Apologies in advance for this is a long post but I wanted to go into detail.
Post Natal Depression for me was something I didn’t understand when I was pregnant. I didn’t really have a lot of friends around me who were already mothers and those who were didn’t talk about it. Well, to me anyway. I was always a little worried when pregnant about how I’d cope, my tagline usually being “I’ve never even changed a nappy before!” But it was brushed aside because as a mum “you’ll just know”. So it didn’t occupy a lot of my mind. I breezed through pregnancy with no problems, only routine visits to my midwife and my labour was ‘textbook’. I even had a couple of student nurses in to witness it all! According to his dad when my son was placed in my arms I told him I loved him so much and for those first few hours I was so happy.
How quickly that changed.
To paint a picture for those that have not yet given birth, you’re tired. So very tired. Hormones are all over the show and the nurses (in the UK) are so overstretched they barely have time to check all the new mothers. They try their hardest though, I could see that.
Don’t get me wrong I still loved my son more than anything. PND can affect a person in so many ways and that was not one of them for me. It was my confidence that took a nose dive. I wanted to breastfeed and so they pushed that on me but I was struggling with it. The hospital made me feed him using a little cup so he wouldn’t take to a bottle but I struggled with that. His dad excelled which made me feel worse. Time and time again the same little niggling piece of advice reverberated around my head;
“You’re a mum, you’ll just know.”
They changed his first nappy for me while I was sleeping so when his second one needed changing I was there on my own just winging it. It took me half an hour just to put him in a romper suit. I was so scared of hurting him because he was this tiny human and I’d never been in charge of one of these before. The second night in the hospital took me to rock bottom.
He wouldn’t stop crying. The general rule is you try and feed them, wind them, or change them. It’s one of the three but still he cried. The only time he would stop is when he was lay on my stomach. But it was 11pm and I’d hardly slept in the last three days. I kept falling asleep and then I’d feel him begin to slide off my tummy and wake again. In the end I had to put him in his bed and he wouldn’t stop crying. A midwife came in and snatched him out of his cot and told me off because “(She is) busy enough without having to look after my child too.” and off she stomped. Turns out he had a bit of Colic. I’d never even heard of Colic. I sat there in the middle of the night in a hospital ward and sobbed. I had never felt like such a failure as I did right then.
It didn’t get any better when I got home. What made it worse is his dad seemed to just ‘get’ it. I spoke out in the first two weeks after coming home and was told to speak to the Health Visitor. I was given a multiple choice questionnaire to check if I had PND and it was concluded based on these results that I simply had “too high an expectation for myself”. So nothing was done. I dealt with PND by myself as I had no support from his dad or my family, not for the most anyway.
The overwhelming similarity I see when people talk about depression of any kind is the response from others;
“You need to stop thinking like that.”
“Stop being silly.”
“You know you’re ok.”
I had all of these and it was only when I became a shell of my former self that my mum realised something was wrong. Before my son was born I was confident, I cared about myself and my appearance and all that had gone. I was suffering from anxiety and experiencing panic attacks. Things I’d never had previously. Things seemingly were getting worse for me, not better but I suppose that is how it is when things go undiagnosed and untreated. I was working overtime to avoid being at home with my son because I believed that anyone would be better looking after him than me. It affected his relationship with me. He wanted his dad all the time and his grandparents, but never me. So that would then make me worse because you know how it is, boys are for their mums.
When he was 18 months old I found out I was pregnant again and had a termination. I couldn’t face the child I had, let alone bring another one into the world.
I was forced to face my PND when my work contract ended for the summer. He was now 3 years old and I was basically a full time parent to my son while his dad worked long shifts. For me, facing my fears head on worked. It was a long process and it’s only in the last year while he was five that I feel I am totally over my depression. My anxiety still pops up as a reminder on the odd occasion and it’s rare I have a panic attack. I feel I am truly on the other side and I can fully enjoy the time I spend with my son. I openly talk about this with people because if I can help someone identify with these feelings and seek help, then I’ve helped them. People should not be ashamed to talk about their mental health and the more we hear about it from people, the more mainstream it becomes and hopefully it would lead to more people talking openly about how they feel.
The message I want to convey from this is to seek help if you need it and if people tell you no to seek second opinions. You know yourself better than anyone else and if you know you’re struggling then you need the help. Also, if someone reaches out to you then listen and be there for them. Be strong and you’ll get through it. Every day, every week, month, and year. This is a new blog but I hope some of my further posts will show that, even when it seems impossible, there is light at the end of the tunnel.