MY INTRODUCTION TO MOTHERHOOD
Hi, and welcome to my Mother of Nug website and blog! I am so happy that you are here, thanks for tuning in and gifting me a few minutes of your day for reading my first ever blog post.
Let’s dive right in as you are a busy bee, shall we? Some of you may know me as their friend, relative, ex or new co-worker. But for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Alessandra (Alex for the majority) I am an expat mother of a 2-year-old baby girl named Olivia or, as we call her, ‘The Nug’. And she is my greatest inspiration.
First things first: this is a safe place where you can read my, or others wonderful people’s stories, who like me have had a difficult introduction to motherhood and will openly share their experiences that will hopefully make you realize you are not alone in all of this.
Although I am not a licensed practitioner, and I have no medical degree, but having survived the most devastating postnatal depression that lasted nearly 2 years, I would like to help share the methods, conversations and thoughts that helped me pull me out of that dark emotional hole.
I am not alone in this journey and you can meet my collaborators as we go along the way, our aim is to help raise awareness into identifying and supporting women suffering from post-natal depression and other perinatal disorders because we are the women that are raising our future and bringing a change to the world.
What brought me here writing to you today, it wasn’t a bright idea I had because I was bored with my life and wanted to monetize it (like unfortunately we falsely see on most social platforms nowadays), but struggle and desperation, sadness, anxiety, madness were my true companions during the first year after the birth of my little nugget. And a little bit beyond that. Only now I can truly say: My darkness, was my light. But let’s start from the very beginning…
Overall, I had a really good pregnancy (for as much as a good pregnancy can be). I don’t want to get into all the details about the first nine months of my daughter’s life because you can find tons of books and blogs and all stuff related and you can pick based on your preferences. I want to dive right into a bigger issue as suicide is a leading cause of death for new mum’s, but awareness is still low. I am starting strong, I know. Simply, it’s the truth.
Olivia was born a healthy child (3.7 kg for 52 cm) and bringing her to the world wasn’t easy especially when you prepare for that birth as a team, dreaming of the time you meet the little fella and think ‘who’s she’s going to look like’ (of course, the father) and holding a baby on your chest while crying of happiness into your husbands’ arms.. the perfect picture of a new little happy family. I’ve learned through my prenatal classes which were awesome by the way (and online) that you can never predict how everything is going to be and it’s true but that doesn’t stop you from dreaming anyways.
I was in a Chinese hospital, with a translator helping us talk to our ob-gyn and we heard the sentence ‘you need a c-section as the function of your placenta is lowering drastically and for your baby’s health, you need to deliver’ like, ASAP. We decide on to have the c-section upon the suggestions of 3 different doctors from 3 different countries and all it came down to THE one thing: the safest way to bring that baby girl to us. But husbands cannot get into the operating room in China, so I am alone, in a metal operating table and it’s freezing cold with everyone speaking Chinese and my translator is notably late. But I push through the tears and fears and they do all they need to do (they also remove a myoma from my uterus so had to overcome a surgery into a surgery which pushed my recovery back even longer than standard) and they take my baby out. Which doesn’t cry, that I don’t see afterwards for SEVEN long never-ending hours. I know it was done to safeguard my baby but she was supposed to bond with me, all the books say so and she wasn’t with me and I panicked thinking “maybe she will not love me right away because we didn’t bond” don’t think I am silly, people have actually told me that and I believed them and I also lived in THAT fear for the following 2 years.
So my first step toward depression: being in sync with an unborn child for nine months, she was me, I was her home, doing it all together and all of a sudden…. I was alone.
Then breastfeeding came, I couldn’t sit so had to find a way to breastfeed while lying down, uncomfortable but who the hell cares, she is with me. But then the cracked nipples, the mastitis, the fever, the frustration.
Step number 2 to PND (post-natal depression): breastfeeding is freaking hard but for me was the only way, even through SO much pain (I am not anti-formula but that was my wish). For the following weeks after birth, I cried an hour before breastfeeding thinking the pain I will be in, I was crying while breastfeeding and after feeding Olivia because I thought I didn’t have any milk as she was latching on like every 30 mins. I later breastfed for a total of 14 months.
But then, the thoughts came barging in. And those sent me to a place I can’t even describe.
We lived at the 19th floor of a Chinese building and guess what? The number of times I dreamt of throwing my baby outside of that window were many. You might judge me at this point, but this is what it is: POSTNATAL DEPRESSION. It destroyed me.
Am I a bad mother? Am I worthy?
They should take this child away from me!
Do I love my baby? Even when my baby sleeps, I cannot lie down and shut my brain off…will she die in her sleep? What if the baby chokes?
Why do I feel so trapped and upset even though I should be happy because I just had my baby? Why can’t I feel happiness?
Why are my days and night ruled by anxieties and dark thoughts?
Why me? Why do I feel this?
The pain I was in was not measurable. I wanted to desperately be happy and I wasn’t. No matter how much I have tried I just wasn’t. I was alone.
My husband was away a lot for work, and he is a great father, but that left me alone in my thoughts with my nightmares countless times. I was lying to myself and everyone. I wasn’t fine at all. Was there not a rehab for freaking mothers like me? And why no other mother could make me feel better? Why weren’t they feeling this way and I was? The struggle was real on a daily basis.
Thoughts like these crossed my mind: killing myself, disappearing, jumping out the window, divorcing my husband because he didn’t deserve such a horrible wife giving him so much grief. I was drowning into my own sorrow. I hated myself, my body, my life and motherhood.
‘I’ve reached the bottom’ I kept repeating like a mantra in my mind every single minute of every single day.
Fast forward it to month 7th post-partum: Our best friend Jacob dies, and this throws such a heavier burden on top of everything else. My husband has to leave to Denmark and I am alone for nearly a week and it was the worst week since the birth of Olivia: Jacob’s death, Olivia’s teething and vomiting and fever and sleepless nights….I thought the worst just caught up with me, I will hurt my baby out of anger and frustration. I will hurt her but also at every little sound she made I just ran and checked if she was ok. Was this bipolarism? I thought it might be, I thought maybe there was a slight chance that a mental disease finally hit me because it runs somewhere in the family’s tree. We have been to our family doctor in China before, my husband was worried, and he prescribed some pills to knock me out a few hours to rest but didn’t solve the problem in the slightest. This was different, I was desperate. I was crying for help.
But then something changed. I took the courage to send a WhatsApp text to a psychologist that a friend suggested me to talk to “she will help. Trust me”. Well, how can a stranger be able to help me? I am un-fixable and plus I didn’t know where to start explaining to them any of it. And it was really ugly before it got better.
It wasn’t easy. I even avoided, for a long time, looking at the pictures of the first few months of Olivia’s life because I felt I was absent from it. I was there, but I wasn’t. I still cry knowing the pain I was in. Maybe that’s what you are feeling? Or your wife is feeling? Or a friend told you she is experiencing? Please don’t’ judge me or them. It’s an absolute nightmare and I think just the fact we are pulling through it, defines us as strong mothers and women.
We, all mothers, feel this burden on different scales and there’s those who hold it inside or whom like me, despite the judgments and the critics, want to let you know that it was my experience. I was lucky, I was saved. Some mothers don’t have the time or the strength to fight and this leads to suicides, hurting your child, PTSD, OCD and all other perinatal mental illnesses. I want to be an open book with you. Always. I am done with hiding the truth.
I want to be the voice for those who don’t have the courage or strength to speak, I want to hear from you, read you, help you. I don’t want ANYONE in this world going through what I have been mentally going through alone. I cannot perform a miracle, but I can be there with all my support and the support of an amazing network of women that can walk you through the end of the tunnel.
Let’s raise awareness, it’s free and we can do so much good for this world because one day it will be left into the hands of our children and we are responsible to hand down the message for all the new generations of women that will come.
If you want to be one of us please know, my email is always open just click this firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be on the other side to virtually hug you.
Alex (a.k.a. the Mother of Nug) X
Olivia and I at the hospital in Nanjing – China – 4 days postpartum