"Look at the people who are there to support you. Let them in; they love you. Take help. Talk. Tell them what you need and how you feel."

Marium Tariq

Proud mum to two life-threateningly naughty boys!

Tell me a bit about yourself and your maternal mental health journey.

Hi. My name is Marium Tariq. I’m a copywriter for women-led businesses and a proud mum to two life-threateningly naughty boys! 😅

But I haven’t always been that proud of myself. In fact, I felt quite the opposite of proud when my younger one was born.

You see, I had a 14-month-old toddler to look after when I unexpectedly became pregnant with my younger one. Not only did I have a very young baby already dependent on me, but I was also breastfeeding him, and it was making me lose weight like crazy. Every week, I’d hop on the scale, which would show at least a couple of pounds less than before. I was constantly dizzy, tired, and irritable.

When I broke out the news of my pregnancy to my family, no one congratulated me. The first response was that of shock and then of concern.

“I am very worried for you.” my husband told me.

“Oh no, how will you manage!” my in-laws wondered.

They were genuinely concerned about my health and well-being. But their reactions triggered my brain into labelling this pregnancy as unplanned, unexpected, and even unwanted.

And these labels went on to grow stronger as I gave birth and started struggling with managing two toddlers.

I never felt connected with my younger son. I felt almost no love for him and had to push myself to kiss him, play with him, and take his pictures lovingly as I did with my elder one. And to top it off, he decided to be a not-an-easy baby! 🤦

Breastfeeding him was hard. My bra would be stained red because of my bleeding nipples. No medical intervention worked, and I ultimately had to stop nursing him (which was a challenge on its own because he wouldn’t take a bottle).

He grew up to become this aggressive, hyperactive toddler. He would bite, hit, and push other kids in the blink of an eye, leaving me humiliated in front of their parents. He was also stubborn, wanted things in a very peculiar way, and now I even feel he may be borderline OCD!

All of that and my PPD… I found it very hard to love him. And that brought another guest to the party… Guilt! I tried so hard to think of one good thing about him so I could love him for that, but my brain refused to show me anything.

Yep, those were pretty dark, scary, and lonely two years of my life.

How did you feel at your worse point?

I felt abnormal. I wished that my son wasn’t born. I wished I had never married or had kids. I wished somehow my kids would disappear so I could become free. I was constantly cursing them. out loud and in my heart.

There were people around me who wanted to support me, but I simply did not let them. I locked myself in a shell of my own. I never told anyone how I felt, even when I knew it was depression. I cried in the bathroom, to sleep, when I was alone, and even when I wasn’t, but always lied about the reason.

I felt no one would understand my pain. And worse, everyone would call me a bad mother for feeling all that.

My mom died 9 years ago when I was only 19. I do not have a sister and wasn’t that close to my brother. I am also an extreme introvert, so no close friends for me either. So my brain has practically learned to bottle up feelings as the only way it should be done. And that did not help me through my mental health journey.

Did you have support from your employer if you had one?

I work freelance, so I did not have an employer. But yes, I would love to mention the fact that my work became my therapy. I only felt alive when I was working. My work became my window for escaping the darkness of my everyday routine, a break from that soul-crushing monotony of a mom’s life.

How did you get better? What did you do?

I sought help. I searched the internet for resources, joined a few social media communities, and started binging on content related to PPD. I learned to shift my focus from the anger that was boiling inside me to my passion for raising good, responsible human beings.

I got in touch with a few doctors to rule out hyperactivity disorders in my son and asked for their professional advice on how to manage him.

I cut down on my son’s sugar, followed a strict sleep time routine, and prioritised his emotions. He slowly started improving.

I also worked harder for my career to have something to feel proud of. My work gave me people who praised, valued and looked up to me, something I wasn’t feeling as a mum.

I learned to voice my concerns. To open up about things that were bothering me. That helped drastically improve my mental health around family.

And most of all, I pushed myself to celebrate the little things my kids did. We planned outings, ordered pizzas, went on toy shopping, and started spending more happy time together.

I would also like to mention my husband here. He understood (without me ever opening up to him) that I had depression. And he helped me as best he could with the kids.

He goes to work at 6:30 am every day and returns at 6 pm after an entire day of working on-site under the scorching sun (he is an engineer). And takes the kids off my back as soon as he reaches home. He never asked me to help him with any of his chores. Instead, he was always there to help me with mine.

Did you get help from your local healthcare services?

Actually, I never decided to take help from them.

What advice would you give to yourself back then if you could?

Hang in there. It gets better! Look at the people who are there to support you. Let them in; they love you. Take help. Talk. Tell them what you need and how you feel. It is normal to feel that way, but it gets easier if you have someone to open up to.

And what advice would you give to family and friends to help support you?

When someone tells you about their pregnancy, congratulate them. Be happy. Don’t let your concerns for the mother’s health shadow the blessing she is now bound to have. What’s done is done. Show support instead of being worried.

Finally, what advice do you have for other women who may be struggling now?

Have a support system around you. Learn to depend on others. We, women, are so conditioned to be these selfless, emotionally-strong beings that we often forget to take help for ourselves. Nothing is better than being stuck in a rut and having a loved one pull you out. But you’ve gotta learn how to extend an arm.

Would you like to share your Maternal Mental Health experiences too?

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