I thought about whether I should share this for a long time. As well as sharing my faith, I endeavour to share about my journey when it comes to motherhood as well. It's just that sometimes, motherhood isn't pretty. It's hard, its challenging, its not the cute snaps you see on Instagram all the time.
I'm sure many know my pregnancy with my son was unplanned, and I guess as with many unplanned pregnancies, it came with its own wave of drama. Add that to being heavily involved in church leadership and dealing with the judgement of other Christians; and it was a sure recipe for depression.
I didn't feel I was depressed at the time though. I thought I was just surviving.
Have you felt similar?
I didn't realise that the sleepless nights, loss of appetite, unstable emotions and endless worry were all signs that I was going down a dark hole.
It wasn't until I had my son that deep down I knew that something wasn't right.
The night I gave birth, I was so excited to be having my son, but deep down I was scared. I didn't know whether I was going to be a good mum and I didn't know how things would be.
When I saw his face I was in love, my heart literally exploded. I just couldn't believe he was here, but deep down there was this sadness that I couldn't shift. I had to stay in hospital due to having an infection and that's when I definitely knew something wasn't right.
I was so exhausted, and when it came to rest, whilst I'd lay there and close my eyes, my mind couldn't rest, anxious thoughts would fill me and I'd stress about pointless things. I would actually only sleep with my hand holding the end of my sons cot so I knew nothing would happen to him.
That's how bad it was. Everything worried me to the point where I felt physically sick.
Still, I pushed those feelings to the side and got on with life and motherhood.
I wouldn't say that I didn't have loads of support, I did. I just didn't ask the right people for help and I didn't know how to. I felt like because I had my son, I should deal with everything that comes with it. Even if it was too much for me. I guess it was pride.
I remember the day I left the hospital, I didn't say anything to anyone, so even after having an epidural and not really being able to walk, I wobbled to the car park, sat in my car, drove to the front of the maternity unit, went upstairs, packed all the bags and along with my son, and with my mum, I carried everything, including him and drove home.
I got home and thought, finally, I can sleep. But as all mums know, children don't respect the fact that your tired, stressed, overwhelmed or annoyed. They need care and attention.
I cared for my son round the clock and I enjoyed it. He was truly the light of my life but deep down my emotions from my pregnancy, combined with the exhaustion I felt lingered and they began to eat me alive.
Over the following six months, I started to physically wither away, my appetite was dissapearing rapidly. I would eat a banana and drink water most days, I constantly felt overwhelmed, I was so worried about how life would turn out and I always questioned whether I was doing enough for my son.
One night after midweek service, my friend offered to come home with me, there in the car, during the drive from South to West London, she was asking me questions about how I really felt and how I was really coping with everything. I began to cry like never before. You know when you cry with pain in your throat as you speak? That painful, ugly cry with your eyes burning. I literally couldn't see the road. I was crying my eyes out about everything.
I didn't expect motherhood to be so hard and demanding.
I didn't expect to feel so low. I got lost in the fairytale sold to me - "once the baby comes, everything will be fine."It wasn't and I didn't know how to cope.
It was there, as I was crying my false eyelashes off that a small voice said to me "counselling". I shrugged it off because it couldn't be the Holy Spirit. I mean God is not a fan of counselling or therapy right? He can heal you Himself in a single moment!? But that voice persisted as I got home and even until the next day.
So the next day, I called my local counselling service and self-referred. After a telephone assessment, the clinician told me that I was suffering from both postnatal depression and anxiety disorder - severely! I was shocked. I thought I was coping so well. But it made sense.
Thankfully how I felt never affected the way I cared for Cairo but what if it did? *shakes head*
So many mums struggle with their emotions and struggle with coping, and its so important that they are listened to and helped. I honestly did not know what motherhood was until I went through it myself, and now, there is no way I could not support another mum.
I took the recommended treatment which was counselling sessions and there I talked. I talked for hours about everything that bothered me. My counsellor was amazing, she was young, mixed-race and had a PHD in ethnic minorities, religion and depression. So everything I was saying in relation to the church, my beliefs and cultural traditions she completely understood. It was like a breath of fresh air. She gave me homework and tasks to complete which would help with my anxiety, and over the course of a month, my mindset completely transformed.
For the first time, I actually began to enjoy being a mum and began to see the beauty of having my son. I began to cherish all the time we had together. I even began to appreciate the situation I found myself in.
Perspective is everything.
Over time those negative feelings lifted, and I have to give thanks to God because it was that small voice that whispered "counselling". I have always prayed. I honestly thought one day I'd wake up and things would be better. But sometimes healing requires work.
I remember the day I finished my last session, I came home and was thanking God for everything, I then felt Him say to me that this was his way of pulling down certain strongholds in my mind. I was like huh? And He repeated Himself. I guess God's way of doing things in my life, or in your life, won't be the way He works in everyone else's life. Some might wake up with those feelings completely gone, some might need to go to counselling to receive deeper understanding, some might need medication - and that's okay. He still gets the glory.
So where am I now?
I'm completely enjoying life as a mama. I looooove my son. I'm going back to work and moving out soon, whilst I'm looking forward to more me time and independence, I'm always looking at Cairo like how am I ever gonna leave you at nursery?! So I'm literally trying to create loads of memories whilst we are together at home. Cairo is literally my best friend. God knew I needed him. He has transformed me and his presence in my life continually makes me a better woman in so many ways.
Do I have down days?
Occasionally. It comes with motherhood and its something I've accepted. I know who to lean on for support and I focus on what I can control. I do what I can and I take time out to focus on myself and Cairo. Everything else and everyone else isn't worth my time. I do not compare either. Cairo is my main priority. Even with the down days, I don't harp on them, they are actually part of the motherhood story and give my journey beauty - if you get what I mean.
Phew! It wasn't so bad to talk about after all. I hope you enjoyed reading.
If any of you is struggling with PND, anxiety, or even depression, in general, feel free to message me.
I hope I can help in some way, and don't forget to share this post with anyone you think would benefit from reading.
- millicent x