain what I was going through and filled me with the debilitating fear that If I dared speak out, if I dared to give a voice to what I was feeling then I would lose everything. My baby would be taken away from me, my husband would leave me and my friends and family would disown me.
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 of.
That is why I’m standing with thousands of supporting #MaternalMentalHealthMonth. Its rather fitting that a new bouncing Royal Baby has just been born this month, and that both parents are campaigners of good mental health.
I want to make a stand with fellow campaigners, mums and social media influencers, to own my illness, help others to better understand what it looks like and how we can talk about it sensitively.
All in the hope of making a real difference to the people who really matter – the mums suffering in silence, the mums unsure of where to go to get help, the mums feeling like they have failed because they are ill. All these mums needing to hear that they are not alone, that there is help out there and that together we can support each other and reclaim our right to enjoy motherhood!