I never knew it would hit me because I have never been the emotional type, but it did, and it has been a heck of a roller coaster ride.
Slightly more than a year ago, I gave birth to Kayla, and for the first three months after, I struggled with this constant ball of fear in my chest. I had no appetite for meals, I cried everyday, I lost weight, and my milk supply dipped so fast that I couldn’t breastfeed even if I wanted to.
As a first-time mother, I was overwhelmed by this new lifestyle that no amount of preparation could truly prepare me for.
Initially, we didn’t plan for Kayla to happen, as my husband and I were only married for six months at that point. And to be very honest, I felt fear the moment I knew I was pregnant. I knew motherhood was not going to be a walk in the park because of the stories I have heard from fellow moms. I was terrified of what’s ahead.
Unlike in school where there are lessons and ten year series to walk you through each subject, there is no ‘manual’ for motherhood. Everyone’s experience is different and the only way to know what motherhood really is, is when you become a mother yourself.
Nonetheless, I prepared myself for motherhood in the possible ways I could: by making sure we had all the physical stuff ready. Things like the baby’s room, the milk bottles, and the medications. It was an assurance that at least, whatever we need will be available at our disposal when Kayla is born.
Then, Kayla Came
The first 28 days was a whirl, but at least I had a confinement nanny around. I was still recovering from the natural birth process and my stitches still hurt. I wasn’t very mobile. As I was breastfeeding, I couldn’t get more than four hours of sleep each time. It was really tiring.
Deep down, it started to dawn on me how scary it was that I am now responsible for this little human being. However, I also wanted to give her the best I can, and I tried my best to learn as much as I could from my confinement nanny before she left. And when she left after the first month, I started to lose control.
I lived in constant fear and anxiety.
I’m a self-professed worrier. I think a lot and cannot help but imagine the worst scenarios that can happen. This made me feel anxious all the time.
As a first-time mother, you find yourself forming an idea of motherhood based on what you read on the internet and from other mommies. For me, what I read and hear became a set of expectations for myself. I started to follow these set of ‘rules’ religiously, and even if the most little of things go out of place, it’ll mess me up.
For example, I would expect Kayla to take this number of naps a day, or to finish drinking this amount of milk, and I would get really worried when those ‘quotas’ are not hit. The pressure of living up to these expectations I placed on myself and the stress of feeling inadequate consumed me over time.
I didn’t know how to handle a child. I felt so lost and lonely. Motherhood was something so new to me and I was just so afraid that I wasn’t doing things right or wasn’t giving my best to my child. I wasn’t even in the right state of mind. I was just this person following a schedule: always on stand-by to supply Kayla her next milk feed, change her diaper, burp her, and bathe her.
As a chirpy and outgoing person by nature, I knew something wasn’t right as I was crying every day. I lost all appetite for meals. Waking up every morning became a dreaded affair because I will be filled with anxiety the moment I opened my eyes, and that awful feeling would intensify through the day.
It was so mentally draining.
The Shame That Came With Having Postnatal Depression
I struggled with the thoughts of how it was possible for me to have depression. I was ashamed. A part of me felt like I had no right to feel this way since I had been looking forward to being a mother for the past 10 months. How could I be depressed now?
Fortunately, I saw what I was becoming, and I knew that this was not the kind of lifestyle I wish to continue with. It was so painful and stifling to be on the edge of a breakdown every single day.
I wanted the old Meiting back and with that realisation, I decided to open up. I sought help from my mom, whom gave me the chance to have a few hours off per week. I spoke to my husband as well, and I implored him to bring me to a doctor if I were to continue to cry for another week, as I knew I would need professional help.
When I did open up, things started to look better.
Learning To Let Go
In reality, when it comes to handling babies, things rarely goes according to plan.
My mother and husband played a big part in my recovery and it is their support that helped me come out of postnatal depression after two months. The subsequent six to eight months still saw me having moments of anxiety attacks, but it was manageable as I had learnt to talk about my depressive thoughts. And my family and friends became my wake up call.
My husband always tells me to let go and to just follow our daughter’s cues. It is reminders like this that remind me of the pressure I had unwittingly placed on myself, and how I need to take it easy.
It’s now my second year as a mother. Looking back at myself as a mother back then, I’m grateful for whatever I had gone through.
I’m grateful for my child, Kayla. We did not plan for her to happen. But she is now, to me, the greatest gift from God. Kayla has completely changed my perspective as a person, and I have grown and learnt so much from being a mother.
This Mother’s Day, I’m also super thankful for my mom.
Without her, I will not be able to go back to work with a peace of mind. Without her, I don’t know how I would have been able to deal with my postnatal depression. Her unwavering love and support for Kayla and me have left a mark on me, and has shown me once again, what unconditional love is. And now that I’ve experienced it myself, I know how fortunate I am to be blessed with the role of a mother.
To all first-time mothers and mothers-to-be
No mothers talk about it, but postnatal depression is very real. It is common and 80% of my mommy friends have experienced it, be it in a mild or very serious form. Because nobody really talks about it, you will feel like postnatal depression isn’t ‘normal’ or ‘right’. I know this because those were emotions that I grappled with.
It sucked the life and joy out of me. It affected my husband and made him feel distanced from his once loving wife. It is important to acknowledge that these feelings of fear, doubt, anxiety, and sadness are very real, for this will help you get better.
The start of motherhood will seem scary and lonely, but it will get better. There will be bad days but the storm will pass and you will be fine.
Cherish the good times and learn from the rough ones. You’ll make it through eventually. There’s nothing more rewarding and fulfilling than being a Mother. You’ll love it. Maybe not now, but you will. We are made for this.
This story is written by Millennials of Singapore, as told to us by Lian Meiting.
(All images used in header image taken from Lian Meiting)