1 in every 10 women suffer from postnatal depression (PND) within the first year of giving birth to their baby……and I was one. I don’t really remember how it all started, and looking back I’m certain I was suffering from pre-natal depression too, all I know is that I was in a very dark place, for a very long time but I can now say I’ve overcome. I’m not going to say that every day is a good day, or that I’m suddenly ‘recovered’ from it, but I can manage my bad days better.
Having a baby wasn’t the cause of postnatal depression, however, it certainly triggered it. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that having a baby will change your life, but this happened after I had my second child. I ask myself daily why? why me? Why not after my first? I was certainly in a better position then, than I was when I had my little boy. My biggest factor was having no support of my own; I had moved just under 50 miles away from my family to move in with my now partner when I was around six months pregnant with my second. It was our first baby together but we had both been through this experience before, considering he had a daughter from a previous relationship and I had a son from my previous.
I felt like I didn’t have anyone to offload on.
The people that surrounded me were my partners family or his friends. The only person I had from my home-town was my nearly 3-year-old little boy. Life was lonely. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to offload on, I didn’t exactly want to cry and rant down the phone to my parents, I didn’t want them to think our relationship was bad, when in fact I was just finding it hard. I also felt like I couldn’t offload to his friends and family because, well, they were his. I thought they would obviously have his back, and wouldn’t understand. Things aren’t like that now though, in fact, many of his friends are just as much my friends and his family are just as much mine too.
Another BIG factor for me was that we were living in a house that he shared with his ex. This is something that still beats me up now, I wanted to be able to take our baby back to our home when deep down I just felt like I was taking her back to theirs. I walk past or drive past that house every day and I still hate it as much now as I did then. To me, it’s just a pile of bricks, the house that we live in now is what I call home.
I don’t recall those early days very well, they are masked with dark thoughts and lack of sleep, topped with hormones, it was a recipe for disaster. I have no recollection of her first smile, or any little milestones she achieved early on. The only thing I really remember is constantly crying, I cried over literally EVERYTHING, yes this is normal for someone who’s just had a baby (you know, hormones!) but honestly I sobbed my heart out over the slightest thing until I fell asleep, this is also something I just wanted to do, I didn’t want to get up, I didn’t want to face the day or the night, somehow I still managed it, I still managed to pull off the covers and get up. I actually think one of the signs for my health visitor is, whenever she came round, I was in my pyjamas; this is actually totally normal for me, I’m mostly in my comfy’s or pyjamas.
I became overprotective, I didn’t want people touching her, I didn’t even want anyone feeding her apart from me or my partner, but people like doing these things, they think they’re helping out, but to me they were robbing me of my bonding time with my daughter who I felt like I was struggling to bond with. It’s like if they helped me out it made me less of a mother but in reality, it’s not, it’s hard work giving birth, having a newborn and a nearly 3-year-old. They just wanted me to have a break, time to have a shower and refocus (I made sure I took full advantage of this with my third).
I sat down with my partner and health visitor and said I needed help.
I’d say my daughter was about two maybe three weeks old when I sat down with my partner and health visitor and said I needed help, I had been having some dark thoughts about ending my life. She quickly helped me get an appointment with my GP and started seeing me once a week, just to check in, just to make sure I had someone to offload on, that would see things neutrally and just to be there! My GP was also as amazing, he would review me weekly or bi-weekly depending on how bad a week I was having, he also made sure that my appointments were with him only, so I didn’t have to repeat anything. That was one of the most tiring things for me. Repeating myself over and over, I wanted to move forward, not repeat history. About another 3 maybe 4 weeks after this, I tried to end my life. I felt sick, dizzy, sleepy and I spent a day in the hospital. I want to make a point of saying that I never once thought about hurting my children, no matter how low I felt through this. My kids still meant the world to me and still do.
Over time, with help, it started to get easier getting through the day.
I don’t really know when or how I started to feel better, but over time, with help, it started to get easier getting through the day. I started to enjoy little things that I never enjoyed before, I started work and found myself again. However, I was scared of ‘falling pregnant again’ I never wanted to suffer like I did after my second, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, it’s painful, even now to admit that I suffered from postnatal depression. Obviously, I went on to have my third child, accidentally (I was taking the pill) and I didn’t suffer from PND after (thank god!) but my pregnancy was filled with so much worry. I felt like I constantly had a rain cloud over me, I was just glad it chose to go and brought out the sunshine. I must say I’m thankful to my midwife for this. From my first antenatal appointment, she was supportive, she referred me to all the right people and because of my mental history, I had extra checkups, mainly because I was 25% more likely to be affected by PND again!
For anyone who thinks they are suffering, you could consider the below:
- Tell someone– anyone! Your partner, your mum, your health visitor your GP, just someone! Admitting it is THE hardest step, I’m not going to say it will get easier from then on, you still have a long road ahead, but the first hurdle is done.
- Take time for yourself– take a bath, take a nap, read a book, go for a walk, anything you enjoy, do it and refocus.
- Accept the help- take whatever help you can get hold of, whether it’s nan taking them out for a walk to the shop, or auntie changing their bum. Also, take help with the housework, no one likes doing housework (well at least I don’t) so if they offer, let them. No one is super mum and it’s OK not to be.
- Eat and drink regularly- when we become parents, it’s easy to think about them and not yourself, so it’s important to make sure you’re having plenty of fluids and eating correctly. Giving your body the nutrients it needs will have a positive effect on your mind.
- If you are on medication, keep taking it– do this until your GP says it’s OK to wean off. It’s so easy to think ‘I feel good I don’t need these’ when you can do more harm than good by just stopping them. Follow what they say and it will have a positive outcome.
Well, I wish I’d considered the above. All that matters now is I’ve got through this difficult time and it made me a better person too.