When motherhood doesn’t live up to expectations, the impact can be devastating.
I caught up with PANDA Community Champion, Stefanie and PANDA CEO, Terri Smith to ask about Perinatal Anxiety and Depression and chat about how Mothers Day can be hard for some.
If you, or a friend or family need support please contact PANDA at www.panda.org.au or on 1300 726 306.
Here's Julie's story...
Before Julie Stobo became a parent she worked on PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline. Despite hearing every day about the difficulties experienced by new parents across Australia, she remained convinced that her own story, once she was a mother, would be different.
“It’s funny – the constant portrayal of motherhood in the media and advertising as all smiles, cuddles, and inhaling that sweet baby smell off the top of their head, it sinks in,” she says. “Even though I knew, intellectually, that it’s not always like that, all the way through pregnancy I was picturing motherhood as being the most amazing experience of my life.”
The reality, once Julie and her husband came home with their brand new baby, was quite different.
“It was nothing short of surreal,” says Julie. “Terrifying. The dread grew as the reality sank in. I felt trapped. It was like, this is my life now, and I think I’ve made a huge mistake. It wasn’t at all like I expected, and the discrepancy was shocking. It definitely contributed to my postnatal depression. I even began thinking my baby would be better off without me.”
With Mother’s Day this weekend, expectations are building for many mums. “The disparity between expectations of what it will be like to become a mum and the reality once it happens is often a challenge for new mums,” says Terri Smith, PANDA’s CEO.
“Becoming new parents is one of the most challenging transitions we go through in our lives,” says Ms Smith. “When the reality doesn’t match how you thought it was going to be, it only adds to the burden, and this can be a contributing factor to perinatal anxiety or depression.”
In fact, two thirds of callers to PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline report significant distress created by the disparity between their expectations of parenthood and the reality of their experience.
“We need to start putting out information and knowledge about parenting that is grounded in reality and can better prepare people for the challenges that might come their way,” says Ms Smith.
“We’re not saying parenting will always bring feelings of depression or anxiety: however, at least one in seven new mums will experience the illness, so it is a common illness, as well as a serious one. What is important is that people know what signs to look for so they can identify it if it happens to them, and they can seek help.”
Signs and symptoms of perinatal anxiety and depression can include constant sadness or crying; panic attacks; persistent, generalised worry; sleep problems unrelated to the baby’s needs; lethargy; loss of confidence and self-esteem; and withdrawal from friends and family.
“It’s recommended that if the symptoms affect your day to day functioning and persist for more than two weeks, it’s time to seek help,” says Ms Smith.
Thankfully, with support Julie recovered from her postnatal depression. She is now the happy mother of an energetic three year old son and looking forward to being spoilt this Mother’s Day!