What new mums are really thinking - but too scared to share

The truth is not always easy.
The truth is not always easy. Photo: The Postpartum Stress Center

When I think back to the early days of having my first baby, what I remember is an overwhelming sense of loneliness and isolation. I was living far away from my family, and my partner worked long hours, often coming home after I was asleep.

All the other mums in my mothers group seemed to have it all together. They had the latest prams, husbands that were home by 6pm, and they just seemed to know what they were doing.

Looking back now, I can see they were just as baffled by the whole experience as I was, but nobody wanted to be the first to admit they had no idea what they were doing – or that they even liked this whole motherhood gig.

It's this kind of fear The Postpartum Stress Center in the USA is hoping to address, so mums will realise they're not alone in their feelings. Director of the centre Karen Kleiman has teamed up with illustrator Molly McIntyre to create #speakthesecret, a comic series that shows the real thoughts new mums can have, while they go about their life saying what they think they should say.

Karen told the Huffington Post she wanted to encourage women to speak about "their scary, negative thoughts and post them as a brave and honest expression of their unsettling experience."

That's exactly what this series does.

The comics show everyday conversations new mums have all the time – with common thoughts those mums are having about how overwhelmed, unsure and scared they are.

Karen said one of the goals of The Postpartum Stress Center in producing these cartoons is to shine a light on the common issue of depression and anxiety after giving birth.

"Despite an increase in public awareness and recent attention to postpartum depression, women continue to be silenced by the taboo against expressing negative feelings and thoughts about being a mother," she told Huffington Post.

As someone who has dealt with postnatal depression myself, I appreciate all efforts to normalise it and show woman going through it that they're not alone.

Of course, anyone who is suffering from postnatal depression needs to seek medical attention, but the fears and feelings depicted in these cartoons aren't confined just to women suffering from mental illness.

Those unsure thoughts are common among most mums – none of us automatically know how to be a great mum. It's something that comes with practice over time. And in the meanwhile, lots of us are faking it until we make it.

"There are many reasons why women don't reveal how bad they might be feeling or the thoughts they may be having," Karen said. "Some women fear judgement from others, or they judge themselves as bad mothers, or they consider it a weakness or something terrible is wrong with them. Some women worry that if they disclose how they feel, they will be deemed an unfit mother, or worst of all, that their baby will be taken away from them."

The Postpartum Stress Center is doing its bit to show women they're not alone. It's a resource I would have loved to have had when I was a new mum, and hopefully we'll see more of this type of support, and the cartoons, helping women everywhere.

If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, or know someone who might be, contact BeyondBlue.org.au (call 1300 224 636), LifeLine (call 13 11 14 or chat online after hours), or PANDA National Helpline (1300 726 306).