“A few years ago, an Australian doctor came up with the phrase ‘postnatal depletion’.
After years of seeing exhausted, rundown and sick mothers in his clinic – and watching the same decline in his own wife’s health after her third baby – Dr Serrallach coined the term “postnatal depletion” to describe the high rate of physical consequences of pregnancy and childbirth, such as lethargy, memory disturbances, poor energy levels, poor gut health, and low immune systems.
Something, he said, which can affect a mama up to 10 years after they last gave birth.
Then, Gwyneth Paltrow’s website Goop posted about it, and it went viral.
I remember sharing it on my Facebook page for Mums with young children, and the response was enormous: That’s me! Finally, it all makes sense! Finally, someone is telling it like it is!
It was important. And it helped a huge number of women feel like there was an explanation for how they were feeling.
But in amongst all the hype, there was one part of this depletion discussion which was still missing. A part that, in my humble opinion, was just as important than the physical focus.
I call it ‘connection depletion’.
Connection depletion is our disconnection from who we are as women once we throw ourselves into being a mama. It’s the uncertainty of who we are now we don’t have that career-focus, that income, that independence. When our days are filled with juggling everyone else’s needs but our own.
We grew up believing we could do and be all in this world: our school years were filled with pep talks about climbing the corporate ladder and breaking through the glass ceiling. We were going to go further than any generation before – and so we did. And in the process, our whole sense of self – our spirit – became intrinsically linked to our achievements.
And then, along came babies. Yes, we love them. Of course we do. But it’s time to also acknowledge that there’s a very big part of our lives that has disappeared overnight. We’ve lost that connection to ourselves, who we used to be, and who we are now.
What are the symptoms of Connection Depletion? Feeling like you’re just surviving. Feeling like you’ve put your dreams on hold. Feeling resentful of your partner’s continuing career-success while you juggle part-time hours, day care shifts and sick kids in the middle of the night.
I was the same. After the birth of my first daughter in 2007, everything changed. A difficult birth, a child with physical problems which meant feeding was painful for her and impossible for me, and months of little to no sleep meant I was faced with the biggest challenge of my life. It brought me to my knees. And over the following eight years and two more children, I vowed to find out how to reconnect to myself again.
And this is what I’ve discovered: we are still there, underneath all of the exhaustion. We can reconnect to that woman we used to be, tweak things a little so we feel valued and strong, and start to make our own needs a priority again.
It’s all about freeing yourself of the mama guilt, and realising that when you are happy, connected and fulfilled, so too is everyone around you.”
Amy Taylor-Kabbaz is the author of the brand new book ‘Happy Mama: the guide to finding yourself again’ (Affirm Press, $19.99). She is also a journalist, mindfulness coach and speaker. You can find her at www.happymama.com.au and her book is out now at all good book stores, and via Booktopia.