Rachael's motherhood story - Motherhood and mental illness
We found out I was pregnant on Christmas Eve. I had only known my husband for a few months and while we were madly in love, and planning to get married, it was nevertheless threw a big spanner in the works. Abi was a university student at the time, working various odd-jobs and I was still just working as a waitress after having experienced a couple of bad psychotic episodes.
We spent Christmas Day in shock, adjusting to the news ourselves while not wanting my family to know yet. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to have this baby, it was more just a matter of how on earth we were going to do it. There was a lot going on at the time - my husband’s family were not happy about the announcement, we were paying for university fees and also I had my mental health challenges. Fortunately, we had the support of my family and a beautiful community of loyal friends who encouraged us through this tough time.
We decided to go ahead and got married when I was 6 months pregnant and sporting the most ridiculous looking bump! It was a beautiful day with our closest friends and family, and a celebration of our relationship and the life to come.
I was pretty worried about the whole process of birth. Not being a baby person at all, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Fortunately, the lovely ladies from The Babes Project stepped in at this stage and supported me all the way through my pregnancy and beyond, as well as a team of midwives and psychiatrists from the hospital. Surprisingly, I got through it without any real problems (other than having to have an emergency caesarean) Zara was a big, healthy baby and my mental illness was held at bay with the help of the medication I was on at the time.
That’s not to say that those first few months of Zara’s life weren’t a complete blur and a real stretching time for us as a family, Abi was sitting his final exams at the time and the stress of financial responsibility combined with newborn sleep deprivation really put a lot of strain on us. We managed to get through it though.
The week after Zara’s first birthday, we made the decision to move our family down to Parkdale, which was the best thing we could have done. Six months later though, I ended up in a psychiatric ward after yet another psychosis. This time was pretty scary, my husband had never seen me unwell and it was a really steep learning curve for him. Zara was shipped around from relative to relative while I was recovering in hospital. Everyone tried to make the most of a bad situation but I felt awful, like I’d let everyone down.
Looking back now though, my time in hospital was a real turning point for me. Before then I was in a bit of a rut with both my physical and mental health. I was struggling to get out of bed some days and eating a lot of junk food. Getting sick again was a big wake up call for me to start living differently.
I’ve since turned my life around completely! I’ve lost 8 kgs just by eating real food and exercising regularly. I’ve also started my own music school and I feel like I’m finally able to be the best mum I can to Zara, despite my limitations. I feel like the world is my oyster and as long as I keep on top of my health, there’s nothing I’m not capable of!
I guess my encouragement to other mums facing similar challenges is that even when things seem like they’re really bad, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are always capable of more than we realize. I’m a living testimony that people with mental illnesses can succeed and thrive at life, and illness doesn’t have to define who we are or what you do.
Rachael says: I am a café-hopping coffee drinker and Indian-loving wifey. I'm an all round creative type with music coming out of my ears. My real passion is songwriting and teaching those skills to others. I am also a mental health advocate and I do this by sharing my story wherever I can.
Children: Zara - 20 months
Motherhood in 5 words: Challenging, rewarding, uplifting, kind, joyous.
Fav family-friendly place: Two Farm Girls Café, Aspendale
Coffee order: Flat white
Biz: Rachael Reddy Piano Teaching & Songwriting School
A boutique music school catering to all ages and abilities, we do private tuition for piano students and songwriting lessons on guitar and piano.
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