Some of you might know me from the reality TV show Seven Year Switch. You will know my name is Michelle, I am 31 years old, I am a mother of two beautiful children, four-year-old Elijah and 15-month-old Indiana.
You will have all seen me go through a crazy, weird, life altering experience that has changed me forever. You will now also know that I am a newly single mother. But here are a few things you wouldn’t know about me. The actual workings of who I am as a woman, a partner and a mother.
My story isn’t at all special in any way, I’m not unique, or even have any life changing advice for anyone. But what I am going to say is real, it’s hard, it’s raw. It’s not spoken about nearly enough, and people don’t really understand it all that well, and for a lot of us mums out there this is the battle we fight every day.
I fell pregnant unexpectedly with Jason and I's first child at 25. We were both so scared out of our brains but so excited at the same time. We had no money at all, not even a couch to sit on, however somehow we both managed to make our little unit a family home to bring our first baby home to. After a long pregnancy of being in and out of hospital with chronic morning sickness, we became parents to the most wonderful brown eyed boy. Jason and I were over the moon, but not too long after I stared to feel different. I was sad, I cried a lot. I couldn't sleep even if Elijah was, I was beyond tired. I found myself cleaning my house madly, and suffering from anxiety.
I couldn't slow down. I started to worry about things that weren't even there.
I was becoming resentful of Jason for seemingly having not changed much at all since becoming parents. He still has his job, could go out with his mates when he wanted, his body was the same, his penis didn't feel like a bowling ball was just pushed out of it, he could sleep soundly all night every night, for eating lunch and dinner whilst it was hot, and for being able to have a poo when and if he needed to, without a baby on his lap, or at the very least in a bassinet at the door. For not having the sorest nipples in the planet that even the wind blowing on them felt like razor blades. I became jealous of the man I loved so much and entirely.
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I was drowning in my need to be the best mother ever. I felt that weight of motherhood bearing down on me every day, and I was so upset as to why I couldn't cope with something that was supposed to come naturally to all women. My relationship with Jason was under massive strain, I had changed. I wasn't happy anymore, I wasn't myself and I couldn't even bare to have sex, even if I wasn't so tired I just couldn't. My sex drive ran away just like the hours of sleep I so desperately longed for. I never went anywhere and couldn't bare leaving Elijah even for an hour. I could not let go and holding on so tight eventually was the undoing of me and ultimately one of the reasons my relationship failed in the end.
It took me 12 months of feeling like I was a terrible mother and partner until I finally broke down in my doctor's office in an embarrassing mess, and she told me I had Post Natal Depression. This was a real shock to me; I thought PND was when you don't connect with your baby. But in reality there is so much more.
If you want to know how to help a friend who is going through a hard time, Rebecca Sparrow has some advice:
After many visits to the psychiatrist and a bit of time I started to feel better. My relationship was getting better with Jason and we seemed to be back on track. I was me again. Then we decided to have our second child. I was determined to not fall back into the PND trap and started counselling during my pregnancy. I had a high risk pregnancy and was put on best rest, and then had some post complications after Indiana was born, and that's why Jason and I hadn't had sex for 17 months before the show started. Then add other problems with money, myself feeling very controlled and undervalued because I was a stay at home mum and alone, and PND, and you have a huge mess. Try as I might, I could just not escape the feeling. PND loves me and I have no idea why, because I hate it!
Again I fell into its grasp, only this time I knew what I was fighting, yet still I was losing the battle. So the girl you see on Seven Year Switch is me at my worst, my darkest. It's a woman losing her battle with PND. It's a woman who is lost and feeling alone. It's a woman that some days just wanted to run away. I was a woman too scared to admit that she needed something more than just counselling.
Whilst on the show I spoke a lot about my PND and its effects on my relationship. For some reason they chose not to air them. Is it because it's still not really spoken about? Or is it because my story without that defining factor is more interesting, who knows.
I am now kicking PND's butt. I have started medication and have taken control of my own happiness. Yes I am now a single mother, and yes I know I have a hard road ahead, but at least now I am happy. I feel lighter, and so much stronger. I am on the road to recovery and I am only now discovering how to be a great mum, and also Michelle. I now know there is no such thing as a perfect mother only one that loves her children more than anything and would do anything for them.
If anything comes from this article I want these few things. Let's stop judging other mums. You don't know what goes on behind closed doors. Let's understand that just because you may not parent the same way as others, doesn't mean you're better at it, or worse. As long as you love your children and put them first you can't go wrong. Is breast or bottle best? Who cares, as long as baby and you are happy and healthy!
Are you a working mum or a stay at home mum? Do what works for you and your family and don't feel judged for it, both are bloody hard. Let's talk about post natal depression more, and ask our mum friends how they are coping. Let's be aware and supportive and band together and stop saying nasty things to and about each other. Being a mum is the hardest job in the world. But it's also the best thing in the world.
Growing a human being in your own body and loving it beyond anything possible is amazing. The only other people walking on the planet that know what that feels like is other mums, let's remember that.
Jason and I, even though we are not together anymore, do one thing better than anything else, and that is co parent our children. He is a great man, and an even better father and I'm thankful for him every day. He is truly my best friend and together we will take on the world. As long as we keep putting our children first they will grow up to be happy and healthy people and that's all we want for them.
If you are struggling with PND, Mamamia urges you to visit this website.