Post-natal depression is an emotive and difficult subject for mothers. It seems counter-intuitive to feel depressed with a new-born baby at your side, but this is a reality for many new mothers.
Occasionally, it can have tragic consequences, such as the recent reported suicide of a new mother in Singapore. However, post-natal depression is something that can be overcome by recognising its symptoms and seeking appropriate support.
Here, Serene Tan bravely and candidly shares her experience of post-natal depression and how she was able to find a path through.
Please share your post-natal depression experience
Serene Tan: I believe the trigger for me was the moment I got discharged from the hospital, as that was when my husband received news that his dad’s cancer had worsened. It was a blow to me and my husband; I had just given birth to a new life and could not bask in happiness and celebrate this little angel’s arrival knowing someone so close only had three-to-six months left. I somehow felt bad but could not explain why.
What were some of the signs that made you realise you had post-natal depression?
I started crying over the smallest things. Also, I felt that I lost my freedom to go out and get tasks or errands done. I think I did not like the idea of asking for help. Another significant sign was when I knew my husband wanted very much to visit his dad at the hospital but was told not to by his family until a month had passed — the Chinese tradition of not wanting ‘negative energy’ to affect the baby.
I really appreciated their concern and understanding but I felt very guilty and bad, although I hadn’t done anything wrong. And things got worse when my husband went back to work after two weeks of paternal leave. I did not blame him; I felt tired and helpless, although I do have help at home.
How did you cope with the situation? What did you do that helped alleviate the situation?
I started reaching out to my ‘mummy friends’, who were so supportive over WhatsApp and phone calls, knowing I was not able to leave the house, especially during the confinement month. My husband also played a big part with his care, concern and patience.
How important is family support in these situations and why?
Very important, as these are the people you are closest to and who know you the best. To me, family in this situation is not just blood relations but all the friends who made sure I was fine.
What advice would you give to other mums who find themselves in a similar situation?
Be open about it. There’s really nothing to hide or be ashamed of. Find a specialist if you feel more comfortable seeking professional help. For me, I definitely give credit to my gynaecologist, who warned me that nine out of 10 new moms will fall into post-natal depression, so I was somehow prepared for it.
Also, getting sufficient rest is very important for the mind and body. I know it is easier said than done, but be willing to let a trustworthy person take care of the baby and get a quick rest.
What are some of the signs of post-natal depression that new mums should look out for?
I can’t speak for all mums as this differs for everyone. It could be sadness, detachment, or not wanting anything to do with the baby. For me, it was the pressure and insecurity of not being able to take care of the baby and also being a dutiful wife to my husband, who was about to lose his dad. I did not know how to ‘split’ the responsibility when the baby needed me 24/7.
If parents, husbands or friends notice that their loved one might be suffering from post-natal depression what should they do?
Be there for them and don’t feel that it is a burden. Show support, patience and understanding. The depression will go away, in time; sometimes it takes longer but any form of support will help the person to overcome it more quickly. Patience is key.
What has the experience taught you and what have you gained from it?
Motherhood is a life-changing experience. No one can tell you exactly what and how to do it right; the right way is doing the best you can and knowing you have done so. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Be honest about the situation. I am also very thankful to have an extremely loving husband, who stood by me and allowed me to step out of the depression much faster
To find out more about post-natal depression and where to seek treatment, click here.