Bombarded with images of happy mothers and cherubic babies, Shirley Taylor thought being a mum would be just like what she saw in Johnson & Johnson baby ads.

But after a traumatic birth with her first child Jasmine in 2008, Mrs Taylor's real-life experience was very different.

Giving birth for the first time in September 2008, Mrs Taylor had to be induced and then had an emergency C-section, news.com.au reported.

When nurses handed her Jasmine for the new mum to hold for the first time, Mrs Taylor was in a for another shock — she felt nothing.

Advertisement

The Beyond Blue speaker is sharing her experience with post-natal depression for news.com.au as part of PANDA Week.

'I WAS ALREADY BEATING MYSELF UP'

For Mrs Taylor, symptoms of post-natal depression began almost immediately after she held her daughter for the first time.

"I'd been told that when I first held my child there would be this rush of love, and I'd get all teary, and I'd feel like I would do anything for this child," she said.

"And I didn't have it. I didn't feel that when I first held her, I didn't feel it two days later."

The absence of a "rush" made Mrs Taylor feel she was "not doing it right", and she quickly began criticising herself.

"When I went home (from hospital) at five days I was already feeling wrong," she said. "I was already feeling I was not doing it right because I hadn't felt this massive rush of love, so I was already beating myself up."

Things got worse at home, where Mrs Taylor found herself increasingly isolated from her baby, family and friends.

Advertisement

At playgroups she felt unable to relate to the other mums she saw as well the perfect babies on television ads.

UK-born Mrs Taylor's family were all overseas, and her chef husband Robert worked late hours, meaning she got little break at night after being with Jasmine all day.

"I jokingly say at that time I could have cheerfully thrown her out the window," Mrs Taylor said of hearing her baby's constant cries.

"I always knew deep down I wouldn't do something like that, but the more she screamed the more I just wanted quiet.

"The more she was being cute and fluffy the more I just wanted to be alone, so almost like the older she got, the less I wanted her around."

Mrs Taylor with her daughter Jasmine, now 11. Photo / Supplied
Mrs Taylor with her daughter Jasmine, now 11. Photo / Supplied

'THE FLOODGATES OPENED'

Racked with guilt over her feelings towards Jasmine, things came to a head three months later as the first-time parents prepared to head back to the UK for Christmas.

Two days before they were due to leave, Mrs Taylor broke down in Melbourne's Flagstaff Gardens after an off-the-cuff comment from her husband.

"The floodgates opened, they absolutely opened," she said. "I was just like, 'I can't do this, I can't do this, this is insane', and it all came out.

"And that's when I opened up to my husband, who bless him turned round to me and said,

'OK, what are we going to do about it?'

"And it was the fact that he used the word 'we' rather than 'you' that made all the difference to me because I realised that I wasn't alone in parenting this child who screamed blue murder all the time, and that I wasn't alone in coping with it either."

After opening up to her husband, Mrs Taylor sought help, first seeing a GP who diagnosed her with post-natal depression.

Returning from her holidays, Mrs Taylor completed a year's worth of counselling and attended a mother-child music group designed for women struggling with motherhood.

By the time Jasmine was two, Mrs Taylor began noticing the "good days were outnumbering the bad".

Shirley Taylor welcomed Connor in 2011 and sought help before giving birth. Photo / Supplied
Shirley Taylor welcomed Connor in 2011 and sought help before giving birth. Photo / Supplied

'I WENT INTO COMPLETE DENIAL'

Feeling better, Mrs Taylor and her husband began trying for another baby, and she fell pregnant with their second child within the first month of trying.

But while she had initially been excited about the thought of welcoming another child, Mrs Taylor was terrified she would suffer another bout of depression.

"As soon as I got that positive pregnancy test I realised, 'Oh sh*t', I was not fine, I had no clue what I was doing, what was I thinking, this is insane," she said.

"I went into denial … I went into complete denial. It was like my brain had switched off, and I was like, 'I'm not having another child'."

Mrs Taylor did her best to distract herself from the impending birth by moving house and renovating while taking on more responsibilities at work.

But eventually she decided to do something about it.

"It was about six months that I had what I like to call my epiphany," Mrs Taylor said. "I suddenly went, 'Oh sh*t, I'm having this child whether I like it or not, and the only way I can avoid postnatal depression is if I do something about it'."

Determined to prepare herself as best as possible, Mrs Taylor got a reference for counselling that she could use when she gave birth and scheduled extra sessions with early childhood nurses that focused on her mental health.

When she gave birth to Connor in 2011, Mrs Taylor's steps helped her to keep the "itty-bitty-sh*tty committee" inside her head at bay.

"I still didn't feel that rush of love when they handed him to me, but when I didn't feel it, I didn't feel guilty when I didn't feel it," she said.

"I went, 'OK, it's my son, I know I love him because he's my son', but there was still no rush, there was still no overwhelming emotion.

"But I realised that's obviously OK for me – I didn't have it for Jas, I didn't have it with Connor, that's fine. It's obviously not how I'm made, so I didn't feel guilty when it didn't happen the second time."

Mrs Taylor went on to become the founder of Parent Academy, an organisation that assists parents struggling in the first five years of becoming a parent.

She is also a volunteer speaker for Beyond Blue and wants other mums to know it's OK to feel sometimes that you "love your child and hate being a mum".

"You're not alone. The picture-perfect baby on the Johnson's ad or on TV or that your sister has or that your friend has, the fact that you don't have that picture-perfect baby that's fine," Mrs Taylor said.

"They're not picture perfect … you're unique, and your relationship is unique, and if you're struggling it's OK to struggle, get help."

One in six Australia women experience postnatal depression, with a Beyond Blue analysis earlier this year finding the term "I don't love my baby" was searched in Google 3840 times last year.

"Am I a bad mother?" was searched 3800 times, while "I hate being pregnant" was googled 15,600 times.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Samaritans 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.