It's easy to look at other mums and gleam from a surface glance that they're seemingly happy, but what you often don't see is the silent suffering of anxiety and depression. Mama Life London isn't just a clothing brand, its aim through blogs and social media is to get conversations started on mental health and become a community of support where people can find advice or read stories from real mums who have shared their experiences with mental health.
Many women secretly suffer from pre and postnatal mood and anxiety disorders. In an isolated world sometimes it feels better to know you're not alone.
Here we share single mother Laura's difficult and traumatic start to motherhood. If this is something you or someone you know can relate to, please share the story.
Pregnancy brought happiness
"When I was pregnant with my son I couldn't have felt happier. In fact I don't remember ever feeling so happy in my adult life! Everyone was always asking me how I was and were so interested in my pregnancy, and to be honest I think there's a lot to be said for the massive oestrogen surge of pregnancy. I can honestly say I truly did bloom...
"The birth was rather traumatic, but then what birth isn't? I ended up with a c-section, which I have found has been a source of guilt and shame at times - it seemed I didn't earn my stripes even though it was literally terrifying being cut open awake.
The early days can be overwhelming
“Although the visits after birth from friends and family were lovely it quickly became overwhelming, as I felt so unwell having haemorrhaged (iron on the floor) and had no sleep for such a long time. So once my partner went back to work with a new promotion that saw him out all day six to six, I found myself having gone from being inundated with attention to the direct opposite, quite alone.
"And it seemed that most times people did see me, they had some advice or other to give. So I started to isolate myself even more to avoid it.
"The nights started drawing in. The days got shorter, the darkness grew longer. Sleep was still a massive issue for me. A lot of times I would put it down to my son and some of it was, but a lot of it was my mind keeping me up. I was Googling Sudden Infant Death Syndrome frequently in the middle of the night. Totally paranoid that my son wasn't safe.
"My relationship was suffering. The house was mayhem. My mind was mayhem. My dad was suffering with mental illness too. He couldn't sleep and neither could I. In some ways it bonded us, in others it made me mad at him. I live with the guilt of that now. I struggled to be sympathetic even though, and I suppose probably because, my mind was as fractured as his.
I had Postnatal Depression
"I told my health visitor and I felt like she really understood, I felt like I could talk to her. She prescribed me antidepressants and once they kicked in I started to cope. I wasn't crying everyday. It helped to a degree, but soon I just felt flat. I wasn't upset, but I wasn't happy.
“That understanding health visitor left the practice shortly after prescribing me my medicine, and I never felt like anyone else understood quite like her. I just felt like this was what they expected from me. It didn't surprise them when I said that I had postnatal depression, I was greeted with; "This is just the way it is after you've had a baby. Loads of mums feel like this”. I had postnatal depression and it felt worse because nobody even believed me.
“It can feel all well and good saying ‘talk’, but you find people don't want to hear it. Who can blame them, it gets boring. You even bore yourself in the end, so eventually you stop talking. You start living your own secret life and find your own ways of coping.
"If people haven't had depression then they just don't understand. I don't blame them. There are things that I haven't been through that I can't empathise with. When things that should make you happy don't.
"My dad stopped talking too, and even though I was in the same boat in many ways, I'd stopped listening as well as everyone else. It was hard to hear. You just want people to get better. You know people just want you to get better. They don't want to hear it, so you shut up and you pretend. You find a way to cope or you find a way to leave. I found a way to cope and my dad found a way to leave this life, but I had my son to live for. I don't blame him for taking his.
"It didn't stop once I got the medication. It went on and on. My partner and I split up. Single parenthood has been tough, but it's harder that no one wants to listen.
“I think support groups are a great way forward, but where I live it isn’t a great place for that sort of thing. I would have liked to talk to people with the same shit as me. Or would we have just wanted to talk and not listen? Stuck in our own self absorbing illnesses. Who knows?!
"I'm better now, in case you were wondering. So what's your story?"