Bunmi Laditan is beloved across the globe for her funny-because-its-true writing on The Honest Toddler, but it’s a less humorous post about her struggle with PND that’s really captured the internet’s attention.
Bunmi’s story is a valuable reminder that every pregnancy and birth is different, and that even the most experienced mums can miss the signs of PND and suffer in silence for much, much, MUCH too long.
The PND story
Postnatal Depression affects many, many families and locally Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) tells us that more than 1 in 7 new mums – and up to 1 in 10 new dads – experience postnatal depression each year in Australia. (And around 1 in 10 women – and 1 in 20 men – experience antenatal depression.)
PND is often kept under wraps or even stigmatised, as many mental health conditions are, so it’s a welcome relief when someone high-profile pipes up and shares their own PND story.
Bunmi’s built a wildly successful internet profile on her truth-telling approach to parenthood. It’s in this spirit that she’s opening up about the surprise PND she developed when her third baby was born.
She’d felt instantly connected to her first two babies, so the complex and debilitating feelings PND sparked in her when her youngest arrived were like a terribly unwelcome bolt out of the blue.
“We all know about the anxiety, OCD, chilling thoughts, rage that sneaks up on you like a flash fire and then is drowned by your own shame-filled tears and all that fun stuff yay but what no one can prepare you for is how it feels to hold a baby and not feel like she’s yours,” she writes on Facebook.
Good morning, babes. It’s Saturday morning which if you’re 7 means party time and if you’re a parent means absolutely…
“When I came home with my little cub, while he was cute as a button, I knew something was missing,” Bunmi says, describing the out-of-body experience of ‘showing up’ to parent a baby while in the grips of this all-consuming – and unfortunately common – condition.
“I felt like I was taking care of someone’s else’s child. My body felt distinctly postpartum and was leaking from too many places but as I’d change his diapers and gently push his sweet little arms through his yellow and white pajamas, I remember looking at my bedroom door, half expecting his real mother to walk in and say, ‘Excellent work, fräulein, I’ll take it from here.'”
Going through the motions of parenting, Bunmi says she was turned inside-out by these confusing and shame-filled feelings, as she battled to be the best mum she could.
“One of my greatest fears was that someone would notice,” she explained, worrying that her son might also pick up on these feelings of disconnection. “There was a valley between us that I prayed he didn’t feel.”
“It took three solid years”
Once her doctor spotted that she had PND, the mum-of-three got the treatment she needed and finally began to recover a whopping three years after the birth.
“Once I finally was diagnosed and medicated, my mood began to stabilize, but that connection? God is my witness, it took three solid years.”
“One day, or perhaps over several days, or maybe through each day of showing up, his real mother finally walked through the door and it was me. 100% me.”
It’s a sage reminder that PND can insidiously sneak into the lives of mums and dads, and that diagnosis and treatment really will turn things around. This condition is indiscriminate, affecting parents from all walks of lives, and as you can see it can strike when it’s least expected.
If you or someone you know is showing signs of PND – please don’t be afraid to reach out. PANDA are waiting for your call and want to help.