Aussie mum, Fiona, lives in Switzerland with her hubby and beautiful 15 month old girl. This Q&A reveals her struggle with postnatal depression and what helped her get through it…
What do you love most about being a mum?
Being my own boss – no rules to follow except my own
Dressing my child in adorable outfits
What do you find most difficult?
I find childcare and housework incredibly boring. This used to lead to a lot of resentment and anger. However I prayed about it, and although I still find the tasks boring, God has healed me of the resentment and anger and so I now have a much more peaceful attitude to the tasks (though I still find them boring!).
Having postnatal depression and a traumatic stress reaction (in response to severe breastfeeding complications) obviously made/makes what was always going to be a tough time, an almost unbearable time.
How did becoming a mum affect your sense of identity?
I didn’t really think about my identity beforehand but it seems to be a common topic linked to motherhood that I have come across a lot recently! And so I have found myself thinking about it. I feel now that I can’t express who I am (my mental and creative abilities) because I am busy doing motherhood 15 hours a day instead. However, I never really was aware that I was able to do that before becoming a mother, until I lost it! Now that my child is a bit older (15 mths) and can play by herself for a short while, I am slowly clawing back a chance to be creative, such as cooking, or stretch my mental abilities by looking into employment and further study options (since we moved overseas whilst I was on mat leave I had to quit my old job).
What took you by surprise in motherhood?
The absolute complete loss of mental ability thanks to lack of sleep – e.g. relying on others to decide for me whether I needed to have a drink (of water).
Grieving the loss of my unborn child – I had a brand new baby in my arms but I missed the unborn child that had been inside me for the first few weeks after birth. Never expected those emotions at all!
What were you least prepared for?
Breastfeeding, it is difficult and all consuming, even if everything goes normally.
How will you cope better if/when baby 2 arrives?
I remain optimistic that it can’t be much worse than I have already experienced. I will make sure I have liv- in help either in the form of a relative or paid help so that I have time to myself.
What helped you get through the toughest times?
I haven’t survived unscathed. When times were toughest all I could do was desperately cry/scream back at the crying baby whilst I clock watched, waiting for help to arrive. There were times when I couldn’t be left alone with the baby so it was great that I had a network of friends, relatives and neighbours who were willing to help. There were other times where I had to use medication to help me sleep, to try and reduce the intense craziness brought on my insomnia from the anxiety and depression. Had I been diagnosed earlier I would have also been prescribed psychiatric medications and I am sure that would have helped immensely.
What advice do you have for new/expectant mums?
Save like mad and get a live in Nanny! But seriously…
1) People say you have to look after yourself. The mistake I made was considering things like sleep, medical appointments, showering, postnatal exercise or eating with two hands looking after myself. In fact, a Mother needs time without baby to do those essentials but then needs additional time for really looking after herself, such as date night, reading, painting your nails etc Therefore, ensure you have someone to help with the baby not only so that you have time to do those essentials in peace, but so you have enough time to do some real looking after yourself once you’ve done all the essentials.
2) If the time comes to return to work and you have trouble with breastfeeding/expressing/insomnia or other maternity related issues then you need to consider these as medical health problems and consider yourself not well enough to return to work until the problems are resolved.
3) Take constant photos and videos. Don’t stick them all on facebook though – just look at them for memories. I have found that if I look back at photos and videos from periods that I found particularly difficult, I can now see some of the good aspects and this is healing for me.
4) I wasn’t diagnosed with PND and traumatic stress disorder til M was 7 months old. This was primarily because I didn’t realise that the difficulties I was experiencing weren’t normal. So my advice coming from my PND experience to new parents is that if you are finding something difficult you must speak to a professional about it, just in case it isn’t normal! If you are still finding it difficult after speaking to a professional, then get a second opinion. This could also apply to your physical health and the baby’s health as well as your mental health.
5) A friend encouraged me to pray for joy throughout my pregnancy, which I did, and I even had a joyful birth. But I forgot to continue that after the birth until M was about a year old. It’s only now I’ve started praying that again that I am seeing the ‘children being a gift’ aspect.
6) Sometimes you need to ‘dumb down’ your devotional style during a period when you are exhausted and struggling. There are some great simple American style devotionals for mothers which are quick reads available eg
Just Give Me a Little Piece of Quiet: Daily Getaways for a Mom’s Soul
However the best devotional that I am reading at the moment, now that I am ready for something a bit deeper is
Barefoot in the Kitchen: Bible Readings and Reflections for Mothers by Alie Stibbe