Our PND Survivor Real Mum: Ashleigh!

Our next Real Mum is Ashleigh. I met Ashleigh through our mother’s group – a bubbly, energetic woman with a beautiful baby boy, I thought she was confident, full of insight and extremely likeable! When we had our first group social at a local cafe, most of those gorgeous qualities were still true – she was bright and enthusiastic, and an absolute pleasure to talk to! What unfolded when we chatted, however, was a truly remarkable and inspirational story of determination and love that really tugged on my heartstrings. Ashleigh’s story is actually the reason why I wanted to start this blog series – a beautiful story of motherhood that should be shared with other mums as a source of encouragement and motivation. What her story shows me is that a mother’s love is raw, is emotional and is beyond anything you can ever imagine. 

I hope you all find Ashleigh’s story as jaw-droppingly amazing as I have!

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would you describe yourself to others and what do you do for a living.
I’m 30, an extrovert (well, I was before motherhood), happy, caring and friendly. I adore my family, and have a large circle of friends from all walks of life. I’m a crazy, organised freak, which had been hard to juggle since becoming a mum. Degree-wise, I’m a journalist, but I’m now the owner of a wedding and event styling business called Piccolo & Poppi. I loved my job as a journo, but more than that, I wanted to be a mum, and the demands of my job (long hours, travel and deadlines) wouldn’t have worked. I worked for six years writing for the likes of Dolly, Cosmopolitan, Cleo and Shop till you Drop, while also dabbling in television and newspapers. I met incredible people, dined and wined amongst celebrities, traveled interstate and overseas….but the longing to be a mum was always in the back of my head. So I quit and started a business. One that I never thought would turn into what it is today.
Can you describe for us your motherhood journey so far?
My motherhood journey so far, has been just that, a journey. A very long, scary, daunting, sad, happy, emotional roller coaster. I won’t lie, it’s been tough. It started close to three years ago. I’d sadly lost five pregnancies over three years, to that horrible thing called a ‘miscarriage’. One after the other. I kept falling into the deep, deep realisation that I would only ever been an “amazing aunty”. But, thankfully, an incredible obstetrician by the name of Dr Leo Leader at the Royal Hospital for Womem changed my life. My husbands life. Our families lives. In July 2016, we became the proud parents of Jed. Our miracle baby. Our incredible son.
However it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Almost instantly after giving birth, the baby I’d be longing for, for years, just didn’t give me that “instant love” everyone told me I would feel. The kind of love I’d been craving. Nup. Not one bit. I knew instantly I needed help. I reached out within the hour, and I was immediately given support and counseling for that horrible thing called PND/anxiety. The first four weeks were horrible. A blur, a daze, a horrible dream. I cried and cried, wanting to feel that connection, but I couldn’t find it. I had weekly visits from a psychologist, and then finally, one day, everything changed. I found that bond, that intense love, that connection. I was the happiest person in the entire world. It turns out, I always did love Jed, however, I was so afraid of losing him, like I did five other babies, I wasn’t allowing myself to bond with him, incase he was torn away from me.
Ever since, I can’t keep my eyes off Jed, and the thought of being away from him, even just for 30 minutes gives me anxiety. I’ve never loved something so much! The sleepless nights, whinging, ‘witching hour’, more sleepless nights and endless tears, none of them matter now, as I’m content.

What has been the biggest challenge so far, and how have you overcome it (or what are you currently doing to overcome it)?
My biggest challenge so far…just one?
You’d think after all I’ve been through, nothing could top it, but guess what, my name is Ashleigh, and ‘challenge’ is my middle name.
I’ve been in remission for almost 18 months now,  from a yucky autoimmune disease called Graves Disease. It’s as horrible as it sounds. Unfortunately, it’s just come back to haunt me, and due to some heavy medication I have to start taking, I have to give up breastfeeding. I cried for a week. As I always wanted to BF my baby for at least one year. After struggling to find a bond early on, I have found BF to be the best ‘bonding’ session ever. I absolutely, whole-heartedly, love breastfeeding. So to be told I have two weeks to wean, was my biggest challenge yet. For two weeks my family have battled the bottle. It’s been so hard. But I can happily say, it seems that my little guy is just getting the hang of it now.
What has been the biggest blessing of motherhood?
The biggest blessing yet, is literally having a healthy, happy baby in my arms. I count every day as my luckiest. It sounds so cliche, but honestly, I’m so blessed. I look at him every day, and count my blessings!
How do you manage your time between being a mum to Jed and working?
Juggling my time between my hectic work schedule and being the best mum I can be, has been tough. Jed attended his first wedding with me at 6 days old. I cried the entire way there, and the entire way home. It all went off without a hitch, but those new mum emotions, they got me bad. Most weekends I take Jed to work with me, wherever the wedding may be, and I either have my mum, my mother-In-law, nan, or my husband tag along with me. They mind Jed, while I direct my staff and work. It’s been really tough, and tiring, but we’re managing. I’m so lucky that Jed is really transportable, because I had no other option. I remember someone saying to me really early on, something along the lines of, ‘don’t allow the baby to rule your life completely, make him fit into your schedule, and he’ll always be e a happy baby’. And that’s what I’ve done. We’ve been out on the road, driving hundreds of km’s since he was a week old.
I think the hardest part of my work, is actually replying to emails and office work. I swear, the day I think Jed isn’t going to sleep, he sleeps for hours, and I spend the rest of the day thinking “I could have replied to those 30 enquiries in my inbox if I just had of known”. Too late! Motherhood!!!
If you could share a piece of encouragement for other new mums with a similar story to you, what would it be?

This is a hard one, as every mums journey is different. But one thing I can say, it does get easier. For a while there, I kept questioning whether this motherhood gig was for me. I never saw a light at the end of the tunnel when I was suffering with the PND. But speaking out, and asking for help, was the BEST thing I’ve ever done. Don’t be afraid. No one is perfect, and being a parent is the toughest gig in the world. Just remember, you’re not alone. I often say to myself, whenever I’m having a challenging day, “you’ve got this”.
For more information about Ashleigh’s business “Piccolo & Poppi”, follow her on Facebook HERE or on Instagram @piccolopoppi

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