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How I Navigated Post-Partum Depression to Find Happiness in Motherhood

“Contrary to all I read about Postpartum Depression or Postnatal Depression, I never felt that I was not bonding or connected to Archie. In fact, I found the opposite to be true. I felt so in love and so connected to my son that the ill feelings came from my belief that I was simply not good enough to be his mum.”

Hello! Who are you?

I’m Nikki, a Scottish Mum, wife, coach, and digital course creator supporting Maternal Mental Health. The last 16 years have seen me living in Jakarta, Indonesia where I ran the family business, a hair and beauty salon for seven years.

It was here I met “Handsomeface” my American husband Kevin. When we decided to start trying for a baby we relocated to new pastures and found ourselves in Tivat, Montenegro where we spent the next six years. Bringing our dog Sandy home from the rescue shelter there.

Finally, after three years of trying to conceive, I got pregnant and brought our amazing wee Archie into the world.

Mid pandemic saw us relocating again and moving to our current home Dubai, UAE. In 2021 I launched my business here….The Scottish Soul Sister was born.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

Depression and anxiety had periodically reared their heads during my adult life. I always believed that it was due to not living my heart’s desire and being a mum. So when I finally got pregnant at 40 years of age it felt like winning the lottery!

I did not anticipate Postpartum Depression being part of my parenting journey. However, the first 18 months of Archie’s life saw me struggle with feelings of anxiety, anger, sadness, disconnect, low self-esteem, frustration, and a general sense of messing this mum stuff up!

Contrary to all I read about Postpartum Depression or Postnatal Depression, I never felt that I was not bonding or connected to Archie. In fact, I found the opposite to be true. I felt so in love and so connected to my son that the ill feelings came from my belief that I was simply not good enough to be his mum.

And therein lies the answer to all of my mental health struggles to date that I thankfully now understand…

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

There were times when I thought the tears would never stop and then I would be eaten up with guilt for wasting this time with my crying and anxiety.

However, it was not consistent, there were lots of amazing times and happiness when the light would override the dark and I would believe things were getting better.

I now realize that I did not fully acknowledge what was happening and so did not ask for help. Living overseas meant that I did not have proximity to my family and friends and so I would put on a brave face during video calls so as not to “worry” or “burden” them.

I also feared judgment, opinions, or advice should I be fully transparent as I wanted to have it “all together”. And so I presented myself as the amazing mum I so wanted to be.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

My pivotal moment came following a series of events:

A lovely friend recommended I talk to a counselor over a video call.

(I now understand having a safe space to verbalize all that was going on was a massive forward step)

I then attended a two-day retreat that a life coach friend of mine was hosting despite my initial cynicism towards the whole “life coaching thing”.

The following week as I sat by the water with Archie sleeping in his buggy I felt compelled to do something with this experience. It was here I decided to study, implement and pay forward all of my learnings to support others. I went home and told my husband, I don’t want to return to hairdressing, I want to help other families.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

It is now I understand and strongly recommend that some personal development be explored before having a family.

We all have a “story” we tell ourselves, we all have an “identity” we live by, and we all have “conditioning” from our own experiences.

Only when we begin to understand those things about ourselves can we open that narrative with spouses, and partners as we prepare for the shift in dynamics that naturally comes when having a baby.

There are a lot of complex, expensive solutions available with regard to self-care. It is my opinion that introducing simple, sustainable daily habits can create the foundations for supporting mental health.

For example:

Designing yourself a morning routine baggy enough to live in. What I mean is not to put pressure on yourself to perfect a routine or for it to be actioned every day, try aiming for 80% of the time. 

On waking Monday to Friday I do a low-impact seven-minute workout. No phone, no social media, allow your brain to go through the necessary processes upon wakening without interrupting it with overstimulation.

This helps change my physiology and stretches my body, aids in promoting more clarity and improved mood as I start my day.

As a family, create weekly schedules, and meal plans, and discuss expectations. How often do you get sick of saying “what do you want for dinner?” It takes up so much brain space right?! Especially if you are looking after a new baby and have less energy for day-to-day things.

Is there a way to outsource, and delegate tasks to alleviate some of the pressure?

Did you get the memo?

  • Manage expectations
  • Manage obligations

Opening the narrative as a family can reduce overwhelm and help tackle any feelings of being a victim of circumstance

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

I have now put myself fully out there and shared my experiences in a bid to help others. The way I do this is by separating the scaremongers from the sugar coaters and normalizing discussing the challenges faced when becoming a parent.

It was hard to admit how bad I felt in the beginning, but I now realize that family and friends suspected all was not well. We are not Oscar-nominee-worthy actors after all!

People who love you will already have an inclination but may find it hard to approach as we can still be in defense mode.

This is why talking to an outside resource can be so beneficial. It removes expectations, emotions, and behaviors associated with our loved ones. Creating a safe space to be fully transparent and receive assistance in the shape of tools, techniques, or an invitation to an alternative perspective

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Explore personal development.

I believe that if I had a better understanding of myself and had introduced some practical, simple self-care before having Archie, I would have navigated the tough days differently. And perhaps I would have saved myself some of those tears.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

I loved reading The Comfort Book by Matt Haig. It contains short, digestible and relatable pieces. As someone who is open about his own mental health, I found encouragement and inspiration in this book.

I’m also a big fan of podcasts that educate or entertain you. I now realize that as a mum I immersed myself in all things baby and was not paying attention to my own growth. Podcasts are great for this as they can be on whilst doing something else.

For those interested in parenting topics, I recommend the podcasts They Say It Takes a Village by Raya Haley and Reshape by Rania Masri El Khatib.

I am also inspired by Tony Robbins and his no-nonsense approach, Dean Graziosi, Jenna Kutcher, Boss Babes, Lisa Nicols, Mel Robbins, Brendan Burchard and so many more.

By immersing in reading, watching, and listening to people like this I found the impact on my mood and daily life improved.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

Stepping Into Parenthood is a digital program I created as I understand that not everyone wants to talk! This provides prompts for families to open narratives around what can sometimes feel like difficult conversations such as money, expectations, values, and beliefs.

You can also follow me on Instagram and LinkedIn.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.