Jess Rowe's postnatal depression battle: 'Felt like a failure'

·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·5-min read

Former Studio 10 host Jessica Rowe has opened up about her battle with postnatal depression and feeling like a 'failure' following the birth of her first child, daughter Allegra.

Appearing on an Instagram Live for Yahoo News' What’s Up series on Thursday, the Aussie TV personality spoke candidly about her personal experience with the common mental health condition.

Former Studio 10 host Jess Rowe wearing a rainbow sequinned dress
Former Studio 10 host Jess Rowe has opened up about her mental health battle after welcoming her first child. Photo: Instagram/jessjrowe.

Jess' postnatal depression battle

Jess, 50, recalled the early signs and symptoms of postnatal depression that 'crept up' on her after she and her husband, Nine News' Peter Overton, welcomed baby Allegra back in 2007.

"I couldn't sleep, even though I was exhausted," she said.

"I had panic attacks and I'd never had panic attacks before. I had obsessive thoughts about things that might happen to Allegra, and they were quite frightening, intrusive thoughts about how she might be hurt or what might happen. Thoughts I'd never had before," she added.

Allegra, who is now 14, was about three weeks old when Jess really began to notice something wasn't right.

"I could feel myself getting very numb and it was like there was a pane of glass between me and the rest of the world," she explained.

As we enter 2021, after struggling through a devastating 2020, Yahoo Australia has teamed up with Lifeline to tell the truth about mental health with real stories from the real people who have lived it.

Have a story to share? Email whatsup@yahoonews.com.

'Bad mum'

Jess talked about how she "really struggled" with breastfeeding Allegra, which made her feel like a "bad mum".

"I thought, 'Oh my god, if I can't feed her I'm a failure,' and I put so much pressure on myself. I never knew that nipples could bleed until I attempted breastfeeding!

"I really wish that I'd abandoned that that pressure I put on myself, sooner."

She also touched on feeling 'lost' without the drive and direction of her career, having left her role on Today due to 'payment disputes' shortly after returning from maternity leave.

"I missed my life before [having a baby]," Jess said. "I felt lost because I was someone who up until that point had defined myself through my career. And then when I didn't have that, I thought, 'Who am I?'"

Jessica Rowe and her daughters, Allegra, 14, and 12-year-old Giselle, pose with a large bunch of flowers
Jess and her daughters, Allegra, 14, and 12-year-old Giselle. Photo: Instagram/jessjrowe.

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'So ashamed'

Despite being an outspoken advocate for mental health issues at the time and helping her own mum who has bipolar disorder, Jess refused to fully acknowledge how she was feeling and that she needed help.

"What I find quite ironic is, I thought I knew about [postnatal depression]. My mum's got bipolar disorder and I helped her when I was younger.

"We did a lot of advocacy work... But when I realised that I had a mental illness I was so ashamed."

At around the same time, Jess agreed to be an ambassador for postnatal depression with Beyond Blue and was promptly sent a lot of information to read up on for her role. It hit very close to home for the new mum.

Jess Rowe with her mum, Penelope, celebrating a birthday at a restaurant with a cake.
Jess's mum, Penelope, was the first person she told about her struggles with postpartum depression. Photo: Instagram/jessjrowe.

"I read the [postnatal depression symptom] checklist and it was just tick, tick, tick. That was me.

"So I used to hide the pamphlet and think if I don't look at it, maybe how I feel will go away. It didn't go away, it got worse."

Jess said she hit "rock bottom" was when she noticed she was 'fixating' on a carving knife in the family kitchen.

"I would think about what could happen with that carving knife, and then I ended up wrapping it a newspaper and throwing it in the rubbish bin at 3 am one morning.

"I thought 'What am I doing? I really am a crazy lady'," she laughed.

Hard conversations

It spurred her on to finally tell someone about what she was going through. She spoke to her mum, who made her promise to tell her GP and her husband, Peter.

Jess said that the conversation with Peter was the hardest she's ever had because, up until that point, she'd managed to pretend everything was fine. 

"To everyone around me, I was this 'yummy mummy' who had it all together, but I was very good at wearing a mask," she explained.

While Peter was surprised, he was supportive.

Jess Rowe with her husband, Nine News presenter Peter Overton pose for a selfie on a beach
Jess with her husband, Nine News presenter Peter Overton. Photo: Instagram/jessjrowe.

"Being the beautiful man that he is, he took me in his arms and he told me it was going to be okay. And that is what I needed that night.

"He validated what I was feeling and although I had a long way to go, I started to feel some weight lift off me when I was finally able to voice those terrible fears."

Jess urged anyone — mothers or fathers — to recognise that postnatal depression, like other mental health conditions, is an illness that can be treated.

"It doesn't mean you're a failure, it doesn't mean you're a bad parent or you don't love your bub.

"There is a way through. I asked for help and it was the best thing I ever did."

If you or somebody you know is struggling with postnatal depression visit COPE or connect with other mums on the MamaTribe group.

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