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The Baggage & Motherhood Guest Writer’s Series gives a space for moms around the world to share their story of what life has thrown their way and how it has impacted them in their role as a Mom. In this post, Belinda Hearn shares about the shock of developing post-natal depression, after having had her second child. Her experience of first-time motherhood was smooth and relatively easy, which made her experience the second time around just that much harder.
All of the posts in this series touch on the real life struggles of bringing your “stuff” with you to your most important job: Motherhood.
Read on below, and as always, please share with anyone you think would find this helpful!
I Took New Motherhood in Stride — The First Time
Tell me not to do something and it will no doubt make me want to do it even more! I’ve always been that way. Perhaps that’s why I love writing and sharing things that many people just don’t talk about. Today I’d love to share my story of Post-Natal Depression and how it has shaped my journey as a woman and mum of three.
A little back story on me. I’m a classic type A personality. I’m highly driven, I have big dreams, and can do anything I set my mind to. I like things just-so, often take on more than I should, and I have need to be productive and tick things off one of my many lists. If that strikes a chord then you know exactly what I mean!
After having my first daughter it was tough, because well, having a baby isn’t exactly easy. But for the most part becoming a mom was something I took in my stride. I had a plan, and because luckily she was a textbook baby, things generally went according to said ‘plan’.
Em was my little partner in crime! She slept well and I worked in those gaps, we ran errands together and got through what we needed to. This motherhood thing wasn’t so bad, I thought.
Well the universe works in mysterious ways and certainly has a sense of humor! I remember saying how I didn’t understand what people found so difficult — well I was about to find out!
New Motherhood for the Second Time — The Beginnings of Post-Natal Depression
The build-up to having my second daughter was very busy. I had my own business, I was starting another one and I was renovating parts of my house – by myself! Silly, silly, silly!
At the time it seemed totally normal, I was just doing what I had always done… Everything!
My husband and I were a little cocky; we thought well we’ve done it before so we’re all good right? Not exactly!
Everything was one hundred percent different from the first time round! I know everyone tells you it will be, but we were foolish enough to think we knew better.
This labor was FAST; three and a half hours all in and that in itself was quite a thing. Sure it was easier than the twelve and a half hours I did with my first, but it was so fast and so different that I was in panic mode and actually quite terrified most of the time.
Our new little squishy was also completely different, she was what we now call a ‘happy chunker’. She spewed A LOT and ALL THE TIME. And even though it never seemed to bother her at all, it was super stressful for us.
When she was a week old we landed up in hospital because she was vomiting up what looked like her full feed and hadn’t had any wet nappies for almost 24 hours. Despite numerous tests and a full week there they never actually found anything wrong.
With everything, I was speeding up and doing a million things when I should have been slowing down. I had just had a traumatic labor, and then a hospital trip shortly after. Add that all to a whole host of other things, and it’s really not surprising that my body decided to check-out on me.
I wasn’t taking care of myself at all and I was about to get a serious wake-up call…
I got whacked with a dose of Post-Natal Depression and Anxiety and that lead me to having a breakdown.
If you ignore your body and its needs it will find a way to force you to slow down!
What Post-Natal Depression Looked Like for Me
At the time I didn’t know that’s what was happening to me. I knew I was struggling and seriously emotional, but I didn’t know what it was, so I put it down to the extra hormones.
From what I had heard about post-natal depression, it was often about struggling to bond with your baby, feeling resentful towards them, or not loving them. None of that is how I felt, so I thought well it can’t be that?! I loved my baby and none of what was going on was directed at her, so I just though it must be something else.
Plus if I’m honest, looking back I was in some sort of denial. I’m a strong, capable and happy person and that surely this wasn’t happening to me…
Well these things don’t discriminate and actually, part of the reason it did happen to me is because I am so strong and capable.
I was in the habit of taking on more than I should, and over time it had gotten out of hand. On top of that, people who knew me to be capable just assumed I was okay and coping well.
No one really offered much help (not that I was able to accept it at the time even if they had) and all of this together was a recipe for disaster!
Post-natal depression and anxiety can show up in a number of ways; it’s different for everyone.
For me it looked like this: I was super emotional, felt like I was constantly drowning, like I was failing at everything I tried to do, I wasn’t getting enough sleep, and my daughter’s vomiting gave me anxiety every time I had to feed, burp or put her to sleep (so basically all the time cause that’s all newborns do).
Also, I was home by myself with both kids most of the time. It all sent me into over-drive and I was like a ping-pong ball, bouncing all over the place and not accomplishing much.
My husband would ask me if I wanted tea or coffee and that would send me into a flat spin, I couldn’t answer such a simple question – it made me feel overwhelmed and like I was suffocating.
It was affecting my relationship with my husband because I had become a different person, the thought that this wasn’t what he signed up for terrified me!!! I didn’t feel like I was being a very good mom for my other daughter either. I hated this person I had become and didn’t recognise myself. It made me want to hide, I didn’t want anyone to know, to see this side of me. It was scary and pretty lonely.
I was crying ALL THE TIME! For anything and everything and nothing, all at the same time! It was bloody awful – If this is where you’re at right now, I am so sorry because I know it’s SO hard. But there is hope!
I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. A good few weeks passed that way and I was holding on by a thread. One day when I was giving a DIY class (I foolishly went back to doing that 2 months postpartum) I bumped into a friend of mine. The class itself was a disaster because I was totally flapping and when I saw her, or more specifically, the way she reacted to me, I knew I wasn’t keeping it together as well as I might have thought.
I needed help!
Getting Help for Post-Natal Depression
Long story short I went to my doctor and got some happy pills to get me back to a more balanced place. And they helped!
If you’re reading this and alarm bells are ringing, please speak to someone. Asking for help means you are strong enough to admit that you need it, not that you’re weak because you do.
We all need help at some point or another… Plus the longer you leave it the longer it can take to recover.
What I felt in my heart though, was that taking medication was treating the symptoms rather than treating the cause. That went against what I felt was right for me. I needed more than happy pills if I was going to come out of the fog, and stay out.
I sort of saw them as a bridge to get me from where I was (in a daze, unable to cope or function like a normal human) to where I wanted to be. I don’t think I would have been able to do the work on myself without them helping me to feel more balanced.
That’s when my true healing journey began!
Searching desperately for answers, healing methods and anything that was going to make a lasting difference, I was on a mission. My biggest fear was that I would be this awful version of myself forever, that I was broken and that I would never get back to my old self.
I was still struggling a bit with the anxiety and decided to try hypnotherapy, that’s when I had a huge ah-ha moment.
I realised that I had the power to turn things around and that I had actually found myself.
It didn’t happen overnight. Unfortunately there is no magic quick fix, but I had found the answers I was looking for.
I found what would make me whole again and although I didn’t ever get back to my old self, I actually landed up becoming an even better version of myself. A stronger, more brave and wiser version of me!
In that moment I knew that it had all happened for a reason, I needed to go through all of this so that I could help others to find their way through it too!
Since then helping other women to find themselves has become my life’s purpose. It doesn’t matter how you lost yourself, whether it’s because of post-natal depression, anxiety, the mental and emotional load of motherhood or any of the other million reasons.
I try and help in any way that I can. One way was by creating my Becoming Unapologetically YOU program, where I guide you through a proven system that will leave you feeling worthy, confident and inspired – Like a new fire has been lit in your belly.
I speak to so many women and although we may feel alone, like we are the only person struggling with this, I can promise you now, you are not alone!
You weren’t the first and won’t be the last.
“Our fears are the gatekeepers of our greatest gifts” Unknown
Three Tips to Help Yourself Right Now
In ending this off, I’d like to share three simple things with you that can really help if you are in the depths of it all right now.
Here are my top three things that will make a difference for you right away
- Check your foundation
- Set a weekly date with yourself
- Get a gratitude stone
This may go without saying but you need to make sure you are covering some basics before you worry about the ‘next steps’. Have a look at these different aspects of your life and make sure they are well covered before moving on.
Are you eating food that is fueling your body? Are you drinking enough water? Nutrition and hydration are linked with mental health so don’t overlook them too easily!
Make sure your body is getting enough rest – sleep deprivation is a well know form of torture! Move your body, in any way that works for you, trust me it helps!
Support – make sure you are connecting with the ones who love you most. You need them now more than ever, so even if you feel like pulling away, please try not to. It won’t help anyone!
When I say set a date with yourself I mean find the time (I speak a bit more about HOW in my book “Finding Yourself in Motherhood”) and make it a priority, don’t flake on your own plans.
Find a way, make a way, just DO IT!
In our house I have Saturday mornings to myself. I can do whatever my heart calls for, usually that means I take myself for breakfast and a coffee somewhere I haven’t been before. I enjoy the silence of not having to think for other people, eating a meal that I don’t have to share and just watching the world go by while a write or catch up on whatever I feel for. Other times I go for a walk along the beach or meet up with a friend.
By having this time for yourself preplanned it makes walking out the door that bit easier and it lightens the load on the guilt front, cause we all know mom guilt is a real thing!
Take a moment now and just day dream about what you would do on a weekly date with yourself….
The Gratitude Stone: (this is a real winner!)
I know that the whole ‘be grateful’ thing is nothing new but guess what, it’s a thing for a reason – it works!
The things you think about affect for you feel, this is a great way to shift your thoughts.
Okay, so the way to do it is to get a lovely stone (crystal and anything else that’s smallish) and keep it on your bedside table. Having it there will act as a reminder, so when you jump into bed you can do this as the last thing in your day.
Scan through your day, starting from when you first wake up, and just notice each and every little moment that happened in the day that you are grateful for.
Now, I’m not talking about being thankful for having a home, food or clothes (although those are some pretty huge things to be grateful for!). I’m talking about the simple little things. The fresh coffee, the sunshine streaming in through the window, a hot shower…. Whatever it was that happened in your day that you’re grateful for.
I absolutely love this practice because it ends the day on such a great note and so often I have drifted off into a peaceful sleep before I even finish scanning my day.
These things may seem simple but some of the most powerful things in life are the simplest, so don’t overlook them too easily.
I know post-natal depression can be such an incredibly difficult thing to go through, so if you’re in it just know this:
You are not alone!
You are doing a great job!
This too shall pass!
You are enough, you are worthy, you are loved!
Belinda is a an author and woman’s coach from Life By Belinda, she’s a mom of three and is passionate about helping others in becoming their best selves, so they can live happier and more fulfilled lives. Follow Belinda on Facebook and Instagram!
Big thanks to Belinda for openly sharing about her experience with post-natal depression. Belinda did not experience it after having her first child and was blindsided with it after having her second, which a story that unfortunately is quite common. If you need help and support, please take advantage of Belinda’s tips, and as always, send me a message and I can get you pointed in the right direction!
SEE THE REST OF THE POSTS IN THE BAGGAGE & MOTHERHOOD SERIES HERE!
Christina is the writer behind the blog Real Life Mama. She is a mom two littles, a 4-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Christina and her family live in San Diego, where she is a full-time mama, part-time mental health therapist (LPCC), and round-the-clock blogger, writer, and author. If she ever gets a moment to herself, she can be found singing at the top of her lungs, cooking, and crafting. Thanks for reading!