Next week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness week. Bit of a mouthful but nevertheless very important!
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I didn’t know anything about mental health issues after birth. I just thought, you have the baby and that’s it! You just have to cope. Anyway, how could you ever feel sad, down, depressed, angry, lost or just nothing while looking after your gorgeous baby? Oh, how I laugh now. I definitely had my fair share of all the above every now and again (and Lord knows sleep deprivation can do scary things to you) but I was lucky to not feel like this all of the time.
So, when I saw that it is Maternal Mental Health Awareness week next week, I wanted to do something. A quick Google and I stumbled upon #MakingOverMotherhood. A social media challenge to raise awareness of Maternal Mental Health disorders and struggles. Everyday, for 5 days, post something that shows what motherhood is really like. The good, the bad and the ugly. It can be something light-hearted that might make someone chuckle or something serious and revealing. It’s up to you. The idea is to end the stigma of mental health issues for mothers.
As Mothers, it’s very easy to feel like EVERYONE relies on you and therefore you don’t have time for yourself. You don’t have time to be weak because you’re so busy being strong for everyone else. You can’t be seen to be struggling because you might be seen as a bad Mum, a Mum who can’t cope, a lazy Mum, an incompetent Mum. You might not even notice you’re struggling because you don’t have time to take a step back and see that you are. Well, take that step. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you do. And if you notice you are, reach out. There is no shame. I truly believe that everybody struggles with something and I guarantee, you won’t be alone and you won’t be the only Mum who thinks the way you do.
It’s so vital to get help when you need it because (as the old saying goes) you can’t pour from an empty cup. Basically, you can’t take care of others, without taking care of yourself too. Now, I don’t mean going to get your nails done every week or making sure your hair is perfect (unless that helps you feel better). I’m saying practise self care on the regular, be selfish when you need to be, reach out for help even if you think you aren’t desperate for it. Don’t feel guilty (and trust me, I am no stranger to Mum guilt) because fundamentally, you’re doing it for your kids. You’re taking care of you so they can have the best Mother possible. A happy Mum, a calm Mum (most of the time, I mean, whistles, right?), a Mum who isn’t constantly emotionally and physically exhausted, a Mum they deserve.
Now, I’m not saying every time you have an outburst and scream at your child about playing the baby shark song for 1098th time that day that you need to call the doctor. There are many ways you can reach out for help.
Obviously, during these times, it’s a little different. I can’t reach out to my Mum to watch Olivia for a few hours while I get some work done or just lay down in a dark room for a while. However:
- Talk to your partner (if you have one). I cannot imagine how I would do this whole motherhood thing, without Steven by my side. I’m so lucky because he is such a good Dad and so supportive. So I know, if I ever need to, I can talk to him about my stress and if he’s home to help, I can ask him to give me a couple of hours. He will happily take Olivia and Cody (because sometimes, he causes me more stress than my human child) out for an hour long walk and give me the house to myself. I cannot tell you how blissful that is. Even if I just need to rant or cry or a cuddle or time he will give it to me. THAT is invaluable!
- Reach out to family. I know not everyone is on par with their family but maybe you can meet some mummy friends and they can be your family. I am fortunate that my Mum absolutely adores my little girl and would do anything for her (or me). I honestly love having her one town away and I know that if I needed her, she would be here at the drop of a hat (she has done many times before). In the early days of my new adventure into motherhood, she took a week off work to come over everyday and help me with Olivia. Nothing major. She would watch Olivia while I had a shower (absolute heaven), bring me lunch everyday (I love her) and sit with me while we watched TV and chatted (priceless). She didn’t know it but all of these things meant the world to me. Especially when she made me cups of coffee, I could have cried!
- Mummy friends. I couldn’t cope without my mummy friend, Lisa. It is so worthwhile to have that someone who gets it. Before lock down, we would grab a take away coffee and go for a walk with the babies every week and just talk. Talk about our struggles, our stresses and what crazy stuff the babies have got up to that week and it was so therapeutic. We would then laugh together at how messy our lives have become but how beautiful it all is too. I would come home and feel refreshed (not to mention caffeinated, which always helps) and like maybe I am a good Mum because I’m not alone in this, because someone else is thinking the exact same things as me!
- Reach out to professionals. Reach out to your GP, midwife or Health Visitor. That’s what they’re there for! They are the superheroes equipped with all the resources and connections to get you the help you need!
- Baby Buddy App is an NHS accredited app which offers evidence-based information and self-care tools to help parents during pregnancy and early stages of parenting. Best bit is it is absolutely FREE! Download in the app store or click here for more information.
- If you are in need of immediate help or support call 999, go to A&E or call Samaritans 116 123 (free to call and it doesn’t show up on your phone bill)
Whatever you think you’re going through, whatever you think you’re struggling with, I can guarantee there’s a Mum out there going through the exact same thing. So do the right thing, reach out and talk. If not for you, for your kids.
For a pick-me-up read my Mum-tivation post!
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