After 9 months of being pregnant and having a little life growing in my belly, I finally got to meet the person I fell in love with before I even met her. I was really happy to have this little bundle of joy in my arms and I look forward to meeting her every few hours when the nurse wheels her into my hospital room at Gleneagles. I had a wonderful hospital stay at Gleneagles, so good I would always say hotel stay unknowingly and I was happy when Aria was cleared of jaundice and ready to go home.

However, once I got back home and my confinement begins. There is just so many changes that you are dealing with at home. You need to feed your baby every 3 hours. When she sleeps, you struggle to find time to do everything else. Pump milk, eat your confinement meals, do her birth certificate (unmarried parents have to go down to ICA), sign her up for insurance policies because I’m the sole breadwinner of the family, reply to messages from friends or occasional messages from colleagues or customers about work (I thought I’m on maternity leave?!). My life changed overnight. I struggled to find ample time to sleep and told myself I could survive on three hours of sleep. I can do this. I told myself if I could survive working 6 days a week and 12 hours a day during my pregnancy, I can do this.

I refused to admit that I needed help when my friend Carrie highlighted that I was behaving differently and was similar to the time I took a sabbatical and was running low on money. I was crying myself to sleep at night because I was so exhausted. I had insomnia and was afraid to sleep at night because I sleepwalked one night, carrying my bolster as my baby and even “unswaddled” my baby. My appetite was really bad and I hardly ate anything despite having ordered confinement meals delivered daily to my doorstep. I was in a daze and would say the wrong things or forget what task I wanted to do. I thought I heard my baby crying but she was just sleeping soundly in her cot. I went through these six stages of postnatal depression.

The Six Stages of Postnatal Depression

Denial
So this must be what new motherhood is like. I’ll be alright. It can’t be postpartum depression, because I’m not mentally ill. I have avoided prenatal depression so I should be able to avoid postnatal depression right? I’m sure it will wear off soon. I just need more time.

Anger
Nobody understands what I’m going through. They are not even mothers to begin with. This is supposed to be a time of joy. I don’t deserve this. I don’t want to have to take anti depressants. I don’t need help. I don’t need a confinement lady. Why is everyone so concerned? This is not fair.

Bargaining
If I just exercise more and eat better, I’ll be fine. I just need some fresh air. I’ll be fine if my mom lets me break the rules and go out for awhile. If I get the hang of this, I will be better at being a mother.

Depression
I should just leave my family and this world. They are all better off without me. My poor baby doesn’t deserve a mother like this. I can’t even take care of her well causing her to have diarrhea when I forgot to sterilise one of her bottles before feeding her. I feel like a failure in this thing called motherhood.

Acceptance
What’s happening to me isn’t normal and I can’t ignore it anymore. I need to seek help. I need to speak to a doctor and I need rest. It’s okay for me to seek help. I will do whatever is necessary for my health and that of my family. I do not want this to affect my baby in any way.

My mom and I had an argument late at night and I ended up locking myself and the baby in my room, crying myself to sleep. It was then I had an epiphany that I cannot let my precious little baby be affected. Both my mother and I needed rest so that we are well to take care of the baby. The sleepwalking could be dangerous and I don’t want to hurt my baby. I remembered the days I spent at Gleneagles, whenever I needed help, I would just press the nurse call button. When I was at home, I was sometimes left alone with no one to help me. I was desperate and called the hospital’s hotline asking if I could be admitted. I was crying so badly and it was a stark difference from one week ago when I was discharged. I packed a hospital bag and begged to be admitted back to the hospital. I needed solace and rest very badly. I left my home with a note to my mom and only told a few friends that I was going back to the hospital.

After taking a 4 hour nap, I had posted the above photo on the SG50 Parents Facebook group and I was so thankful so many people reached out to me to offer support and a listening ear. The nurses and my doctors were very supportive of me. Even the lactation consultant had a long talk with me. She told me to cry it out and rest but tell myself that tomorrow I will not cry anymore as I need to get well to take care of my little baby. I need to give her all the love in the world. They regularly checked in on me and told me that I need uninterrupted rest. They would only come in the room if I needed anything. I stayed at Gleneagles for two nights and felt so much better after sleeping 12 hours a day. My mental capacity was back to before I delivered my baby. My friends were very concerned and wanted to visit me but I told myself no visitors allowed and I need to limit my phone usage. I need to recharge so I am in the right state of mind for my baby.

How to battle Post Natal Depression

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
You need to rest. Sleep is crucial for a healthy state of mind. I was delirious and patting my bolster when I was sleeping. I wanted to go to the bathroom but ended up walking to my living room, forgetting what was my original intention. I found it hard to have a conversation without an awkward pause or saying the wrong thing. I couldn’t remember where I left my phone. I took one week to discover my spare phone was under my sofa all along. It is dangerous. There are effects on lack of sleep and it can even cause accidents. I burnt my hand with boiling water and cut my finger while cutting a lemon.

Speak to anyone who offer a listening ear
During one of my conversations with my close friends, I was telling them I do not need any advice. I just need someone to listen to my rants, even if I did not make sense and is not thinking rationally (see above on lack of sleep). I had so many parents reaching out to me after the Facebook post. The nurses at the hospital told me about their own stories and some are single mothers as well. When they spoke about their children, there was the look of pride and happiness in their eyes despite the hardships they faced. The lady who called me to inform me about the delay of my baby cot and I told her it was fine as I was in hospital due to postnatal depression. We ended up having an hour long conversation on how she had divorced her husband and supported her child on her own. She saved up and even managed to purchase a property for her and her child on her own. I am very heartened by all the support, even from strangers.

Accept that it’s okay to feel sad
Cry it out like your baby and seek comfort. After a good cry and sleep, you will feel much better. I realised I had been hiding my emotions for the past few months when I had to deal with my pregnancy alone. I was drowning myself with work and going out with my friends so keep myself busy from negative thoughts. When the baby had arrived and I finally got some time after settling her administrative stuff, the thoughts and emotions came back and I had to deal with them as I was not working. I locked myself in the room 3 days in a row for a few hours in the evenings and cried myself to sleep. I told myself I’ll feel better after crying it out and sleeping. It did temporarily but it came back every day as I was feeling so exhausted and alone by the end of the day.

Let them judge all they want but you know yourself and baby best
Do not bother with anyone who forces their opinions on you. Why did you choose to deliver in private hospital? If you had chosen government hospital, you wouldn’t wound up with $37 dollars in your account. Why did you choose to keep the baby? You only have yourself to blame to wound up being a single mom. Why aren’t you breastfeeding anymore? If only you breastfeed, your baby won’t be colicky and would have all the nutrients she needs. How could you carry your baby in this baby carrier like this? Don’t you know babies are fragile? Accept everyone’s opinion and advice graciously but do what you think is right for yourself or the baby. Initially, I felt the need to explain myself and their opinions make me feel like a horrible person or that I’m not fit to be a mother. You do not need to explain yourself. Just thank them for their care and concern and do what you deem fit for yourself and the baby. You only have to answer for yourself and your family. At the end of the day, they aren’t going to be there for the baby in times of need. You have to be there for your little precious one. You have to make the final decision. In the Episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire whereby you can ask the audience what they think the answer should be, you have to make the decision in the end right? It’s your life, people can judge all they want. As long as you and the baby are happy and safe, that’s all that matters.

Join a support group
When I seek help online for remedies on postnatal remedies, I realised that postnatal depression is very common. It is just the onslaught of events happening in a short frame of time. Like wham bam, here is your newborn baby but let’s take it up a notch, let me add in a dip in your hormones level, some engorgement in your breasts, take away your precious sleep and if you are really strict on your confinement, deal with not showering for one month in Singapore’s hot humid weather otherwise your family or confinement lady will scold you for showering at night but that is the only time you are free after taking care of the baby alone at home all day. It is just too much to handle and no one knows how you feel. Join a support group whereby you can rant to mothers who have experienced and overcome this. It really works and I am amazed a postnatal support group was formed a few hours after my Facebook post. As much as you want to normalise breastfeeding, postnatal depression should be normalised too. Everyone experience mental illness differently and the way we talk about it can have a significant effect on someone’s well-being. Be kind and empathetic always as everyone you meet is fighting a battle you don’t know about. There are mothers who harm their babies or harm themselves due to postnatal depression and it can be avoided with the right amount of support.

Most importantly, you need to be healthy mentally and physically to be there for your baby. When you are a happy mommy, you have a happy baby. Sending love to all the mothers out there who have fought against or are still fighting the battle against prenatal or postnatal depression.

Ships don’t sink because of the water around them. They sink because of the water that gets in them. The key is to not let what’s on the outside get on the inside.