Georgia Kousoulou on secret postnatal depression: ‘I was trapped in a dark tunnel’

As we catch up with newly engaged TOWIE star Georgia Kousoulou on the set of her ITVBe reality show Georgia & Tommy, she excitedly told us all about her son Brody’s first birthday party.

Georgia and fiancé Tommy Mallet’s firstborn turned one on 5 May, with his lavish celebrations taking place at the weekend, surrounded by their closest friends and family. But the milestone isn’t the only reason Georgia is celebrating – she is also toasting herself for surviving a year of motherhood.

The Essex-born star gave birth by C-section and for the first few weeks struggled to bond with Brody. Until now, she has kept her battle with postnatal depression within her inner circle, plagued by feelings of guilt and shame that she didn’t feel the instant intense love she was told would be inevitable.

Georgia Kousoulou talks exclusively to OK about overcoming PND

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Speaking for the first time about her ordeal, she tells us, “I didn’t get that overwhelming feeling of love from the moment I first held him that everyone speaks about. I was looking at this baby like, ‘Is this mine?’ It took me a while.

“It was love at first sight visually, but emotionally I didn’t have that uncontrollable love and when I didn’t get it straight away it really stressed me out. It upset me for ages and sent me into a dark place.”

Georgia had opted for a C-section when her final scan showed that baby Brody was in the breech position. Until that moment, she had been preparing for a water birth and admits the procedure made bonding with Brody more challenging.

Georgia has bravely opened up on the struggle she's faced
Georgia has bravely opened up on the struggle she’s faced

“Leading up to it, I was like, ‘I’m going to have a water birth,’ and I was doing all these classes, but weirdly I just knew I wasn’t going to give birth vaginally. I’d had a few scares along the way, where they couldn’t feel the baby or find him at one point. I remember being heavily pregnant and in bits, so I said I wanted a C-section as it was safest for Brody.

“As soon as I booked the C-section I felt so calm – all that waiting around was so stressful for me, and I’m quite a control freak. But after the C-section, I felt like my body didn’t know it had birthed a baby. I literally felt like I’d been shopping – I went in on the morning and I got given a baby. My body didn’t catch up.”

She is mum to son Brody, who has just turned one
She is mum to son Brody, who has just turned one

Back at their £1 million home in Essex, Georgia admits she tried to mask her feelings from Tommy, 29, who she met on TOWIE in 2014. Their eight-year relationship was a staple of the show as the pair grew strong together, with Tommy’s fierce loyalty and clear affection for Georgia earning him a place in viewers’ hearts. And in a testament to their close partnership, Tommy realised quickly that Georgia wasn’t coping and staged an intervention to try and help.

“I didn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling because I felt ashamed,” says Georgia. “I didn’t have that connection for the first few weeks. Then, Tommy noticed that I wasn’t OK – I was very quiet and I’d sneak off to cry in the bathroom when I thought no one could hear. I’ve never had my house so full, and I’ve never felt so lonely. It was like I was trapped in a dark tunnel and I couldn’t see the light.

“Then one day, I was upstairs and when I came back downstairs Tommy was there with my mum, his mum and our midwife. He said to everyone, ‘Georgia’s not OK.’ I was so shocked and I started crying, but it was such a relief because it meant I didn’t have to tell people.

She found herself crying in secret
She found herself crying in secret

“I think it’s so important for women not to say to other women that the minute you hold your baby you’re going to get this feeling you’ve never felt before. Actually, you don’t always feel that way and if you don’t, that’s OK. It takes time. We don’t know these little humans that we’ve just been given.”

Once Georgia had accepted she was battling the symptoms of postnatal depression, she found herself sharing her struggles with her 1.5 million Instagram followers, who became an unexpected support during Brody’s sleepless nights and night feeds when she felt vulnerable and alone. Much-loved by her fans for her straight-talking attitude, she has since been praised for her honest portrayal of motherhood.

Georgia has been called an inspiration for sharing the reality of motherhood
Georgia has been called an inspiration for sharing the reality of motherhood

“As soon as I started talking about it, it became easier,” she says. “There were some days when I’d been up all night – and at 2am you feel lonely – so I started putting it on my Instagram. I’d say, ‘Hello fellow mums doing the night shift,’ and I’d chat with random mums at 2am. I began to feel part of a community – I realised I wasn’t alone. There were so many mums feeling like I was feeling.

Seven weeks after the birth, Georgia had established her long-for bond with Brody. Her next priority was learning to love her postnatal body, complete with raw red scar and stretch marks. After weeks of breaking down in tears when she looked in the mirror, she felt cheated that she’d been brainwashed into thinking her body would just snap back, and bravely took to social media to share a candid photo of her postnatal body.

“When I came out of hospital I still had a pregnant belly and that shocked me, because everyone said, ‘Oh you’ll snap back,'” she explains. “I didn’t snap back at all – I had a full-on belly and I was so swollen. Then I just decided to do a post with my belly out in just my bra and knickers. I was so nervous I texted Tommy asking if I should post it, and he said just do it, so I did, and it helped me and so many other mums.

Georgia shared this photo of her c-section scar weeks after giving birth
Georgia shared this photo of her c-section scar weeks after giving birth

“I mean, who else is doing that on Instagram? No-one. I am so sick of seeing girls with six packs straight after birth. It’s not realistic and I don’t want to see it. Going to the gym isn’t my priority. I’ve raised a child for a year, let’s celebrate that. My whole body changed – I’ve got grown my C-section scar and stretch marks – but I have a human so you’ve got to give yourself some slack. We’re just surviving, let’s be real.”

Georgia and Tommy are doing better than surviving. After the success of the first series, their ITVBe show is returning for another and will cover their recent engagement and her motherhood struggles, including traveling with Brody on a long-haul flight to Mexico last February, during which he hurt the whole time.

“It was worse than I thought it would be,” she says of the flight. “It was hell. If someone had given me a parachute I would have jumped out. It was traumatic. I hurt three times.”

But the stress was surely all worth it when, in Mexico, Tommy, dressed in black shorts and matching T-shirt, dropped to one knee in a beachside pergola surrounded by a crescent of red roses and candles, with the sea in the background.

Tommy proposed to Georgia in Mexico in February
Tommy proposed to Georgia in Mexico in February

So do we need to rush to buy a hat? “We haven’t set a date,” says Georgia. “My plan is to get through May because I have Tommy’s 30th as well, and then my plan is to crack on and look. But if Brody’s party is anything to go by, this wedding is going to be even bigger. I do see myself abroad though. I haven’t settled on a certain place yet.”

For the moment, Tommy, who is the creative director of his own Mallet trainers brand, and Georgia are focusing on the renovation of their Essex pad, complete with nursery makeover. The couple called in Wayfair to help get the playroom ready in time for Brody’s first birthday

“We moved in April last year just before Brody was born, and what was supposed to be his playroom became the dumping ground,” Georgia says. “Then my carpenter made a special house for Brody and I thought, “We really need a playroom now!” So Wayfair came and designed an indoor and outdoor playroom space for Brody just in time for his first birthday. I love the fact it’s a reasonable price, as that’s what I stand for in life. I love my discount stores!

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