It is the last day of Postnatal Depression Awareness week for 2014. Usually, I am out there planning an event, fundraising for the cause, creating awareness. This year, I am taking care of my own health after a series of stressful events that has prompted me with the little reminder “Kristina, take care of yourself!” You see, like you, I suffer with depression. Sadly, Postnatal Depression was my second major depressive episode and for many reasons, I never fully recovered. Like (my hero) John Kirwan says, these days my goal is not recovery but wellness and there are times I need to take special care of myself to achieve that.
Mothers Helpers has been going for 4 years now (officially) and in that time we have seen many challenges. Those challenges have not been just the usual challenges that charities face – largely, funds restricting their ability to offer the service they’re wanting to deliver or a lack of volunteers helping with that service. In addition to those, I have had well-meaning people tell me why we could not possibly achieve what we are wanting to achieve – why mothers would not come to our groups, why we can’t do what we want to do (help mums at-risk or suffering with postnatal depression) without adequate funding. I’ve been told that our services are not needed because there is not as much of a gap there as we know there is. I’ve had organizations refuse to refer mothers to our service because they believe there is no gap – yet, in the past, we have at times, struggled with the sheer number of mothers who have asked us for help but thankfully, now we are in a position to meet that need consistently. I have had people say to me that they don’t know why (with all these challenges, and sometimes lack of help/support of what we’re trying to achieve) I don’t walk away from it all, give up on what has been a hard road trying to provide a service that genuinely helps mothers despite our lack of funds and staff/volunteers or other supports or resources to deliver that service.
Most certainly, these challenges have discouraged me considerably at times, had me in tears on numerous occasions and admittedly, there have been moments I’ve seriously thought about throwing in the towel. Certainly, there are people in our organization that are so instrumental to our work that it could not happen without them. Board members Becs Ballard and Ildiko Baigent have been ongoing champions and supporters of the cause and of me personally and I’m grateful to them for standing by me, my Group Facilitators and student counsellors Tara English and Noor Hassan this past year working with groups or one-on-one with our mums, volunteers such as Denisa and (more recently) Kiri Windross helping with administration – and the various volunteers we’ve had over the years helping with events or helping at market stalls promoting our work. I’m grateful to those who have sponsored a mother who has not been able to afford the cost of attending our recovery groups. I’m grateful to those who have sponsored us by donating printing or counselling rooms or heavily discounting products and services that we need to continue our work. I’m grateful to the organizations such as Maternal Mental Health, Plunket, other similar agencies, the General Practitioners and Midwives that refer mothers to our service because they believe in the help and support we are offering mothers. The 50 or so “Friends of Mothers Helpers” that are behind what we do. In addition to the continuation of the organization itself, these people have been an enormous encouragement to me that yes, there are people who believe in what we are doing and stand behind us and I am very very grateful to them for that. And despite all of the challenges Mothers Helpers has experienced, there are two significant reasons I can’t and won’t walk away or give up on this despite any challenge that comes my way. The first is because I know that there is a gap that exists for mothers with mild-moderate postnatal depression in terms of holistic help and support to aide recovery. The second is, quite simply, you.
You are the reason why I do what I do even when I sometimes struggle with my own health/depression and have to take a small step back from it all. You’re the reason why I persist in the face of any challenge and won’t give up. When I walk into an event with a bunch of other organizations all vying for the same pot of funding and I feel completely alone because they feel competitive and that I am a threat to their charity’s survival (when all I want to do is have a mutually supportive relationship), I remain in that event for you. When I am the only voice championing this cause to doctors, to midwives, to hospital staff, to birth educators, to agencies, to the Government or the wider community – I am doing it because of you.
You are my motivation because I see and hear your stories of pain and struggle – fighting to be a good mother to the children that you love and wanting to do your very best, but held back by the ongoing battle with depression. And I have been in that battle – I know what it’s like – I know the courage it takes for you to face each and every day with your own challenges. I know the battle that is in your mind, the constant negative thoughts that berate you while you’re trying to do the best you can, the emotions that overwhelm you, the energy that you lack and the desire to stay in bed yet forcing yourself forward into the day for the sake of your kids. I know the guilt that plagues you, the feelings of despair, anger, resentment and the longing to be free from this terrible illness that robs you from all of the joyful experiences you wanted in your pregnancy, in childbirth, in those early days of mothering. You are my heroes – the sheer strength and determination you show in the face of your day-to-day challenges motivates me to overcome the challenges I face in providing this service for you. I want to fight to provide the kind of support that can prevent Postnatal Depression for mothers who are at-risk of it, and I know that with the right kind of support, that is possible. I want to fight to provide an holistic service that helps mothers to recover from Postnatal Depression so that you can be well and free from the battle that now plagues you so that you can fully enjoy your experience of motherhood, and so that together we can prevent the consequences of Postnatal Depression in your life such as poor attachment between mother and child, depression becoming severe, hospitalization, breakdown in relationships/marriage and yes, even suicide… My reward is witnessing your recovery when I see mothers soaking up the information we’re offering and motivated with that newfound information to make changes in their life bit by bit. The reward is seeing you well and enjoying life again.
To all mothers with Postnatal Depression, I applaud you. I applaud your strength, your courage in this battle. I have deep admiration for you. It is not your fault that this is your experience and yet too often you face these challenges without the understanding or support from those around you – sometimes, you even experience stigma and judgment or hide your private battle in fear that you will. I want to tell you that you are not alone. You are my friends and my sisters in this battle. Mothers Helpers is here because of you – because we believe you can win this battle and we’d like to help you to do it – like to support you on that journey, because we understand what that battle is like and know how hard it is. I want you to have hope – I want you to know that you don’t have to do this alone, and I want you to know that with help, you can recover – you can be well again.
Founder of Mothers Helpers
How Can You Help to Support this Cause?
- Tell others about Mothers Helpers – share this and other articles on your social network pages
- If you are a GP, midwife, agency, friend, family member – refer mothers at-risk or suffering with postnatal depression to our service so we can offer help to them
- Volunteer – we have plenty of opportunities for people to help with whatever time they have available
- Become a Friend of Mothers Helpers
If you would like to gift a mother with Postnatal Depression a beautiful “candle of hope” you can do that by donating $6 to us on “Give a Little“