Today we welcome Emma as guest writer to Baby Hints & Tips. Emma bravely shares her story of her mental health challenges and how they have been part of her mothering journey.
If you believe you need assistance in coping with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, we urge you to contact Beyond Blue which can you link you with relevant local health services. Thank you Emma for letting us tell other Mums of your experiences…
Parenting is tough, there is no other word for it. Whether it is the non-existent sleep, the endless washing or just the lack of alone time (going to the toilet with a toddler trying to climb in behind you is about as fun as it sounds). But imagine the daily struggles of motherhood with the added extra of battling depression, anxiety or another mental health problem.
From the age of thirteen my life was never the same. While I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details and bore you all, I will say that I spent the majority of nine years is hospital suffering from major depression, an eating disorder and much, much more. I nearly didn’t make it to where I am today, but I did and I couldn’t be happier.
I think everybody thought that I was crazy when I said I wanted children: “You’re just starting your life,” “You’re getting married in a few weeks, why would you want the burden of a baby?” But as some of you will know it’s an urge that comes over you and it’s something that you want more than anything.
I fell pregnant with my first son surprisingly fast, and it was a compete whirlwind of emotions, constant vomiting and the undeniable urge to throw something at the next person that told me I was glowing (it’s sweat). Pregnancy passed with never-ending complications and countless doctors appointments. I had decided to stay on my antidepressants and anxiety medication after much consideration and with the approval of my doctors. I managed to maintain my mental health at a stable level (which I believe would have been impossible without the medication).
My beautiful baby boy was born by emergency c-section and the world was finally starting to make sense. While he suffered some complications from my medications he was still perfectly happy and healthy. The need to have another addition to my family started soon after and 17 months later another beautiful boy joined us.
Now this is the part where I want to be completely honest about what it is like to have a toddler and a newborn while also suffering with depression and anxiety. It is bloody hard. As mothers we all know what it is like; the house looks like a bomb went off, there’s a child chucking a massive tantrum because you won’t allow chocolate for breakfast and of course you just found out visitors are dropping by in 15 minutes. But underlining all of this is the constant fear of failure, the sense that ‘I’m not as good as the mother standing next to me at the check out’. The fear that the deep, dark, desolate pool of depression will one day come back with a vengeance. The fear that I won’t always be well enough to take care of the two little people who depend on me for everything. And of course the constant fight to keep on top of life while maintaining my own wellbeing. Everyday is a battle but inner strength takes time to build, and I know most likely I will always suffer from mental health problems for the rest of my life. That said, each day that I’m improving is a step in the right direction and it’s perfectly okay if I stumble along the way because I know myself or someone will pick me up, so you continue to carry on.
If I had faced these challenges five years ago I would have broken down in a heap (and probably locked the door and pretended no one was home), sobbing like a baby. Instead I pulled my big girl panties on and did what every other mother does in this situation: run around like a mad woman with a baby in one arm and cleaning with the other, while trying not to step on random toys (Lego is a real b*tch!).
Children have the ability to make you love them unconditionally and want to bang your head against a brick wall at the same time (sometimes it really is just easier to give in and give them chocolate). I have learnt that I can no longer have control over everything in my world and there are days where you literally just want to go back to bed. I knew from the day I fell pregnant with my first that I not only had to take complete care of another human being; I also had to start taking better care of myself.
Twenty-two months after hearing that first cry I’m finally at a place where I feel good about my life. I’ve learned that walking away for a breather is okay, especially when you’re ready to chuck a tantrum that’s sure to rival that of any toddler. I have learned that while I’m not just a mother, a wife and the keeper of all things fun (washing, bills, housework etc), but I am a person as well. I am a person that suffers with mental health problems and sometimes to make sure everything else is achieved I have to put myself first. I have to make sure I take my medication, I have to make sure I express what I’m feeling instead of keeping it bottled up, and sometimes I need twenty minuets to watch trashy television or read a book. After all I am human – and we all need a chance to process our day and relax.
About the Author: Emma MacBain is a mum of 2 boys (22 and 5 months) from the Newcastle area. Emma is passionate is sharing her message of inclusion for mental health sufferers and shares her personal story for this reason. When she’s not busy being Mum and wife you’ll find her spending time drinking hot coffee with friends and family, absorbing the newest thriller or relaxing in front of TV watching something totally trashy with a tub of peanut butter ice cream. You can read all of her articles here.