Meet Vanessa, a mum of two boys and an owner of her own work from home business. She has one younger brother who suffers from a mental illness and her dad passed back in 2006 unexpectedly of an aneurysm. She has three other step brothers and 1 step sister who she doesn’t speak to. Her boys are aged 4 and 2. Jaxon is the oldest and Thomas is his younger brother. In this blog, Vanessa has shared her very real and very raw account of motherhood, post natal depression and the steps she has taken to regain her life.
Should I have had kids? I ask myself this question all the time knowing that I can’t change what has happened. From early adulthood, having kids was never on my agenda. I never gave it much thought. Perhaps it was because I was raised in a broken family and deep down I knew that I didn’t want that kind of upbringing for my kids or maybe it was because I hadn’t met the one person I wanted to have kids with…To this day, I am no closer to answering this question. Perhaps one day, I will have the answer.
Until then, I just live with and manage the constant struggle of being a mum. I never expected how much being a mum would open up a huge pandoras box! It has brought up so many thoughts, emotions and experiences which I never knew existed. In one minute, I can go from being a happy relaxed mum to one that is panicked and stressed! It’s a constant juggle between the practicalities of being a mum and the inner voices/demons. The negative emotions are really so hard to ignore sometimes. It’s like I just want to go to sleep and never wake up. They are debilitating and draining, and they make me question my whole life, at that moment.
At times, I have been overcome by such a deep sense of sadness and loneliness. I would look at my boys and just stare and feel nothing. While others would admire their interactions and their mannerisms, I would pretend to notice and be proud of them. Deep down im numb and void and all I want to do is escape or go to sleep.
I am having to pretend a lot so that people don’t see what’s really going on. I don’t want to burden those close to me with my own feelings and thoughts because I don’t want to be seen as the victim. But I am… I am a victim of post-natal depression and I knew that I had to do something about it for myself and my kids so, I contacted some peak organisations who offer support to mums and parents. I am not afraid or ashamed to say that I did and still do suffer from post-natal depression. I’m proud of it because I am laying my heart on the line and acknowledging the fact that I am only human. It has however taken me a long time to get to this stage.
I will never forget the day I found myself crying in the bathroom at the hospital after my first son was born. I was inconsolable while my partner was holding my son in the hospital room; or the feeling of emptiness I felt when holding him and trying to breastfeed. I felt numb for a very long time and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was just so exhausted from the sleep deprivation and the constant breast pumping. I lost who I once was.
Things really took a turn for me when my employer didn’t have a job for me after my maternity leave. I was very bored and frustrated at home and I was very much looking forward to going back to work so that I could feel more productive and independent again. This wasn’t going to happen and I found myself getting more angry and emotional after I came to the realization that I no longer have a job to go to. I realized at that moment that I took working for granted. Of course, I would complain about having to go to work, but who doesn’t, right?
I missed working, I missed my senses of independence of contribution and I mostly missed the interaction with other adults. I went down another emotional spiral while trying to juggle the demands of a baby. It wasn’t fun and I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone.
At that time, I started to bury myself an even deeper hole. I withdrew from the mothers group and I barely spoke to my partner. I looked after my son, in terms of meeting his physical needs, but the emotional connection was practically nonexistent. I didn’t have anyone I wanted to turn to because everyone around me was either a new mum or busy with their own lives. I had no outlet, no opportunity for me to be me, with no baby in tow.
Then I had my second son….and things changed, again!
I had my second son because I wanted my oldest son to have a sibling. To this day, I am glad that I made that decision but looking back, I realized that I didn’t even take a moment to think about me and what I wanted and more importantly, how I would cope!
Being pregnant was fine, after the morning sickness wore off. It was something new to look forward to. When he came, I admit that I managed my mental health and the whole process of being a mum a bit better. I knew what things to look out for in myself and I learnt to reach out when I needed a break, even if it was to go to the loo on my own!
It was the perfect distraction, but I knew that deep down, my inner demons and thoughts were there, waiting for the right time to appear, and they did.
I remember I was lying next to my youngest son who I was trying to get to sleep and I just started crying. Out of nowhere, tears came gushing out and I had no control. I didn’t want to wake up my son or alarm him so I buried my tears in a pillow. It was at that time that I knew I needed help.
PANDA to the rescue! I searched for their website and sent them an email, while crying and waiting for my son to sleep. It was an intense moment but one I will be forever grateful for.
They called me the following day and I had a really good chat with one of the counsellors. She offered me some strategies and tips on how to cope better and she encouraged me to reconnect with my counsellor, which I did. I also spoke to a counsellor who specialized in post-natal depression, and that was what has lead to who I am today. I sought her support for 8 weeks and then I connected with another counsellor who I am seeing to this very day.
Talking about how I feel and navigating my mind helps me immensely. It helps me understand why I think and feel the way I do. I don’t know where I would be without it.
Now, I am a small business owner and a mum. Sometimes I say im a mum first and other times I say im a small business owner. Whatever order I say it, I know that I am now acknowledging the hard days and enjoying the good ones while also striving to be the best person I can be.
Vanessa now runs her own business from home, Vanessa M, and sees a councillor regularly who has taught her the art of self care.