Post-natal depression: speak out, reach outNovember 2, 2016
Adele has been in my head today. No, not her music, but her words. The recent interview in Vanity Fair, where she spoke out about post-natal depression and her experiences following the birth of her son, is so important for so many reasons.
“One day I said to a friend, ‘I f*ckin’ hate this,’ and she just burst into tears and said, ‘I f*ckin’ hate this, too.’ And it was done. It lifted. My knowledge of postpartum—or post-natal, as we call it in England—is that you don’t want to be with your child; you’re worried you might hurt your child; you’re worried you weren’t doing a good job. But I was obsessed with my child. I felt very inadequate; I felt like I’d made the worst decision of my life… It can come in many different forms.”
So why does the voice of one woman matter? Because she’s bloody Adele! She doesn’t even need a surname, that’s how famous she is. And she’s there, heart on sleeve, in Vanity Fair looking effing fabulous, talking about crying, and regret, and not feeling how she thought she was supposed to feel as a new mum, removing the stigma.
And many of us have been there. Looking down at this tiny creature, who needs EVERYTHING from you, and you’re thinking “How did you get here? Now what do I do?”.
From moments of feeling disconnected from your baby and wondering why, to full-blown depression, new mums have so much to deal with and adjust to. The hormones. Your body. This new person. Our identity changes within minutes. Responsibility lands squarely on your shoulders. You’re the adult now. The person someone else turns to for reassurance. It’s a period of confusion, and joy, and weeping, and self-doubt.
And guess what? To some extent, every mum goes through it. I wept a lot (a lot – read this post on what made me cry in the first few months of motherhood). Crying while breastfeeding, screaming together in the car, from frustration, exhaustion, of wanting my old life back then the guilt of feeling that, of being so overwhelmed by love for my daughter that I wanted to push her away so that the love couldn’t hurt me.
Why Adele’s searing honesty (“I love my son more than anything, but on a daily basis, if I have a minute or two, I wish I could do whatever the f*ck I wanted, whenever I want. Every single day I feel like that.”) is so needed, is that new mums, who are at their most vulnerable, often don’t realise that other women are going through it too. That they’re not alone, even though at 3am, with a screaming child that can’t be soothed, they’ve never felt more lonely.
When it comes to sisterhood, for me it’s all about honesty. We’re all struggling in some way. And if you’re pretending you’re not, with a fake smile while your heart is breaking, you’re not being fair to yourself, or the other women who compare themselves and come up short, trying so hard to meet unrealistic, untrue expectations. If she can manage, why can’t I? What’s wrong with me?
It’s okay to love your child so much it terrifies you, but then gleefully close the nursery door and enjoy not being a mum for a few hours.
It’s okay to be exhausted and exhilarated by them in equal measures.
What’s not okay, however, is to think that you’re in this alone. Starting The Mothership was all about dealing with the newness and weirdness of being a mum, and it’s the ‘me too’ moments that make it all worthwhile. The comments, the private messages, the ‘thank you for saying that when no-one else is’.
We’re all struggling. And if a multi-millionaire with endless resources and no need for a surname had a tough time, then you’re allowed to as well.
Just be sure to speak out and reach out.
You might also like to read: Why we need to start talking about pre-natal anxiety