As we’ve read many real mums stories, we know that motherhood is a rollercoaster journey. It is full of many ups and many downs – but in their own way, we have to enjoy them (to a certain extent) as they make up our life and our journey with our child/ren. Tonight on the Real Mums series I chatted with Sarah, a lovely and creative mumma who shares her story of going through PTS after the birth of her son. I hope her story encourages any mums out there to find someone to talk to about your story – it really makes a difference! Enjoy x
Hi Sarah! I’m so excited to have you joining us for this week’s Real Mums interview. Thank you for sharing your story with us! I usually like to ask for a bit of introduction, so to kick us off could you tell us a bit about yourself and your family?
I’m a full time mum and business owner in Melbourne, Australia. A few years ago, I married my best friend and now we’ve got a beautiful little boy, Zac, who is about to turn 2. I design and sell colouring books and printables for my business, which I’ve been doing for the past year and a half as a creative outlet while I’m a stay at home mum. I now have 19 published colouring books on Amazon and have started selling other printables on my website, www.sarahrenaeclark.com
What do you do with your time – both for work and for leisure?
Working from home means the lines between work and leisure are often blurred. I enjoy what I do, so I spend a lot of my “free time” working on my business and trying new creative ideas. My day consists of a constant juggle between getting work done, spending time with my son and making sure I allocate myself some “rest” time away from my business.
How did you get into the business of creating colouring in books?
After Zac was born, I found myself looking for a creative outlet to keep my mind stimulated. I was also looking for some ways to build up some income so that I wouldn’t need to go back to work. When adult colouring books first became popular, I decided to make one just for fun. I posted it online and was really surprised at the positive response and number of sales in it’s first month, so I made a few more. A few months later, I decided to look at getting them published and set up my own website, then I started to learn how to do online marketing and social media, and I was hooked! I loved every aspect of my job and so I’ve never looked back.
I recently went through your ebook “A Year of Coloring Affirmations for New Mothers” (as you know! Check out my review of it HERE). Where did you get the idea to create this book?
I had some really hard days as a new mum, and I went through post natal depression for most of my son’s first year. So many people were buying my colouring books and telling me how it helped them through anxiety or depression, and I thought about how it could help someone like me too. “Sweary” colouring books had just become popular, and I thought it was a shame that there were not many colouring books in the market that had positive words, especially since so many people were already using them as a form of therapy. So I decided to create a colouring book with positive affirmations specifically for new mums. I chose the positive words that had helped me through my hardest days and that I thought would encourage other mums too.
You had a traumatic birth experience with your son, which must have been so difficult for you and your family. How did you get through that?
To be completely honest, I don’t think I did. I never really stopped to talk to someone about what I had been through, because I felt like birth isn’t easy for anyone, so I didn’t want to complain. It was only after about 6 months when someone asked about my birth and I realised that I was still traumatised and avoiding thinking about it that I decided to start working through it and talked with close friends about my experience.
After the birth, your son had to spend some time in the special care nursery. What was this like for you as a new mother?
It’s hard to explain. I felt like I was so prepared to be a mum, but I wasn’t prepared to be sent home without my son. I remember looking through the photos we had taken of him, and for a second it felt like I was looking at someone else’s child, which left me in tears. I felt disappointed that we missed those first few days with him, and I felt like he didn’t need me, because he was being fed and taken care of by other people. It was hard and it was emotional, but we were very lucky that he was healthy and was being very well looked after.
You’ve been open about your experience going through anxiety and PTS as well. Can you talk us through how you recognised the symptoms for this and how you got through it?
I actually didn’t recognise the symptoms for a few months until I spoke to a friend who had been through a similar experience. I never realised that what I was feeling wasn’t normal, and I felt guilty that I had such a “good baby” so I had no reason to be upset. I would spend time crying every day and would feel incredibly lonely, even after spending a few hours with friends. My anxiety meant that I would see the worst case scenario in every situation. I couldn’t get in the car without picturing being in a fatal car accident, and my mind would get so involved in the scene that I would be mourning the loss of my son or imagining the pain of him growing up without me. I couldn’t read news articles without grieving as if those situations were happening to our family. I let my mind get carried away in these extreme situations (often totally unrealistic) on a daily basis and struggled to get through a day without at least 5-10 of these negative moments that overwhelmed me. When I finally started to recognise that these thoughts weren’t normal, I was able to talk to friends about it and start actively working on replacing those thoughts with positive thoughts. It took a long time to learn how to ignore the negative scenarios when they came into my head, but it got easier every time I did it. I also made sure that I spent more time with friends and family so that I didn’t feel as lonely and didn’t give my mind the time to wander off into negative thinking again.
You have gone through such a range of experiences, and you have come out the other side with this amazing resource to help other new mums get through these difficult times as well. If you could share some tips or advice for any mums who might be going through something similar, what would you say?
Find someone to talk to, and stop feeling guilty about not coping or not being a good enough mum. I never spoke to anyone because I felt like I wasn’t “sad enough” to call it post natal depression or anxiety. I felt guilty for not being the perfect mum, guilty about not keeping my house clean, guilty about talking too much about my son when I was with my friends, guilty about asking for help… and it was all self-inflicted guilt. When I opened up to my friends and husband, they were incredibly supportive and were able to encourage me that I was doing a great job.
One of my favourite pieces of advice (you’ll find it in my book) was from a good friend who told me “if you’re out of your pajamas by noon, it’s a great day”
Anyone who’s ever had kids knows that it isn’t easy, and you’re not expected to get it right every time or to do it alone.
Thank you for joining us and sharing your story Sarah! To view Sarah’s gorgeous range of colouring books, visit her website HERE, Facebook HERE or Instagram HERE. PLUS, check out my review of her “A Year of Coloring Affirmations for New Mums” HERE, including a special surprise for you all!