I now know why no one can describe to you what having a baby is like. There is both the physical aspect of giving birth and also the emotional and mental rollercoaster that varies so much from person to person that you can’t fully describe it to someone else. My nature meant I tried to prepare as much as possible for when our baby arrived but I certainly hadn’t prepared for the fact I would suffer from post natal depression.
The birth of my daughter was long and looking back it was traumatic but at the time you keep going, you obviously have to, and when it’s your first you don’t know what to expect. Various complications resulted in me spending a week in hospital following the birth. In that week I was operating in survival mode and it wasn’t until I was home and a few weeks had passed that I realised things weren’t right. I didn’t have any of the feelings I had anticipated I would have. I wasn’t in love with my child, I certainly wasn’t floating on cloud nine in this bubble of warmth, love, and emotion that I thought I was supposed to have. “Isn’t it magical when the midwife first put’s them in your arms?”….”nothing compares to that rush of love”. These words kept whirling through my head, but I didn’t feel any of this. I couldn’t remember the moment my daughter was put in my arms. I still try to remember it now, try to picture what she looked like, but I can’t, all I remember is the shock, the blood and (I can laugh about it now) the big black poo she did on my arm! I do feel sad that I don’t have that moment in my head for the right reasons but now I accept the situation for what it was and I wish I’d known before the birth that not everyone experiences these wonderfully emotional births that we are often lead to believe.
The first five or six weeks passed by and I felt vacant, lost, I didn’t feel anything towards my daughter, I tried to, but I felt empty. I fed her, changed her, rocked her, bathed her, but it felt like I was taking care of her for someone else. I wanted to just run away. Some mornings I wanted to wake and her just not be there. I wanted to go for a run, go for a swim, clear my head, but I couldn’t. My mind didn’t stop with thoughts and feeling anxious. Trying to predict what she would do/need next, why sometimes I couldn’t settle her and others could? Why didn’t I feel what I thought I should be feeling? Why couldn’t I control the situation like I controlled everything else in my life? Then there was the constant feeling of guilt for not feeling the love and bond for her that I thought I should and desperately searching for it. The feelings were worst at night as i was feeding her in the quiet and dark. My thoughts were spinning thinking of people going through this who weren’t as lucky as me without a comfortable home or enough food, water, warmth, clothes for the baby, supportive family etc. etc. These irrational worries just got worse and worse. Worrying about things totally out of my control.
I then started to relive the birth, over and over, piecing together bits I had forgotten, feeling guilty, feeling sick remembering parts of it and so the cycle continued and everything felt like it was closing in and I was sinking fast.
I saw my health visitor she said that she thought I had postnatal depression and to see the GP. I did, and I felt instant relief for having shared my feelings with both my family and GP. I convinced myself (and I think the GP) that I was fine and carried on assuming that I had turned a corner and all would be well. It wasn’t.
I wasn’t doing better and was still in the same cycle, in fact getting worse. I got to the stage where I honestly felt that my partner and my daughter would be better off if I wasn’t around. I was constantly crying without being able to explain why. I hated the person I was, the fact I couldn’t show my boyfriend any affection or care, I was consumed with my own feelings and caring for the baby and just getting through each hour, feeling there was absolutely no way out and no future. This was the turning point for me to contact Light and seek some support.
I had a one to one session at Knowle House as I was nervous about going to a support group. I knew if I went I’d be crying constantly. The one to one session gave me the building blocks I needed to start to get proper help. It gave me explanations for why I was feeling the way I was, reassurance that it was ok to feel this way, the fact my birth had been tough and it was understandable that it had affected me the way it had. Most importantly help was there and I should take it, there was no need to continue the way I was.
I went back to my GP and was prescribed anti depressants. I’m so glad that I did. They gave me the help I needed to break the cycle and start to deal with things proactively without the intense anxiety and worry.
I still have days that I find extremely hard, those thoughts rush back and that feeling of vacancy and wanting to run returns. The difference now is that I know how to deal with it, how to turn it around. These feelings now last hours not weeks and are becoming increasingly further apart. The Light support group which I’ve attended nearly every week since that first meeting have played such a huge role in helping me to overcome this, to be able to talk to other mums with similar feelings and stories and know you are not alone has been a breath of fresh air.
I remember when I was in the thick of it people saying to me ‘it will pass’, ‘you will feel better’, but I didn’t believe them and time felt like time was standing still. They were right though, I do feel better and I now have a bond with my daughter which is growing everyday as we get to know each other and her personality shines.
I regularly go to various baby groups and not once have I ever heard anyone talking about post-natal depression or feelings of anxiety. I thought no one else must be feeling like I did. It isn’t true though and the Light support groups provide a supportive non-judgemental environment where you can just talk to other people in the same situation as yourself. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to mental health, especially perinatal mental health, which needs to be broken. If you are feeling any of the feelings I have described I would urge you to ask for the help you deserve.
*Name has been changed