Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Celebrity mum's baby blues

Margarita Politis and daughter Isabella. Photo / Janna Dixon
Margarita Politis and daughter Isabella. Photo / Janna Dixon

Margarita Politis is a glamorous 42-year-old woman who once appeared in a magazine with celebrity psychic Kelvin Cruickshank, excited they were having a baby.

But she was hiding a secret - she was enduring a living hell, gripped by pre- and later post-natal depression.

Jade, now 1, was born beautiful, with dazzling blue eyes framed by thick eyelashes that swept over olive cheeks.

But Politis' experience of pregnancy was far from perfect and she hopes talking about her road to recovery will help others open up about something that affects so many. And that it is okay to get help.

University of Waikato expert Kyle Smith says at least 15 per cent of Kiwi mums suffer from post-natal depression. There were almost 64,000 live births in the year to last September. Research estimates fewer than half of cases are diagnosed.

Smith says women used to have the support of extended family to raise a child. Now families "are left to do it on their own".

"Being superwomen is one of the most frequent issues raised in why women are struggling," Smith says.

Politis says she now realises she had the blues with her first child, Isabella, 6, but thought she was struggling with the death of her mother.

Then when she was about seven months' pregnant with Jade, she became melancholy, a loner, unable to make decisions or get excited about anything.

Supportive family and friends could not break through to the once-vivacious mum.

"I just couldn't smile. I was flat, devoid of emotion," she says. "Everything became too much."

She once held knives but never considered harming anyone. She spent much of one three-day period crying and on one of those days locked herself in the bathroom of the million-dollar home she shared with Cruickshank: "I just bawled and bawled my eyes out."

Politis told her midwife she was "low", got help from a psychiatrist and took medication. Experts advised her to have Jade three weeks early by elective Caesarean to try to ease her escalating anxiety.

She says Jade's arrival was a high and they bonded immediately. But though Jade was "peaceful", a new low loomed.

The sleep deprivation that came with a newborn, the exhaustion of running a household and returning to work proved too much.

The stylist describes feeling "a heaviness that couldn't lift" and felt conflict between "trying to do it all" while wanting to be a mum.

"No matter how much money you have ... we can all feel the same inside," she says.

Now things are different. Politis was all smiles when interviewed while playing with her daughters at a Mission Bay playground.

She says with support, medication and talking she has healed, and she urges other Kiwis to care for loved ones who have become new mums.

She also wants partners to know "it's just the hormones" and new mums will be back to normal after those hormones have levelled.

And she says dads need support too when "they go through the turmoil of watching their partner fall apart".

- Herald on Sunday

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