No matter how 'ready' you may feel for motherhood, the reality of welcoming a child into your world affects everyone differently - a truth that Kate Miller-Heidke's Australian Story episode details with heartaching accuracy.
Kate is currently in Tel Aviv, preparing to represent Australia in this year's Eurovision Song Contest with her song 'Zero Gravity'. For many singers, this would mark the largest stage on which they've ever performed. For Kate, it marks an even bigger milestone: that she now feels she has fully recovered from the trauma of birth, and literally found her voice again.
The singer appears on Australian Story this week, opening up about her long road to Eurovision - and the meaning behind her Eurovision ballad's lyrics.
"I was too tired to sing"
After the birth of her son, Ernie, in 2016, Kate's life changed forever.
She'd had a clear idea of how she wanted her birth to play out. No drugs, all present. But unfortunately complications meant she needed to have an emergency caesarean.
When Ernie finally arrived in this world he was 4.5 kilos, silent and purple all over, with a blood infection which required he stay in the NICU.
"I ended up with a kind of childbirth that a hundred years ago or even fifty years ago would've killed me and the baby," she told the ABC. "I remember this sort of dawning realisation that motherhood wasn't coming as easily to me as I thought it would."
The ordeal was jarring, and the feelings were nothing like she had preempted: "Physically I was too tired to sing."
It wasn't as straightforward as she'd hoped
Sadly, things didn't get easier when they finally returned home. Her "control-freak tendencies" weren't prepared for the sleepless nights, the idea that she would have trouble breastfeeding, the physical strain, the anxiety and neurosis and cluelessness.
"I (wasn't set up) very well for just the level of surrender that you have to get used to," she surmises. "There was a small voice inside of me saying that Ernie might be better off with a mother who does instinctively know what he needs and how to give it to him."
She was depressed and regularly inconsolable, so every day became about simply getting through it. It all felt wrong to her, and not like what a "normal" mother should be feeling in the early days with her baby. She didn't realise just how many mothers out there could empathise with what she was experiencing.
Emerging from the dark times
Things got easier as a new routine was formed. Little Ernie got better at sleeping. Kate started working again - on Muriel's Wedding The Musical - something that gave her something else to focus on and sink her energy into. The depression no longer controlled or defined her.
"It wasn't that she wanted to get away from Ernie or that she was having trouble bonding with him. It was just that, as a matter of survival, she just needed just a little bit of space," her partner told Australian Story.
In fact, 'Zero Gravity', the song Kate wrote for Eurovision, describes her battle with depression - and how she eventually was able to pull through it. Like with so many new mothers, it just took time to adjust.
Listen to it closely, you'll realise that lines like "you're so heavy, I have got to let you go" are her way of personifying the weight of depression.
As she shared in a Facebook post, "('Zero Gravity') tries to capture the sensation of colour returning to your life, of feeling strong, joyful and relieved."
I don't know about you, but we like her song even more now that we know its meaning. Listen to it here:
If you think you're experiencing PND, know you don't have to struggle through it along. You can call PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) on 1300 726 306.
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