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I spent my first year as a mum googling how to parent. It was a sign something was wrong.

This post discusses postnatal depression and could be triggering for some readers. 

I survived year one of parenthood... just. At some points I wasn’t sure we would make it through, but thanks to an exceptional bunch of humans, a quick hospital stay and owning up to my mental health issues we are here – alive and well, two years on.

I dreamt of what becoming a mother was going to look like since I was a young girl. It was those things you hear about and hope for, the things that the movies romanticise, the advice that the well-intending pass on to you but for me these dreams were shattered rather quickly by a sharp dose of reality:

“That rush of overwhelming love when the baby arrives in your arms is magical.”

“Sleep when the baby sleeps, we will have wonderful naps together and people will take beautiful photos of us.”

“We will have coffee dates with our friends and it will be a relaxing and serene time on maternity leave.”

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Turns out most of these are absolute BS and motherhood has been the hardest challenge of my life so far. 

I had a successful career where I was regularly at the top of the rankings for performance. We planned this baby and I fell pregnant quickly, we saved money so I didn’t have to go back for 12-18 months, we have an interstate property portfolio, we had travelled the world and I had a very happy loving marriage. 

On paper it was the next natural step for us to have a baby, so I should have been prepared for the challenges and never complain or ask for help, right?

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There are so many parenthood myths and they are often written about but it wasn’t the myths that made my first year so hard. It was the “shoulds” that felt like a slab of concrete adding pressure onto life and I couldn’t lift it off. I didn’t realise that the concrete weight was of my own creation and I did have the strength to get rid of it. 

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In the first few weeks of newborn life, I would have been embarrassed if anyone saw my Google history. I was consumed by finding the answers to the questions I had by searching for any slither of evidence to support my thoughts.. Google, blogs, friends, books, the health book the hospital give you...

I needed answers relating to sleep, poo colour, breathing patterns, wrapping a baby, my own mental health, and the list went on and on.

What I didn’t realise at the time was that most of my googling and questions began with “SHOULD I be...” , “SHOULD my baby...”, SHOULD SHOULD SHOULD.  

I was should-ing all over myself trying to be the perfect mum, thinking I was lazy to have a rest whilst the baby slept, I should have been doing something more productive.

It took a year of soul searching and mindset adjusting (plus a tonne of tears) to realise I am the best mum for my boy, everything he needs I can support him with, we laugh and play, we get frustrated and sometimes we just hang out on the couch watching TV.... it’s all as it SHOULD be.

A diagnosis of PND and PNA followed rather quickly and after ignoring it for so long I was ready to surrender to some help.

My baby refused his bottles every day and thought sleep was for the weak so he partied all night. We were exhausted and feeling no joy just overwhelm and dread. We were admitted to the mother baby unit locally to get the support with his feeding and sleeping and it was at that point I realised how rock bottom I had hit, trying to pretend it was all ok. 

A week stay in this heavenly place with beautiful nurses was exactly what we all needed as a family. After being discharged from hospital, some of that heavy concrete I had been bearing the weight of lifted and as we’ve continued to navigate parenthood for two years, it has completely lifted.

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It has taken a psychologist, medication, a PND support group, friends, returning to work, an exceptional mothers' group and my wonderful family to make it happen but it was worth all the tears to be comfortable in this new mum role.

No more should-ing all over myself, I now replace the word SHOULD with COULD to empower myself to be in control and it is a game changer.

Rachel lives in Hobart. She's married to her husband of seven years and is Mum to two-year-old William, working as a Recruitment Manager and studying at the University of Tasmania. As a Community Champion for PANDA, Rachel is passionate about sharing her story to support other parents who struggle with maintaining positive mental health.

If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, contact PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia. You can find their website here or call their helpline – 1300 726 306.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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