As new mothers, we have some idea of how our lives will change, but our reality is often very different to the expectation.
When so much of our focus is on the safe arrival of our baby, we often forget to consider just how much of an impact motherhood will have on our emotional well-being.
I recently caught up with a valued client of mine, Brittagh, who was keen to share her story of the struggles she faced as a new mum in the hopes of helping other mums feel less alone if they find themselves on a similar journey.
In this post we discuss Brittagh’s experience with:
- Perinatal Depression & Anxiety
- Infant hearing loss
- Expectation vs the reality of motherhood
- Identity loss in motherhood
- Overcoming Postpartum Depression & Anxiety
This is a must read for any mummas who find themselves struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety.
Can you tell us what your experience has been like transitioning into motherhood?
The day I went to the doctor to confirm my pregnancy I was told I had a large ovarian cyst that would need to come out during the pregnancy. I can see now that starting from that moment, I went into an extreme state of hypervigilance, fear and anxiety. I was told that I could not do any physical exercise due to concern of the cyst rupturing, and that I would undergo abdominal surgery at the beginning of the second trimester.
Whilst the surgery was successful, during this time the first Covid19 lockdown also began and my brother in America suddenly passed away. The world as I knew it was crashing down all around me, and I kept assuming more bad news was coming.
All of this, combined with the physical and mental changes I experienced throughout pregnancy, had me living in a paralysed state of fear. I woke up every morning convinced something was wrong with the baby and I.
Therefore, I was mentally unable to give much thought to what motherhood, parenthood, work and life was going to be like once my little girl was here. Instead of asking myself what kind of mother I wanted to be, I was asking myself how I was going to make it through the next day without something happening to baby or I. This made the shock and overwhelm all that much more intense once the unpredictability of parenthood was in full force.
Once your daughter was born and you knew she was safe, how did you feel?
I will never forget the first night I spent with Eimmie, my daughter, in the hospital. For the first time in nearly 10 months, I wasn’t scared. I was so calm, happy and proud. The next morning they started doing routine screening tests on Eimmie and we were told:
“She has failed her hearing test.”
I could physically feel myself go straight back into the prenatal hypervigilant state that I had just escaped from. My thoughts quickly turned into:
My daughter can’t hear anything.
I must have done this.
I must have caused this.
I have failed.
How did your reality shift after learning about your daughters hearing loss?
My reality became extreme postpartum anxiety with a total inability to cope with change. At four weeks old, after my husband and I lived in secret of not knowing what she could hear – if anything – we were told Eim had permanent bilateral moderate hearing loss. So many intimidating words in one diagnosis. Since then, she has had to be retested every four months and her diagnosis and level of loss has changed every time.
So my pre-parent life of scheduled work/life/dog-snuggles balance had been flipped upside down. I gave up my sole trading business and my husband and I started our own business together so that I could work whilst helping my daughter with many medical appointments, hearing aids and speech development for her first few years of life.
All of these major changes led to my feeling very alone, resentful and misunderstood. I had decided in my head that I had already failed as a mum, and therefore my daughter and husband would be much better off without me. This was how dark the irrational thoughts of postpartum anxiety were for almost 15 months. I didn’t understand what was happening to me or what I was going through, and therefore I couldn’t articulate my struggles to those closest to me – primarily my husband.
What’s been the biggest struggle for you, personally, as you’ve transitioned into motherhood?
For a while, I was battling two different struggles that proved to be a very scary combination. The first struggle was my inability to communicate to others and myself what it was that I was thinking, feeling and going through. This created a second struggle of complete identity crisis. I had lost myself and my self-worth but could not explain why.
This transition was also taking place during 2021 when Covid lockdowns prevented me from being able to access any village of support. I remember one morning after another night of zero sleep I thought there was no way I could do all on my own again and I was considering breaking the lockdown rules to call my in-law’s for help. And then I turned on the news and the Premier’s words were, “if you’re thinking of taking the kids to see grandparents – don’t do it. If you love them and want to keep them safe – don’t do it.”
Only now can I look back and think – who the heck wouldn’t be struggling under these kinds of circumstances?!
What support options did you try and what was your experience with them?
Where do I begin… I really tried to push past the shame and mum guilt I was living under and when Eimmie was about six months old I started trying any form of support that was possible and available during peak pandemic. I saw a psychologist specialising in anxiety, I tried a mental health counselor specialising in working with expats as I thought perhaps I was feeling this way due to my family being overseas, online mothers groups, many books and more.
At one point, I was even told that postpartum mental health services were no longer available to me as my daughter was considered to be too old. These forms of support did not help me to feel the one thing I was so desperate to feel – seen and understood.
What made you decide to seek support from Finding You PDC?
After trying so much and not gaining any sense of self or mental clarity, I was living in a dark state of hopelessness. I was beyond in love with my daughter, yet was convinced she deserved a better, stronger mother. Then one afternoon I stumbled upon Finding You Personal Development Coaching on social media. Personal development and continuing education is something I’ve always been passionate about, and I was intrigued as I had never heard of personal development coaching specifically for mothers. I watched Courtney’s story as she so clearly explained her journey of matrescence – a word and concept I had never heard before – and I finally felt understood.
How has working with Finding You PDC helped you?
The Finding You PDC services changed everything for me. For the first time since becoming a mother, it was as if someone had tapped me on the shoulder and said, “don’t worry – you can breathe now.”
Finding You PDC offered me such a safe and empathetic space to be vulnerable. Learning about matrescence helped me to understand what was truly happening to me – why my gut and everything about my being felt so off.
Right off the bat, Finding You PDC taught me many simple concepts that, when I started applying to my everyday life, my relationship with myself and others started to transform. Courtney gave me the vocabulary to explain just how and why I was feeling so confused and overwhelmed. And more importantly, Finding You PDC taught me how to support and love myself more than anyone else.
What was the biggest thing you learnt about yourself after working with Finding You PDC?
One of the best things about Finding You PDC is the coaching doesn’t end when a session ends. During my hardest months, I was also able to text with Courtney any time I felt I wasn’t coping, or the sleep deprivation had really kicked in. On one of those hard days when I couldn’t stop doubting myself, I messaged Courtney and I asked her – “Do mothers ever actually get to a point where they think and believe they are truly a ‘good’ mother?” Courtney’s immediate response was, “YES!!!”
Finding You PDC has guided me on a journey to where I now whole-heartedly believe that I am a wonderful mother – and this is a newfound confidence that I didn’t know existed within me. After working with Finding You PDC, I learned just how strong and capable I really am.
What advice would you give a mum who was struggling?
It may seem cliche to end with a quote, but for any mum out there who is struggling or not sure of what they are going through, remember these words from Maya Angelou:
Love recognises no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.
When you’re a parent, this rush of intense love is so beautiful and so overwhelming. Finding You PDC helped me to arrive at a whole new destination of parenting – and this time, full of hope.
To learn more about Finding You PDC click here