A welcomed pledge was made today by David Cameron, promising huge investments in tackling postnatal depression for new and expectant mums. It is a topic close to my heart which unfortunately, I know all too much about having suffered from it myself in January 2015 on becoming a new mum.
I was super excited to be pregnant last year and couldn’t wait to become a mum. I had a bleed at 30-weeks but the pregnancy was otherwise without issue. Everything was ready for our baby’s big arrival and I had begun my maternity leave at week 39.
Our due date came and went and not at any point was I anxious about the birth. For days, I kept myself super busy at home to bring on my labour as I just couldn’t wait to hold our baby and to learn whether it was a boy or girl. I literally tried everything.
On the 8th day at approx. 11:20am, I was sat reading my book and felt a stronger than usual Braxton Hick. 20-minutes afterwards, there was another and then the penny dropped, this was it! I spent a few hours at home before heading to the hospital, I was doing fine and managing the contractions okay. After a short while at hospital, the birth got a lot tougher and to cut things short ended in an emergency forceps delivery some 20-hours after my first contraction. You can read about my birth story here.
I was so thankful that Jack had arrived safely and had completely forgotten about the pain and panic, just like I had been told I would, a million times. That night in hospital was really tough, I was completely exhausted and Jack wanted feeding constantly. I had wanted to breastfeed all along and so there was no-way I was giving him a bottle of formula. I spent all night pretty much with Jack in my arms, feeding him.
The next morning when Trevor got back to the hospital, I wanted to cry. I was so relieved that he could take over whilst I got some sleep.
We were soon on our way home and I couldn’t wait to show off the new addition to my mum and dad who had rushed to us that morning from London. It was picture perfect, all smiles and a beautiful healthy baby.
Jack was latched to me all day and I was taking lots of pain relief, looking back I’d say that the recovery of child birth was probably just as tough as the labour itself.
Anyway, mum and dad stayed a couple of days to help out but they couldn’t stay forever. From that moment, apart from having Trevor and Jack, I began to feel alone and isolated. My close family and friends base remained back in London and yes, I did have some friends based in Newbury who were great but I couldn’t help feel the way that I did. I was feeling down.
Trevor was incredible, he was my rock from the moment Jack was born and I have no idea what may have happened if he wasn’t around. He managed to keep me sane despite the permanent tears and doubt that I had but his Paternity Leave soon came to an end.
Why was I so sad? Why was I not attaching to my baby? Why was everything not as ‘rosy’ as I had imagined?
Things got progressively worse and I tried to hide my feelings from those closest. I didn’t want people to think that I was failing Jack or that I was a rubbish mum.
I did speak with my Midwife who was still checking on me and she was brilliant. After a couple of weeks, I met my Health Visitor who was also really nice and one day when she came to my home, I broke down, sobbing like a baby. I could barely get out the words but she quickly recommended that I get help from a local scheme called Home Start.
The following Tuesday, I attended a weekly group session with Home Start and everyone was great. I could meet and speak with strangers who were in the same situation as me. For those two hours, I was able to chat away without a care in the world. I even enjoyed a hot cup of tea for the first time in weeks. I wasn’t alone after all.
The following week, I thought of every excuse possible in order not to go to the next Home Start session and ignored the calls from them, checking on whether I was okay. I felt so guilty but just couldn’t face leaving the house or speaking with anybody. The thought of it made me feel physically sick. They tried calling for weeks and I just kept ignoring their calls and even told Trevor that I had attended a couple of the sessions trying not to cause concern.
I had started lying to my family and friends to hide just how bad I was but most scarily, I was lying to myself. Pretending that I was okay and that things would get better.
I was so desperate for visitors and to see friends but couldn’t face anyone. I didn’t want to be stuck indoors all the time but couldn’t be bothered to get ready to leave the house. The more Jack cried for his milk, the more I felt useless. The more Trevor promised me that I was doing a great job, I felt worthless. I knew that I was in trouble but felt like I had nowhere to turn, I had even contemplated ‘ending it all’ as I felt that Trevor and Jack would be better off without me.
One morning, about 6-weeks after Jack was born, I couldn’t face getting out of bed. I called my Doctor Surgery and was so emotional that the Receptionist couldn’t understand me. I was shaking like a leaf. I somehow managed to arrange a call back from my Doctor, by which time I had calmed myself down and they told me to head straight to the surgery.
The Doctor discussed with me in great detail the way I was feeling and prescribed me with some antidepressant medication. “Thank god”, I thought. From the moment that I left the surgery, it felt like a lead weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt like I could breathe again. Sounds so dramatic but I felt like I was going to beat the feeling once and for all.
That evening, I took my first tablet with dinner and it wasn’t long before I felt rough. Trevor had to help me to the loo as I felt really dizzy and needed to vomit. I felt drunk. How was I suppose to look after Jack on my own during the day feeling so out-of-control? I finally let it all out and confided in Trevor, he knew I was bad but I don’t think he had realised just how bad.
We decided from that moment that we would fight this together without the tablets. Every day felt easier and we made an effort everyday to leave the house if only to walk around the block. Trevor had been coming home every day for lunch anyway but I began to start taking Jack to see him for lunch instead. Things improved gradually until eventually I was leaving the house without a worry and arranging to see friends because I wanted to.
I was in a very bad place not so long ago and thankfully, I was one of the lucky ones. My family are incredible and somehow I found the strength to fight and beat my struggles with Trevor behind me every step of the way. I have no idea why things went so wrong in the early days, I was so excited in the build up to Jack being born and cannot put a finger on anything going particulary wrong to cause the PND. It hit me from out of nowhere and escalated quickly.
Whilst I certainly do not condone it, I can see so clearly now why we hear of mums going missing with their children or threatening/committing harm to themselves or their family. PND leaves you feeling helpless, isolated and desperate or perhaps even like you’re going mad. Any efforts made to support new mums (and dads) can only help in the prevention and treatment of postnatal depression.
SUPPORT AND GETTING HELP WITH POSTNATAL DEPRESSION
- Speak with your GP, Midwife or Health Visitor as soon as possible.
- MIND – Mental Health Charity
- Royal College of Psychiatrists – See the useful support contacts at the bottom of this webpage link.