Starting a dialogue with moms and their mental health.

As #MaternalMentalHealthWeek draws to a close, I reflect on my journey into motherhood and my mental health along the way. It is true what they tell you…nothing can really prepare you! You think you’re ready. You’ve bought all the gear, prepared a nursery, taken the antenatal classes…how hard can it be, right? Well, did I get the shock of my life!

My start as a Mom was not the most conventional. My son was diagnosed with Hydronephrosis at our 20 week scan and we then embarked on a 16-week whirlwind of additional scans, specialist appointments and ultimately an induction and delivery at 36 weeks. Within 3 hours of the birth, my son was taken into NICU for breathing support and that is where he remained for 8 days, before we could bring him home.

For the following year, we were in and out of the hospital for routine scans, scheduled surgeries and unplanned stays when infections set in. In all honesty, the entire first year was a complete blur. I coped by putting one foot in front of the other and becoming a medical specialist in the area of my son’s illness. I thought I was ok.

It wasn’t until my son was turning 1 that everything came to a head. It was like all the emotional trauma stayed right inside, stored up and ready to release itself the second it could. Just waiting in the wings to take me down. And take me down it did. My mind finally started to catch-up with the reality of all that had happened and I was totally blindsided.

In my (very fortunate) case, I was surrounded by people who instinctively knew to be checking in. My husband, while working through his own trauma (paternal mental health matters just as much!) was a rock. We knew that our emotions around the experience were scattered. Through a series of events I came across a local support group that absolutely caught me right in the middle of free-fall. They propped me up, lent support, LISTENED (just listened) to my story and then shared their stories. The support was incredible.

I was also able to seek help with a brilliant Psychologist, specialising in EFT (emotionally focused therapy). My sessions with her paired with the support I gained in my new group created little stepping stones for me to return to a healthy place, mentally. And today I look back, with two healthy kids in toe, and wonder…how on earth did women survive mental health matters a hundred years ago?! How did our own mother’s cope even a few decades ago, when these topics were very taboo? How do women today, who may not know where to turn or have a good support system, manage?

The reality is that the only way women will feel more and more empowered to share their experiences and seek the support they need is for the topic itself to become more normalised. No stigma. No judgement. Today calls for sisterhood, support, kindness. We never know what someone else is going through. We have to ask! If there are fellow mothers in your life…no matter how well they may seem to be doing…just ask! Ask them how they’re doing. Lend an ear or a shoulder. Be there! Sit with them exactly where they are.

And if you’re working through your own struggles, find the one person you can open up to and just share. Start to speak it out loud to someone who will listen. Ask for help, if you can find the strength within. Help is there. Hope is there. Connection is there. You may have to seek it out and keep looking until you find what works for you, but don’t stop searching. Know that you matter and that you don’t have to just muddle through or struggle in silence.

We may just be the generation that completely normalises mental health struggles and the shift in thought that speaking our truth and asking for help takes strength and courage….it is the ultimate vulnerability. This is one of the positive changes that our generation can be known for. It can pave the way for our children to recognise and seek what they need with no shame. This change can save lives.

If you’re in need of support, one resource that I absolutely love is…

#maternalmentalhealthmatters #bekindtothemind #mentalhealth #honestmotherhood #motherhoodunplugged #parenting #maternalmentalhealth #maternalmentalhealthweek2020 #mmhweek2020

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