If you’d told me the first six months of becoming parents would be me and my husband Jo’s toughest as a couple, I’d never have believed you.
When we announced our pregnancy in early 2017, I thought our story couldn’t get any better.
We were newly married, had our first home together and were expecting our first baby together, a girl, who we’d already decided would be called Luna.
I was extremely lucky with pregnancy and had a relatively easy nine months. A few weeks at the end were spent on crutches due to pelvic girdle pain, but other than both I and Luna were healthy.
Luna is born, and things change
When Luna was born in August 2017 we adjusted to the new role of mummy and daddy as best as we could.
We quickly discovered that Luna wasn’t a ‘typical’ baby and at eight weeks old we discovered she had a milk intolerance.
But we tried out new milks and medicines and adjusted to our dairy-free life.
And then just weeks after I felt like we I was finally finding my feet as a mum at home with the baby, things began to change in a way I didn’t expect.
Evening conversations between Jo and me were becoming few and far between. I could tell there was something wrong, but with a history of mental health illnesses in my family, I knew I couldn’t force anything out of him.
He needed to be willing to talk.
I’d ask how he was feeling and the response would be a one word answer: ‘Fine.’ The next thing we’d say to each other would be ‘goodnight’, almost three – excruciating – hours later.
The text that meant Jo no longer struggled in silence
I distanced myself from it for a couple of weeks – Luna was so little, and still finding her place in our world.
And then one night, I got a text.
It didn’t make much sense, but it was the call for help I was so desperate to read.
In the text, Jo explained how he was struggling to put his feelings into words and didn’t want to admit there was, ‘something wrong with him’.
I felt a variety of emotions after I read that text, upset knowing he’d been struggling in silence but equally so happy, because I knew that he’d be feeling so relieved to finally get it off his chest.
Husband Jo is diagnosed with postnatal depression
When Jo came home from work that night we thought it would be a good idea for him to write down his feelings, and six pages later, we realised there was more underlying issues than a little bit of stress.
We spoke about him making an appointment with the GP and he was diagnosed with postnatal depression and anxiety.
After a few months, with the help of medication and some counselling sessions, I had my Jo back again. He took up new hobbies, an interest in biking and photography, and found being out in our Scottish countryside his safe place.
When I tell people that my husband had PND, they get confused and assume I meant myself.
It’s a condition that is associated, wrongly, with affecting mothers in most cases and I think there is so much focus on us mums, that we forget about the pressures on dads in that first year of parenthood.
Jo felt pressure to provide, to keep us safe, to be a good role model, the list goes on.
His counselling sessions helped him greatly – being able to speak to someone separate from our situation was important. He had such a different energy when he came back from a session.
Going through this as a new family opened up my eyes to the fact that there could be so many others like this, struggling to find a way to put their feelings into words because we are fed this false idea that parenthood should be filled with happiness, baby bubbles and ‘a year off work’.
But parenting is harder than any job I’ve ever done.
The good, the medium and the bad
Our experience inspired me to create my Instagram page, to share our very normal life and allow people to see that it isn’t all about having an aesthetically pleasing home and photos that are ‘worth’ sharing.
We all have our flaws. Some days we have are good, others medium, and others bad. But we power on and get through them as best as we can together.
My job before being mummy, was being an events manager and I put my old skills back to use, creating an event in Aberdeen for mums to come together for a day to do something for themselves.
Living with mental health shouldn’t be frowned upon or judged, as a society, we put a lot of pressure on men to be the champions of the home and by sharing our story, we hope we can normalise an ‘issue’ which is so much more common than a lot of people realise.
We are absolutely no experts on this matter, and are only sharing our personal experience, but if we can tell give any advice it is to talk to one another.
It’s likely that your partner knows there’s something going on. Please don’t struggle alone.
To find out more about Carla, you can follow her on her Instagram account @the.honest.mummy.
You can also visit her website, www.thehonestmummy.co.uk, for more of her writing as well as information on her upcoming event, Time for Me, at The Sandman Signature Hotel in Aberdeen on February 10.