Within only a few days after giving birth to our daughter, I had contacted the other mums in my ante-natal classes. One of my priorities since becoming a mum was to start going along to a mother's group because, well... that's just what you did, right?
You went to ante-natal classes, met a bunch of other nervous and excited mums-to-be, you all exchanged details and contacted each other when babies started being born.
Then you'd meet at someone's house, sit around drinking tea and eating Tim Tams, smiling sweetly as you look at your beautiful babies sleeping happily and being wonderful
You'd all become best friends and begin to understand each other in a way no one else in your life can. It's perfect because everyone is going through the same thing and everyone knows how everyone else is feeling. The times you meet bring comfort, relief and support. You REALLY love going to mother's group and it becomes the highlight of your week.
Sounds nice, doesn't it?
Well, throw in a pile of postnatal depression into that little fantasy and you've got a very different reality.
Beyondblue states that 1 in 7 women giving birth in Australia will be affected by postnatal depression. There were 7 mums in our group... I think the chances are pretty good, I was that ONE mum.
Here's my story.
My husband and I clicked immediately with some of the couples at our ante-natal classes. They were lovely and really easy to talk to. We were united by our shared excitement and concerns and enjoyed a relaxed giggle together at some parts of the course. I couldn't wait to meet up with the other mums when our babies were born because I really liked them.
I should stress at this point, these other mums were by no means judgemental. I've heard some really sad stories of mums being super nasty to each other which is totally unnecessary and not at all related to my experience. These mums were friendly, chatty and inclusive (I was really lucky)... but I still felt like the odd one out and I still stopped going after only 3 short months. It wasn't their fault... I blame my depression... which at the time, I didn't even know I had.
At our first meeting, when our daughter was 3 weeks old, one of the other mums described her labour as 'magical' and told us she felt empowered and amazed at what she had achieved. I will never forget saying to myself as she spoke "Wow, you missed out big time Bron! Your experience was nothing like that! Sucks to be you!" This other mum wasn't boasting or being overly proud, she was just being honest.
It wasn't her fault I felt that way... it was my depression. It had already, at 3 weeks postpartum, started convincing me that everything was total crap.
When we met, the other mums would talk for hours about how much joy they got from holding their babies. They would comment on how hard they found it to put their sleeping babies down in their bassinets and walk away. "So I'd just end up sitting on the sofa, holding them while they slept" they'd say. "I really wanted to make a cup of tea or read my book but honestly, I love them so much, I just had to hold them!" I would look around the room and see all the mums holding their babies. Cuddling them tightly in their new fleecy jumpsuits or wrapped tightly against their chest... then I'd look at my daughter, asleep in the travel carry cot I had brought along with me. I loved ANY minute I got to put my baby down and be FREE. If she was asleep, I would jump at the chance to be separate from her and go and do something on my own. "What the heck is wrong with these mums?" I would ask myself. No... what the heck was wrong with me? Again these mums weren't boasting or being high and mighty, they were just in love with their babies.
It wasn't their fault I felt that way... it was my depression. It had already, at 3 weeks postpartum, started affecting the bond I had with my baby.
The mums would talk about the joy of breastfeeding... I would cringe at the sound of my baby waking up because it meant I had to feed her.
They would stay for hours... I was always the last to arrive and the first to leave.
They were glowing, their bodies obviously agreeing with the demands of parenthood... my hair was frizzy, my eyes baggy and my clothes stank of formula.
They were enjoying themselves... I was hating it.
They were laughing... I was finding it hard to see the funny side of anything.
They were happy... I was constantly sad.
So I stopped going. I couldn't bear to be with mums who were as in control and on top of things as them. I couldn't bear to continue seeing bright, chirpy smiles when I felt as low as I did. I couldn't bear to see mums who loved their babies as much as they did when I was struggling to develop any kind of bond with mine. None of this was their fault. They did absolutely nothing wrong. My postnatal depression pushed me away - yet another thing stolen from me.
1 in 7 new mums. That's quite a scary statistic. It means that on average, one mum in every mother's group will be like me. They will be the one dying on the inside... trying to smile so no one notices that actually, her heart is breaking. They will be the one who feels like the odd one out.
They will be the one who needs the most help.