The ‘other side’ of motherhood

A story of postpartum depression

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For women there is this push to have it all. Perfect face, perfect body, perfect house, perfect career, perfect relationship and of course, the perfect family!

We strive and strive to make our lives look picture perfect but for many, the reality can be vastly different.

Especially for that of a new mother.

For nine months we picture the Huggies moments we think our lives will become. But for postpartum sufferers these moments are more like the highlights reel than the everyday image.

For whatever reason motherhood just doesn’t gel with us. And although the causes and symptoms can vary, the result is inevitably one of inadequacy and self-loathing.

How do I know this?

Because I was that woman. Tying myself in knots to present the perfect image of doting wife and mother. The result.… the most despondent period of my life to date. Postpartum depression, weight gain, isolation, a failing marriage, children I felt unqualified for and a loss of identity as I left behind my corporate career. But like many women, I suffered in silence. If I could just make it all ‘look good’ on the outside, somehow it would magically feel better on the inside.

Newsflash it didn’t work.

Food became my friend and with each passing day I fell further into depression and further out of my clothes. At the ripe old age of 34, sitting in sweats watching daytime TV, I came to the conclusion that the best of my life thus far was officially over.

What was happening?

Why had no one told me that in signing on for all this grown-up woman stuff I was effectively handing over my life?

What was supposed to be this magical period in my life felt more like a nightmare than a fairytale. I was upset and angry at my fellow womankind.

One hundred years ago, a woman’s role was clear. Couple up, have children, care for the children, cook meals, tend to the house. Today however life is very different with many women having responsibilities outside the home. Yet we still hold these traditional roles, along with the ideal we should be able to do it all perfectly. If not every area of our life looks like a magazine shoot, we have somehow failed as a woman.

We are sacrificing ourselves in the pursuit of some unattainable goal. And this all or nothing mentality we have adopted is quite literally making us sick and miserable. Depression, exhaustion, failing relationships, expanding waistlines, poor self-image. These are all too common occurrences for the modern woman.

How do we change this?

In a world that continues to push us to do, be and achieve more, we need to find a new perspective. To give ourselves the permission to slow down. To ditch perfection and accept ok. To speak up with our authentic voice and say “hey this is tough, I need some help here”. Far from weakness this is the ultimate act of courage and an opportunity for true connection with others. When we reach out we create bonds that allow us to share the unwritten burdens of motherhood.

There is so much guilt and shame that often comes with the postpartum terrain. That all too common feeling you are failing as a mother can be crippling. When we speak up we risk rejection from the herd, a frightening thought for the pack creatures we humans are. But the asking price of silence is dangerously high. And the cost is not just borne by us, but our families, loved ones and society as a whole as we continue to perpetuate this mythical motherhood ideal.

So instead of silence and shame let’s open a dialogue and foster support and self-compassion. We all have a story. Some are roses, some are not. Neither is more or less worthy of a voice.

The journey from postpartum wilderness back to mothering nirvana can be grueling at times as we are confronted with parts of ourselves we’d rather leave buried. But knowing you are not alone is the best gift you can give a postpartum parent. 

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