Hearing about the mother jumping to her death with her newborn in her arms was just so heart-breaking. Mental illness is still a hush-hush topic. It shouldn’t be, and mindsets need to change.
We need to raise awareness and remove the taboo surrounding depression so that new mums have the courage to seek help. I was planning to share my own experience and was heartened to see a fellow mummy blogger Justina from Mum in the Making post on her Instagram account – Depression is NOT a dirty word, where she shared her own battle with PND and encouraged other mums to do so as well.
When #1 was born, we were studying overseas and did not have any help at all. Besides the usual household chores of cooking and cleaning, we were studying full time and had a newborn on our hands. With no experience and no advice from anyone, all I could do was to read books on getting baby into a routine. They were not particularly useful and I did not know at that time that her crying had almost everything to do with her lack of sleep.
She cried all the time and had to be carried. The hubs would try pacifying and rocking her, but when she cried incessantly for hours on end, he gave up. On days when the hubs was at school the whole day, I carried her until my arms ached and in desperation would plonk her on the bed while I went into another room to cry. I didn’t know what to do with this baby who was driving me insane. I was waking up every 2 hours to feed her and I went to classes exhausted. Besides all that, I had many other concerns weighing on my mind.
It was only a year later while working in the mental health community hospital that I understood. I was looking through the different questionnaires for depression and chanced upon the same one that I did. I roughly remembered my score and was stunned to discover that I fell under the moderate to severely depressed category! Every time I went to the cosy little hut, the nurse would have a chat with me about our situation and my concerns, and those were counselling sessions!
Imagine what new mums have to go through. Apart from the rollercoaster of hormones after the birthing process, there may be extreme physical changes and pain to deal with, and external worries such as work and childcare arrangements, added responsibilities, expectations, and even clashes in child-rearing philosophies with the grandparents. The list is endless. Plus round the clock demands of tending to a new baby who doesn’t come with a manual.
These unexpected emotions and avalanche of changes may be overwhelming, and mothers need to be reassured that there is nothing wrong with them and they should talk to somebody about it and ask for help. I have heard stories of how some mums had thoughts of harming their baby or even trying to fit their baby into the rubbish chute before suddenly ‘waking up’ and being shocked at what they were about to do.
Just as motherhood is a beautiful experience, it can also be a lonely and terrifying experience. No one can understand exactly what we are feeling nor going through. And sometimes we need to put on a brave front and soldier on because we want to shelter the other kids from our stress and not give our family members undue worries.
The motherhood journey is not easy. Yet in this journey, we rediscover ourselves. The depth of our love, the layers of our being. If you were to ask me now, after having 6 kids, do I regret it? Despite all the pain and difficulties, the answer is a firm no.
Let us open the conversation on depression and acknowledge that it is real and could happen to any of us.
May we find support in our families and communities and draw strength from other mothers.
May we walk with open eyes and outstretched arms to see another mum’s needs and provide support where we can.