I first came across Olivia Siegl when I read her brilliant blog ‘PND is a MotherF****‘ (although I’m not sure how it took me so long as she has been raising awareness of mothers’ experiences since she created her website The Baby Bible). Olivia has worked tirelessly, after experiencing post natal depression and post partum psychosis, to raise awareness of maternal mental health. She created her Every Mum Movement to encourage women to take care of their mental health, and has a new book ‘Bonkers’ coming out on 22nd Feb.
I asked Olivia to tell me Just One Thing she would say to new parents or parents to be – “Look after your mental health as well as your physical health”
“When I was preparing to become a new mum I was totally “prepared” I’d read all the baby books, blogs and magazines, researched all the “must have” accessories and knew exactly what I should be eating and the exercise I should be doing to keep myself physically fit and healthy. I had all the information on how to look after myself physically during pregnancy, I exercised regularly, lathered myself up with all the anti-stretch mark creams, ate the right foods and took all the right vitamins. I knew that it was incredibly important to keep myself physically well and strong through pregnancy, so I was physically prepared for childbirth and that by keeping physically fit and strong I would be in a better position to recover from the birth physically. Can you see the pattern here? Alongside getting the practical accessories in place for the arrival of my new baby, the preparation I did to get myself ready and prepared for Motherhood was all based around my physical wellness and not once did I even consider my mental wellness. Not once along my journey through pregnancy and into Motherhood was I ever made aware of the importance of being mentally prepared and mentally strong for becoming a mum. In all the books I’d read, the blogs I’d followed and the magazines I’d poured over was there ever any mention of how alongside keeping ourselves physically well and strong for motherhood that we should also be taking care of our maternal mental health with the same dedication and vigour?
When we have a baby our body goes through a monumental change, however, so does our mind. Our view of the world, our perceptions of it and our new role and responsibilities within it are changed forever. Just as we are informed on how to recover from and adapt to the physical changes our bodies go through after having a baby, I passionately believe that we should be empowered with the same level of information about how to help our minds adjust, adapt and remain strong for Motherhood.
Unfortunately, One in 10 mums are diagnosed with a Maternal Mental Health Illness after having a baby. As a mum who was the “one” in ten and suffered with Postnatal Depression and Postnatal Psychosis following the birth of both my girls I wish with all my heart that someone would have told me that I need to look after my maternal mental health with the same effort I was applying to my physical health. I know that if I’d had access to the same amount of information on taking care of my maternal mental health, on how to keep my mind strong and ready for the changes it will go through, alongside having accessible information on what a maternal mental illness is, the warning signs and how to get help, then all those precious moments I should have been enjoying as a mum that I feel were stolen from me because of it, may not have been so many. I would have been diagnosed earlier. I would have claimed back my right to enjoy motherhood sooner.
I am now using my lived experiences of maternal mental health to do something about this lack of awareness. I have set up The Every Mum Movement, which is a global movement to empower Every Mum to take care of their Maternal Mental health with the mission being to ensure Every Mum enters into pregnancy and motherhood treating their maternal mental health as importantly as their physical health. Come and join us.