The statistics are clear. 1 in 5 mums will suffer, often silently with maternal mental health at some point during their lives.
During maternal mental health week I launched a campaign with the hashtag #itcantjustbeme to encourage real mums to share the reality of motherhood – the good, the bad & the ugly. I’m passionate about raising awareness of mental health, in particular post natal depression so thought this would be the ideal opportunity to start conversations around this important subject.
I asked mums to send photos and stories of their parenting journeys to highlight that we are not alone when it comes to having bad days, feeling overwhelmed or tired or just the general ‘mishaps’ that we all experience as parents. Just to know that no one is perfect and that’s ok.
Below are stories written by some amazing Mums who have shared their motherhood moments and I can honestly say I can relate to each and every one of them! I hope some of these will make you smile or some may resonate with you and how you’re feeling. And when you’re having a particularly difficult day just know you are not alone and remember the phrase #itcantjustbeme.
Angie’s story (sleep deprived Mummy)
Sleep thief Ruben! Starts off in his cot then wakes in the middle of the night and generally ends up in my bed taking over the whole thing which leaves me awake from 4.30am! #itcantjustbeme
Sallie’s story (suffered with PND/anxiety following birth of son James)
After having my son James I started to obsess over the security of my house and check my doors and windows constantly. This behaviour then escalated and I would then barricade my bedroom door and sleep with a hammer at night convinced that someone was going to come in and take my son.
Donna’s story (traumatic birth)
Donna & her son, Oliver
After a very traumatic birth, my son Oliver was unable to feed so was rushed to a special baby care unit where he stayed for 4 days. This then resulted in over 50 hours of no sleep for me which was torture. Despite all of the classes I attended in the lead up to giving birth, the one thing I couldn’t predict or control was how my birth experience would go. Most classes concentrate on the ‘natural’ and non-complicated births despite more than 1 in 4 women requiring an emergency C-section.
Ruth’s story (Mum of 3 including twin girls)
Ruth pregnant with son Jude Twins Emmy & Lena
Even after our battles to conceive, our testing journey through failed rounds of fertility treatment and ultimately having our three miracle babies; you’d think we’d have been ready. BUT there’s absolutely nothing that compares to or prepares you for the emotional roller coaster ride that is motherhood. I’m supporting one of my awesome mum mates @_lisa_hammond_ with her campaign#itcantjustbeme. Here’s some helpful hints that I’d give to the pregnant me back in 2011 & 2013 and for all the mums to be –
1) Keep your mum circle close, these are your people. Our WhatsApp group saves my bacon
2) Say YES to help, of any kind. Outsource if you can. I get A LOT of help
3) Buy a mini cordless vacuum @dyson is my best mate and prevents me crawling on my hands and knees to collect Cheerios 4)Pick your battles. Life is too short
5) There is no right way or wrong way, just your way. Trust your gut 6) Find a soft play that serves incredible coffee, never leave 7) ME time is vital. Plan it in without the guilt 8) Start each day & end each day with cuddles 9) Buy washable pens. ALWAYS 10) It’s ok not to be ok
Debbie’s story (Mum of 3 girls)
Millie, Ruby & Anya
This is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done even though they shout and scream at each other most days. At the end of the day they have each others back and love each other unconditionally just as I do them.
Amy’s story (Mum of 2)
I have shared some of my motherhood moments in this collage. Being a Mum is both wonderfully amazing and incredibly tough. But how lucky we are ……. even with the eternal guilt when you don’t quite get it right! I try to smile through it all .. the good, the bad and the ugly.
Natasha’s story (Mum of 3 girls under 5. Diagnosed with PND after having 2nd daughter)
It’s Maternal Mental health week. My friend Lisa has inspired me to write this post. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken publicly about this – only to family and a few friends. But I hope my story can help others. This picture was taken about a week after I had my second daughter Hannah. Behind the smile I was a wreck. I assumed I would feel the same as I did the first time I had a baby, but something was different. I loved her with all my heart, but it was the GUILT which took over all those happy feelings I was expecting to have. The guilt of having another baby, the guilt of not being able to give Bella my undivided attention, the guilt of not being able to cuddle Bella because I constantly had to breastfeed her sister. With the help of the local health visiting team and my wiser older sister, I was diagnosed with post natal depression. The doctors tried to give me antidepressants but I was reluctant to take them and wanted to see if I could get better without them. My lovely sister used to come and look after my baby, who was only 5 weeks old at the time so that I could go to the gym or go for a run. After a month I felt so much better as my endorphins were kicking in and I felt like I could conquer anything. This is why I am so addicted to exercise now. It’s my remedy for everything! Hoping this story will help others to ask for help. I am always hear to listen and I will never judge you. We are in this together.
Lorraine’s story (Mum of 3)
Sophia, Jude & Luke
I have many stories from the ones that would make you laugh out loud ‘Sophia projectile vomiting on Jude whilst he was fast asleep’ to the constant fighting between the 3 of them that drives you crazy. The littlest one Luke also seems to enjoy biting, scratching, hitting and pulling the hair of the older two all with a big smile on his face #itcantjustbeme
Anisa’s story (parenting expert and mum of 1)
I have had so many moments where I’ve smiled, laughed, cried, sat in disbelief, been super proud (potty training was a particular highlight!). I am her biggest cheerleader and my own worst critic. I distinctly remember crying when she gave up her pushchair because I would have to carry my own bags! Motherhood for me has been and will continue to be a journey of highs and lows but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m posting this in support of Maternal Mental Health week. As many as 1 in 3 mothers suffer in silence. For all parents out there I salute you. No judgement, you are all amazing even if you don’t believe it.
Anna’s story (Mum of 2 boys)
I’ve included some pictures that make me smile. Being a Mum is amazing, knackering and so many other emotions every day. The first one is of James enjoying his first taste of food and the other is Leo (3) refusing to go to bed so hides and gets stuck in between the loo!
Becca’s story (Mum of 1)
Baby Leo, aged 5 months
Here’s my ‘It can just be me’ post… Throwing it way back to early 2012 when Leo was just 5 months old. Travelling on my own with my baby!
Being an ex air hostess, I was fully prepared for the short journey from Leeds to Toulouse….or so I thought!! How wrong I was…I waved goodbye to my mum and dad at check in, I ventured through security with Leo in the buggy and my changing bag as hand luggage – prepped with all the essentials a 5 month old baby needs!
Here’s what I was faced with – Having to collapse a buggy, whilst holding my baby (yes nobody offered to hold my baby, who couldn’t even sit up) taste all the water I had prepped for Leo’s bottles during the flight, still whilst holding my baby, having my entire changing bag searched, then on the other side of the scanners putting everything back together!
Phew I can relax – so I thought! First tip for flying solo with a small baby is to have a small dose of calpol before boarding, thinking I am onto a winner – we board and I have a whole row to myself! I couldn’t be happier!!! Second tip is to save the milk/water for take off and landing, as we take off I give Leo his bottle – he falls asleep for the majority of the flight! Yes!! can he stay asleep till it’s time to leave the aircraft! Nope!!!
As the seatbelt sign comes on and we start to make our descent into Toulouse – Leo wakes up and begins to cry so loud! Frantically I try and force feed him his milk and water but he rejects it. Unable to settle my distressed baby I start to cry. The tears are rolling down my face, I can feel the entire planes passengers eyes on me and can just imagine all the angry faces, thoughts are shooting through my head “they all think I’m a crap mum, can’t even settle my own baby” this is when the air hostess in charge, takes a seat next to me and calms me down and tells me this is normal. I am so thankful to this lady for helping me calm down.
Claire’s story (felt overwhelmed as a new Mum)
Motherhood hit me like a tonne of bricks and to say I was overwhelmed was an understatement! This picture was taken around the time my husband was returning from paternity leave. I can honestly hand on heart if he had a pair of boobs I’d have swapped places in a heartbeat. I was scared to death of this little bundle. I lost both parents 4 years prior to this so had very little advice or help on what on earth I was doing or should be doing. Those early weeks were harsh! I think I feel a bit guilty looking back at how overwhelmed I felt mainly because there’s an expectation that as a new Mum you should feel a certain way.
Hazel’s story (mum of 2 (Daddys) boys)
James & Liam then…………….. and now (with Mum Hazel)
These are my beautiful boys then and now. I think as a Mum the challenges change with time, some things get easier (sleepless nights) and some things get more difficult (a huge dose of attitude anyone?!) but there are also new feelings that take a while to get used to. For me the new thing is feeling side lined …. my boys are 9 and 7 and have always been Daddy’s boys and I have always loved that. Its so nice to observe their mutual adoration however recently I’ve started feeling that they don’t want me, only Daddy and I’ve wallowed for a bit. BUT I’ve decided to have a different attitude recently. The boys DO want me…….. always if they’re poorly, always in the middle of the night, to help cook (I let them use sharp knives!!). So the moral of the (long) story is children are hard work and as they grow, things change but that means I need to adapt to it and not sit there feeling sorry for myself.
Jane’s story (single Mum of 1)
This photo was taken after a particularly bad day. I was over tired, stressed, anxious, overwhelmed and struggling. Struggling to do it all. A newly single Mum launching her own business. In between homes. Living at my folks and in the middle of a full house renovation. Juggling it all and just about coping. I had just had a mini meltdown and then we had bath time and I captured a glimpse of us both in the mirror as I walked past. This is real life. Not the photos we all post pretending our lives are perfect. I had not washed my hair for 4 days. I have no make up on. I felt old and tired but those snuggles just made it all ok.
Beth’s story (Mum of 3 boys & a stepson)
Frankie, the youngest of the 4 boys!
To support the #itcantjustbeme campaign for maternal mental health week, I have put together a few pics of my boys that make me laugh and feel pretty proud that I have such amazing children….. extremely hard work at times especially the youngest Frankie who is sooooo independent from having 3 big bros around and thinking he is a big boy. He basically does what he wants! Bringing up humans is an intense job and no one can get it right all the time, we do the best we can.
Anna’s story (Mummy & Mumbler boss)
They say a picture says a 1,000 words, well a big smile can hide a 1,000 feelings! This picture was taken 12 weeks into my first journey through motherhood and looking back now I was struggling on all levels!
I was not prepared at all, this little person turned my world upside down and I felt out of control. We got off to a rocky start as feeding did not go to plan and we ended up back in hospital with dehydration at 5 days old. Little miss soon picked up when she got some fluids but my mental health was a mess. I blamed myself, thought I was a failure, became a very anxious mum, pushed those closest to me away, isolated myself from others and hated the early months of motherhood.
I wish I had known then what I do now – 1. Look after yourself, you are just as important, 2. Nobody is perfect and everyone has their own struggles, 3. Don’t set yourself such high expectations in the early months, getting a shower is an achievement! 4.ASK FOR HELP, looking back those closest to me saw the cracks but I didn’t want to. I did what mums do best and put my head down and ploughed on. I should have looked up and reflected and realised #itcantjustbeme
Sharon’s story (mum of 2)
Libby & Harrison
I have a little quote in my kitchen that makes me chuckle- “If being a Mum was easy, a man could do it!” No disrespect to men but come on…us Mummies are the DADDIES aren’t we?
Parents are special to support us in being parents ourselves so to not have them and my children not have grand parents is tough too!
I lost my Mum suddenly whilst 6 months pregnant and don’t think I ever truly had chance to grieve fully before being thrust into being a new Mummy. I still feel like there has been a void for my children. Roughly 2 years later my Dad had several small strokes leading to him living with us. By this time my second baby was born into the mix!
As a Mum you just carry on cause you have to don’t you?
There were times I have drove my car to a quiet spot just for a 5 minute break and to allow my head to stop spinning. I believe I have been the best I can for my 2 by giving them nearly everything they asked for and teaching them right from wrong. I am very proud to say both my children like myself have always been vegetarians and now they choose to continue this healthy lifestyle.
To throw a spanner in the works I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years ago and to sit your children down and break this news is not easy. We had many tears and to be honest through my journey at times felt disappointed by their behaviour towards me. Looking back I was selfish as I didn’t realise what effect this was having on their lives too.
Moving on … I feel very honoured to be a Mum as it is a 24/7 Full Time Job but wouldn’t have it any other way and love my 2 to the moon and back!
Lyndsay’s story (Mum of 2)
The #itcantjustbeme campaign got me thinking about how my own mental health has been over the rocky road of parenthood. I love this photo, she was so new and her big brother loved her instantly. I distinctly remember on this occasion someone saying ‘you make it look so easy.’ Not sure that was true as in reality I was struggling. Sophia had colic, my son was having a nightmare starting pre school and tears from all parties were a daily occurrence. For some reason though I really didn’t want others to see that. Pretty sure a few folks close to me did witness a few cracks but those first few months with two mini-me’s were tough no doubt. Should I have talked to more people about it…………probably, but us mummys are great at just ‘ploughing on.’ The whirlwind of parenthood doesn’t often allow us time to sit and reflect on our own wellbeing, but maybe its time we did just that.
Claire’s story (Mum of 2 boys)
I’ve always been bad when it comes to asking for help, I blame the neat/control freak in me, and with motherhood I found that only intensified. I think because I chose to be a stay at home mum, I felt like I didn’t warrant the childcare nor the help, if I was at home. But I did, and I don’t know why I couldn’t see that. I look back at me in those early years and want to hug her, shake her, tell her it’s not a one man show just because she chose to stay at home.
Recently, I have been asking for help more and it’s been eagerly given. You see when you ask for help, you’re not a burden, you’re not selfish, and the world isn’t going to end if it’s NOT you that does everything. It’s taken me six years of motherhood to get my head around that.
Catherine’s story (Psychotherapist & Mum of 4)
Getting real about motherhood is healthy for everyone, especially the 1 in 5 women who will suffer from a maternal mental health (MMH) disorder like postpartum depression or anxiety. For many women, there are unspoken and spoken ideals of motherhood, unrealistic myths, that crowd the mind and keep women judging themselves through an unrealistic lens. It is especially hard for women who are suffering from an MMH disorder who may choose to suffer silently because they feel there must be something terribly wrong with them for feeling something so different than those expectations.
I see so many women in the Bringing Sparkle Back clinic who have such high expectations of being the perfect mum, it cripples them. They constantly feel ‘not good enough’. Every day they feel like they feel like a complete failure.
Getting real about motherhood is healthy for everyone. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect mum’. This pic of me was taken on our first holiday with baby Kristina last year. She was 5 months old in this pic, and it’s a pic that makes me smile. I was clearly sleep deprived because I totally forgot to pack nappies and her swimming costume for this holiday. I only realised when we arrived at the airport and hadn’t even packed spare ones in the changing bag and boots had NO NAPPIES!!! We spent our first day trawling the shops in Lanzarote for a swimming costume and only found one that fit a 2 year old. But you know what, the story behind this pic was that I’d just launched a new business @girltribegang and I was spinning lots of plates. I’ve learned now that lists help when I’m packing. I’ve also learned to ask for help more. I’m a sucker for not asking for help and letting people in.
A few more shared on Insta stories ……..