I meet many mummas in my workshops and each one of them brings a unique story. I am always interested to know how craft helps to support people's mental wellbeing, particular post-natal health. I am fortunate enough to share Zara's (not her real name) story here but have kept her anonymous for privacy.
Zara has a son who has just turned one. He is the love of her life and brings much joy to her and her husband, Tony. However, even before she had a baby, bouts of anxiety and a diagnosis of situational depression have acted as major setbacks for the life Zara dreamed of. "A few years into our marriage my husband's health issues worsened and he was medically retired. I wasn't coping with this as the life I had in mind i.e. babies and to be a stay at home mum."
As a proactive person, Zara knew she had to take care of her mental health in order to regain her passion for life. "I tried meditation which helped a lot to calm the chatter in my head, I would have regular counseling sessions with my GP, I had fortnightly massages and I have a great support network including my husband and family."
Zara says she has always been creative and found that during these dark times, she was able to draw on this hobby to compliment her treatment.
"I have always enjoyed being "arts and crafty"
"From making beaded earrings to painting abstract art. I also love to bake! This was around the time I was making beaded earrings and necklaces. I even took them to work and sold them to my colleagues."
After successfully working through treatment for depression, Zara and Tony were able to welcome their much-wanted baby into the world. However, when the initial fuzzy newborn feels were replaced with sleeping difficulties, Zara says she started to feel the compounding emotions associated with post-natal anxiety.
"Mentally, it was hard. I remember it was like week 3 or 4 that my mum moved in as bub would not stop crying."
" I remember my mum and sister sitting on the spare bed with me while I was breastfeeding a few weeks after bub was born and I was crying my eyes out. I said to my mum angrily "You never told me how hard this was going to be!!" She replied very patiently "Nothing I could have told you would prepare you for this''.
After being ignored by a few health professionals and given much unhelpful and unnecessary advice from acquaintances and colleagues, Zara found her saviour in the Ellen Barron Family Centre. A sleep clinic for babies that helped her get her life back on track. She says, it changed their lives for the better.
Zara believes there is a big difference for new parents between expectations and reality. "Just because you are 'great with babies' and a natural nurturer, doesn't mean the journey will be any easier". Zara says she would have loved to have been told that it's okay to feel frustrated, to not love every second of motherhood and that hormones are responsible for crazy mood swings.
"I loved my beautiful boy as soon as I held him in my arms in the theatre but I did struggle in those very early days when functioning with zero sleep meant I was not loving every minute of my motherhood journey."
For Zara, the fog finally lifted when her son turned 6 months old. "I can't remember when, but I felt like I woke up one day and I realised, "I've got this". Everything just slipped into place and I felt more confident about what I was doing." Feeling a new sense of happiness, Zara began going out, meeting other mums and finally being able to enjoy her creative hobbies once more.
Craft worships held at Mumma Got Skills have been a source of connection and enjoyment for Zara since having her baby. "I love meeting other mums who are going through the same things as me including babies who won't sleep. The total lack of judgement from all attendees and teacher is a lifeline. It is so lovely to share laughter and a general feeling of fun being around such lovely ladies! I leave every workshop with a real spring in my step plus the sense of achievement at making some thing amazing."
12 months into her motherhood journey, Zara is reflective. "I realise how strong I am now. I feel like I am so much more confident in my own ability. We are even hoping to be lucky enough to have baby no. 2 and I feel like the second time around I will be more relaxed and probably enjoy the experience more. I feel like I understand what to expect." Zara says that mothers should not be afraid to ask for help if they are struggling with motherhood. She highly recommends perinatal organisation; Peach Tree. This non-profit community seeks to assist and support parents after birth.
Thank you for sharing your story so honestly Zara. If you have a story that you would like to share, please get in touch. You never know who might need to hear your words