After our first hospital appointment, we were given a handful of brochures. Brochures speaking about how amazing it will be when baby arrives, the joy which we all would feel etc.
When baby finally did arrive, I did not feel any of those things. I did not feel this incredible love and connection with baby. In fact, I felt like baby was not mine. It was like I was holding a stranger and I felt absolutely jibbed.
From day one I felt an incredible fear. Fear of being a mum because of the feelings which I already felt. I was extremely anxious simply because I did not know what to do with the baby. They, unfortunately, did not come with a manual.
What contributed to the depression was that I could not breastfeed. My baby could not latch on even with a breast shield and as a result, she cried all the time. No one ever told me that it is normal to not be able to breastfeed straight away. The brochures never stated that mothers may find breastfeeding hard. So, therefore, I felt betrayed. I felt that they lied to me.
I suffered from depression and anxiety for 2.5 years. For 2.5 years I missed out on all the milestones, on the first words, on the first steps, on all the cuteness and the fun. I missed out on these moments because I thought to have her was a mistake. Something which should not have happened to me. You see, at a young age, I was told I would never have children. So I lived my life with that understanding. Therefore, after our miracle arrived, I truly believed God had made a mistake. If I was meant to have Her then why don’t I love Her, was a constant thought running through my mind. As a result, I fell deeper into depression.
My depression became so bad at one stage that I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt like I had no purpose and I had no will. The saddest part of all, no one cared. No one asked me if I was okay. No one asked me if I needed help. When I did ask for help, people walked away or turned their backs. I felt like the lights in the whole world got turned off and there was only one light shining down on me. I felt all alone in the darkness.
My world changed when I met that mother who reassured me that what I was going through is normal. It is normal not to be able to breastfeed. It is normal to feel fear. It is normal not to have a connection with baby from the beginning. Her reassurance was music to my ears and my soul.
I was lucky that I also had a very caring GP at the time. He would always listen to my worries and he allowed me to cry my heart out. He too gave me reassurance but I couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t accept it because he was a father and not a mother. I so desperately needed to hear the reassurance from a mother. However, he did place me on medication which allowed me to grab control. Control of my life and it helped me to get out of bed.
Over time my mental strength started to come back. What also helped was exercise. I went back to the gym and this helped me greatly. If I was angry, I took it out at the gym. If I was frustrated, I trained harder. If I was happy, I enjoyed my time at the gym even more and I became fitter as a result.
Before I knew it, I started to feel strong. I felt like Wonder Woman. I was the one in control and not the condition. I also learned how to deal with the condition on those days when I felt sad. I knew what I had to do to turn it around. And most of all, I knew who to turn to for help and support – other mothers who could relate to what I was feeling in that moment.
Today I use my experience to empower mums and dads who are suffering in silence. I use my artwork to empower mums and my digital artwork to spread much-needed awareness. I also wrote a light-hearted self-help manual to remind all mums who are suffering in silence that what they are going through is “normal and not abnormal”, “that you are beautiful and certainly not a mess”. We all have the strength of Wonder Woman within us.
Yes, “The Brochures Lied” to me, and over time I learned not to resent them. I believe the brochures are missing vital information which could be very useful. This information is in regard to Baby Blues and pre and postnatal depression and anxiety. By including a blurb about feeling anxious, feeling depressed and that it is normal and okay to seek help, many mums and dads may be able to heal sooner. And most of all we would not feel alone.