Worries of work and the possible stress of coping with the new baby were found to be the suicide triggers of a mother and her baby who fell from their unit on the twelfth floor in Bukit Panjang, Singapore, late last year.
Although maternal mortality is low in Singapore and other developed countries, psychiatric causes – mainly postpartum depression, remain the leading cause of such tragedies.
Sales manager Koh Suan Ping was not just concerned about not being able to produce enough milk for her two-month old daughter, but was also stressed about looking for a replacement maid.
She was also worried about her work due to company’s slow sales. Even though she was allowed to work from home, she told her boss she had to return to the office once a week to monitor stocks.
Around the same time, her mother-in-law’s maid requested for a pay rise of $200 to $250 to look after the newborn. Mdm Koh was upset and turned down the request which adversely affected her work plans. Her colleague saw that Madam Koh was not her usual self and seemed quite emotional.
Mdm Koh was “beset by mounting anxiety about her return to work” while care arrangements for her baby were not settled, State Coroner Marvin Bay said.
Extracted from The Straits Times, 10 May 2017.
According to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, about two-thirds of women experience postnatal blues in the first week after delivery. Symptoms include feelings of emotionality, weepiness, moodiness, anxious thoughts about caring for the baby and feelings of frustration with the baby’s crying. Between 10% to 15% new mothers develop postnatal depression. Approximately 3% to 5% experience moderate-to-severe depression that requires medical attention.
“Having a child is not necessarily rainbows and butterflies. The expectations from self, friends, family and the society can sometimes be overwhelming and unrealistic,” shares Elaine Seah, Brand Inc. Founder and Group Director.
It has been four years since Elaine returned to office from her confinement. It was a daily uphill battle during her pregnancy and confinement.
“When I was into my seventh month of pregnancy, I was house-hunting and renovating the office at the same time. It didn’t help that I slipped and injured my wrist and hip on the way to work one rainy day,” she recounts and laughs in hindsight.
“My woes didn’t end at my delivery after 28 hours of labour. I wanted to nurse my child but I was just not lactating enough. And shortly after delivery, three of my most experienced colleagues left the company around the same time.”
“It was a difficult period. Surviving it makes it memorable,” Elaine chuckles with the same fighting spirit that has helped her overcome postpartum blues. So, how did she do it? Here are her tips:
People expect new mothers to be glowing with joy and love. That is not necessarily the case for all. But what is important is making the efforts to be happy.
“I was plagued by guilt, like some new mothers, for not being able to produce enough milk to feed my child,” shares Elaine. “On top on that, I had to work, albeit from home, to ensure operationality of the company. Again, I felt guilty for not being able to give full attention to my child.”
It is common for new mothers to be overwhelmed by feelings. Blame it on the hormones. What Elaine has learnt is to make a conscious effort to be happy.
“I dressed up and put on makeup to go out, even if it was just the supermarket. It was important for me to look good and feel good.”
To combat her post-pregnancy weight gain, Elaine took her then four-month-old to hike at Bukit Timah Hill regularly. She also created a new social support group and started socialising.
NEW MOTHERS’ SUPPORT GROUP
For friendship and support through regular meet-ups, walks, wellness groups, parties and seasonal events.
BREASTFEEDING MOTHERS’ SUPPORT GROUP
A not-for-profit organisation that provides support for breastfeeding mothers, education for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and families, and public awareness and advocacy in the community
MINDFUL MUMS MEETUP
A free support group that provides mothers with the psychological and emotional support to develop a more mindful mothering experience.
“There is so much research evidence out there: Happy parents raise happy children. Depressed mothers run the risk of their children developing emotional problems. So, I cast my guilt aside and started to go out, socialise, have a drink (when I no longer had to nurse), pick up a hobby and be happy (responsibly).”
There is life outside work, and on the same token, a mother can derive fulfilment beyond caring for her child(ren). In a study by Harvard Business School, it was found that working mothers raise more independent daughters and empathetic sons. Daughters raised by working mothers are more likely to be employed, hold supervisory roles and have higher income.
“Like many new mothers, I was overwhelmed. I felt down and incompetent. It was my husband who convinced me that I should just get up, dress up and go to work despite the evident failure on my part as a director to retain three of the most experienced staff who tendered their resignation during my confinement,” says Elaine. “It was the right thing to do. I started to face the situation, salvage the company and gradually regain self-confidence.”
The most important lesson about motherhood is to enjoy the journey. Find and derive fun in the process. Love yourself and seek professional help if need be. Most hospitals provide help for new mothers suffering from postnatal depression. There are also helplines available.
SAMARITANS OF SINGAPORE (24-HOUR HOTLINE): 1800-221-4444
SINGAPORE ASSOCIATION FOR MENTAL HEALTH: 1800-283-7019
CARE CORNER COUNSELLING CENTRE (IN MANDARIN): 1800-353-5800
MENTAL HEALTH HELPLINE: 6389-2222
AWARE HELPLINE: 1800-774-5935
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