Post Natal Depression – 3 words that haunt the world of motherhood. What do they actually mean? Is it the same as depression? What about baby blues? Who can actually put a definitive answer to these questions? Of course there are those women that sail through it all, have a brilliant pregnancy and a relatively easy birth, home shortly after and all is well. But when you really think about it, we have carried a little person around for 9 months, had hormones racing around our bodies, felt exhausted most of the time in the latter stages of pregnancy and then we have to contend with labour on top of it all?
My experience of pregnancy wasn’t great…I was diagnosed with SPD very early on which meant that I could hardly walk or move without being in constant agony. Towards the end of my pregnancy I was in a lot of pain and ended up going to the hospital to be checked out at 36 weeks and they found out I had pre-eclampsia so had to induce me. This was not a pleasant experience, in fact I can vaguely remember screaming at the lovely Doctor who induced me that I had rights as a patient and demanded that he stop. He didn’t – luckily, he knew it had to be done and was very nice about me screaming at him.
The hours after this are somewhat of a haze as I had so many drugs pumping through me, I can vaguely remember naming all of the shops from Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and telling the Doctor who administered my epidural that she probably knew my old boss as they were both from Newcastle. She advised that its a fairly big place so chances are, probably not. Our beautiful baby girl was born a while later weighing just 4lb 14oz and she was perfect. I however was in the wars…I’d lost a lot of blood and needed a blood transfusion and over the next 48 hours the hospital staff struggled to control my blood pressure and heart rate. At one point we were rushed to the high dependency ward while they tried to raise my heart rate.
The Doctors were amazing. They listened and reassured me and took such good care of me. We were moved into a private room so my hubby could stay with us and that become our home for 7 days. My husband had his birthday in hospital, and then I had my 30th birthday in hospital too and 7 days after our little lady was born, I was finally discharged and off we went to start our lives as parents.
I was fine for the first month, on a false high, full of adrenalin but things soon took a downwards turn. I still wasn’t 100% and was on various medication for high blood pressure and iron deficiency and I was still in a lot of physical pain. I struggled to imagine ever feeling better or ‘normal’ ever again. I loved my daughter more than anything in the world but I found it hard to look after her, every little task seemed so immensely huge for me and after my husband went back to work I just felt overwhelmed and couldn’t pinpoint why or what was making me feel this way but night after night I would curl up in my husbands arms feeling as small and weak as a kitten and cry to him that something wasn’t right and I couldn’t do it. He would wrap his arms so tightly around me and tell me that everything would be ok and we’d get through this, whatever it was, together.
I started to feel really anxious for no real reason, I was on edge all of the time and couldn’t relax. I had a panic attack, something that has never happened to me before and I struggled to come to terms with all of these new feelings. My real fear was that I would never go back to normal again. I would look at other mums and be resentful, how are they doing it? I’d see people on the street laughing and joking and I’d think I would never laugh or joke again. This went on for what seems like a lifetime but what was actually a few months.
I’ve lost count of how many times I went to the Doctors and explained that I just ‘didn’t feel right’ and was convinced something was wrong with me. I had test after test to try and reassure me but nothing did. No sooner had one set of test results came back clear I’d be onto the next thing that could be wrong with me. This was draining, not only for me but for my husband too, who was back at work, looking after our little lady of a night and worrying about me. I was very fortunate to have a lovely GP who understood post natal anxiety and talked me through everything and probably humoured me a little, as I’m sure she knew there was nothing serious the matter with me.
Every day seemed to last forever and every small task seemed so huge like a hurdle that I couldn’t get over. I had no appetite and therefore had no energy and the thought of venturing out of the house induced fear and panic. I remember one day really psyching myself up to take my little lady for a little walk to the shops, it took me so long to actually get out of the door, her baby bag positively bulging at the seams, filled with everything imaginable to cover all eventualities.
Luckily I had a very good support system around me of family and friends. At one point we even moved in with my in-laws for a few days, here I felt safe and comforted. But we couldn’t stay there forever (I had thought about hiding in the airing cupboard) so we went home and my wonderful mum came and stayed with us and helped us all cope. Together, my hubby, my mum and me worked through things and with the help of other family and wonderful friends who came to my rescue I started to feel a bit better. I’d do more with my little lady and I’d enjoy it. I wouldn’t feel as anxious all of the time and if I did I knew how to control it.
5 months was a turning point for me, things started to get easier. My little lady was sleeping better, I had recovered physically, and mentally I was getting stronger. Christmas came and I can remember a couple of months prior, thinking that I wasn’t even excited about Christmas because I didn’t think I would be feeling better but somehow I was and it was a lovely day spent with family. I’ve heard that it can take a year for a woman to totally recover mentally and emotionally from birth and now, almost a year on I completely agree with this. Not in all cases, but for those who have suffered in any way, then yes, a year is what we need to get back on track. There are still days when I have a little ‘wobble’ and feel anxious and I find myself worrying all of the time about the ‘what if’s’ but whereas before they would be ‘what if I never feel better ever again?’ now they are things like ‘what if she doesn’t drink her bottle in nursery and is hungry?’
I didn’t realise how common anxiety was in new mums, but the more I have read and talked to people about it, the more I realise that I’m not the only one and sometimes even the yummy mummy’s are not as yummy on the inside as they look on the outside.
So there is my story. This is the first time I’ve ever really opened up about it and its still upsetting to re-live it but it feels like something I’ve needed to do for a long time but have been scared to, like opening up an old wound but it does no good to dwell on the past and maybe everything I’ve been through has made me stronger.