A journey that’s equal parts joy and heartache – these readers share the toughest parts of motherhood that people don’t tell you about.
Text Jasnitha Nair Photography Unsplash; Courtesy of Persons Interviewed
Being a parent isn’t easy. Growing up, you’d see your mum and dad and find some of their decisions and rules absolutely arbitrary. But what we don’t know is their sacrifices and difficult life choices they had to make in order to put you first.
Their struggles were most likely hidden from you; and once you begin your own journey of motherhood there are suddenly a boatload of things that hit you that you never expected. There’s a lot of pressure as a mom to do things “right.” Or to BE something that the world has said you need to be.
Here, these three women candidly opened up to #TeamCLEO about the struggles of motherhood that no one ever speaks about.
Atiqah Yazaid, 28
Has a son aged 3 years and 4 months old, Lutfhi
“I didn’t know I was experiencing post-partum depression”
It took three whole years before Atiqah had managed to get herself to a psychiatrist to only find that she has been depressed the whole time after the birth of her child . Prior to that? Family members assumed that drinking traditional concoctions like ‘jamu’ or seeing an alternative healer would help her to be herself again.
“For the most part of the three years, I would go to bed thinking it would be so much better if I could just sleep and not go to bed,” explains Atiqah.
I Didn’t Think It Was Depression, At All
“I honestly didn’t think I had any kind of depression. However, I did feel like something wasn’t quite right when my anxiety got so bad it started causing a lot of rift between me and the people around me. It was also starting to cause problems in my marriage. So, when I did go to the psychiatrist I assumed it would be a way for me to understand all these feelings I was going through – I did not expect to be diagnosed.”
What advice do you have for other mothers?
“I wish they know that depression or post-partum depression doesn’t always look like what you see on TV. I wasn’t self-harming. I was able to still function. But I felt trapped for most of the time.
“Please know that you can seek treatment at most of our public hospitals and the medications are much cheaper.
What helped you?
“I am on medications now and that has helped to a certain extent. However, I do need to work on my lifestyle as well. I had to start incorporating yoga and running into my life and this has helped me gain a better perspective and forge better relationships with those around me.”
RELATED: The 10 Things I Wish I Knew As A Young Mum
Hema Ramadas, 30
Has a 16 months old daughter, Anya.
“I wasn’t able to bond with my daughter when she was born. I didn’t feel any sort of love towards my baby and just went on autopilot.”
Having a first child is daunting, even more so if you are left to your own devices as Hema was. The 30-year-old children’s rights advocate found it difficult to bond with her baby – no warm fuzzy feelings that was expected of a new mum. That’s why she realised something could be off.
Realising I Might Have Post-Partum Depression
“I honestly thought it was just the usual baby blues or hormones when I was having difficulty bonding with Anya. I had mood swings and would start crying for no reason. I remember lying in bed a week after giving birth and crying to my husband and I did not understand why. I couldn’t even speak or tell him what was wrong with me.
“I didn’t feel any sort of love towards my baby and just went on autopilot. I remember looking at her when she was a few days old and not feeling an ounce of anything. All I used to do was feed, clean and repeat. I never played with her or even showed any affection. It was only until one afternoon where I was trying to put her to sleep and I became so frustrated that I threw her on the bed. That’s when I knew this is a real problem.”
“I try and remind myself of my mother – she managed four children on her own! Although she couldn’t help me during my confinement as she was going through the last stages of dementia, on rough days, I reminded myself of my mother. My daily mantra: ‘If she did it, you can too!’
“Soon after that incident that made me realise I could be experiencing post-partum depression, I started opening up to my husband about what I was going through and he has been an amazing support system. I also started going to friends and family more when I was clueless.
“Every night, no matter how tired I am, I make sure I have some alone time before I head to bed. So, usually, once Anya and my husband are asleep, I take some time to either read, listen to music or watch my favourite sitcoms.”
Advice For Other Mothers
“I was fortunate in the sense that I came out of my post-partum depression pretty quick. If you’re having trouble, please see somebody before it escalates. Have a good support system around you. It is so important to have people that listen to your problems when you’re in a fragile state.
“Lastly, a lot of people would have a lot to say about you and your baby. Sometimes, they make you feel like you do not know your own baby as well as them. It makes you feel useless like you are the worst mother ever.
“Ignore it and don’t put too much thought into it. You need to learn how to filter these unnecessary comments and do what you have to do.”
Emma Chong, 31
Has a son aged 1 year and 6 months, Harry.
“Working full-time and caring for my son was wrecking my mental health. My husband would often come back to find me in tears.”
Emma Chong was an Editor for an online magazine when she gave birth to her son, Harry. While she had planned to return to work after six months, she hadn’t anticipated how tough it would be to work full-time and care for a baby at the same time – sans any extra help. So, she quit her job – but that didn’t make it any easier, either.
Staying At Home Isn’t Nearly As Easy As It Seems To Be
“I realised that juggling that much work while also looking after Harry full-time was just wrecking my mental health. I would be sitting on the sofa in tears when my husband came home from work and it just wasn’t worth it. Now I freelance when I can but other than that am a full-time stay at home mum. A lot of people (including me, before I gave birth) have no idea just how much work it is staying at home and looking after a baby.
I always assumed stay-at-home mothers were just being dramatic but it is so hard; it’s not like you’re just sitting around at home all day, scrolling through Instagram. Babies, even ‘good’ babies, are so demanding, and so unpredictable, so even sometimes when it feels like you’re just sitting there watching them all day, the mental energy it takes is crazy.
You can’t relax, except when they’re sleeping, and even then there are a million other things to do: crucial things like finally eating lunch.”
The Guilt Never Ends
“While I would love more help, I personally do not feel comfortable with having someone else in the house all day. There’s also the guilt. I don’t work full-time, so I have the time to spend with my son – so what is the point of me being home if I offloaded that responsibility to someone else?”
What No One Tells You
“No one tells you how full-on it would all be! How you never stop worrying from the time they wake up to the time the go to bed (and even then, there are things to worry about). Spontaneity is a very foreign concept to me now. We used to be able to literally just walk out of the house when we wanted to and now it takes about two weeks’ worth of planning and coordination before we can watch a movie.”
The Key: Quieting The Mind
“This might sound ridiculous and counter-intuitive, but Instagram has been great for just quieting my mind down. It’s exactly that mindless scrolling that helps me wind down. I’ve been trying to read more and engage in things that require more attention – so I don’t catch my mind wandering and thinking about what Harry is doing.
“Seeing your friends regularly is also important. As much as I love Harry, he isn’t the centre of everyone else’s world so the conversation doesn’t automatically always turn back to him – and that’s a welcomed change!”