When my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby, I came off the pill and went to see my GP for a check –up. I immediately started taking prenatal vitamins and even got my husband to take vitamins with extra zinc to help increase our chances of conceiving.
When we found out I was pregnant after only one month of trying we were over the moon and couldn’t wait to start telling people. I was so happy and excited and just couldn’t stop smiling.
Then at around 6 weeks the morning sickness started. Although I was never sick, I was constantly nauseous and felt exhausted. Despite feeling extremely tired, I couldn’t sleep at night. Instead I would lay awake, thinking and worrying about all sorts of things. My hands were always shaking and I felt like my heart was racing and whenever anyone asked how I and “bubs” were I would burst into tears.
I kept telling myself that this was all normal and it was just pregnancy hormones that would settle down. However, when my husband and I went to see the midwife for my booking in appointment and she asked how I was, I broke down and told them how I had been really feeling.
Despite the pregnancy being very much planned, I no longer wanted the baby. I was worried that I wouldn’t love it and that I would resent it for ruining my life. I felt completely out of control and this scarred me. I was worried that if I did have an abortion that my husband would leave me. I was totally confused and felt that no matter what I did, ultimately I had ruined my life.
I hit rock bottom and decided to see my GP when I was on the internet and found myself researching how to induce a miscarriage. I told her everything and she was very understanding and didn’t dismiss it as being just hormones that would settle down. She advised that she would refer me to a counsellor and signed me off work. Later that evening she called me at home to check on how I was and to assure me that she had sent the referral off. The next morning I was given an appointment to see Jan Cubison from the Perinatal Mental Health team. I was informed that I had antenatal depression. I only went to see Jan once, as after I started to feel a lot better and was getting back to my normal self.
The rest of my pregnancy went very smoothly and like any other mum to be I started to get everything ready for the arrival of my baby, whom once again was very much wanted.
I gave birth to my daughter, Olivia at 38 weeks and my labour lasted 3 hours. After she was born she needed to be given oxygen and I needed to be taken to theatre to have my placenta manually removed. I spent a night on HDU and a further 3 nights on the ward and required a blood transfusion due to the amount of blood I lost in theatre.
I didn’t think anything was wrong when we were in hospital, I was tired and a little nervous, but felt this was perfectly normal. However, when we came home things just didn’t seem right. I felt completely out of my depth and had no confidence at all. I was asking the same questions over and over and constantly seeking reassurance. Whenever Olivia cried my heart would start pounding and my stomach would be in knots and all I wanted to do was run out of the room. I wasn’t eating and despite feeling extremely exhausted, I couldn’t sleep even when Olivia was sleeping. When I was feeding her, I didn’t look at her, instead I was staring at the ceiling. When I did look at her, all I could think was what have I done.
I realised that something was really wrong when she was 2 weeks old and we went to register her birth. I didn’t want to leave the house, the thought of her crying when we were out sent me into a panic. After we had registered her birth I looked at her sleeping in her pram and burst into tears. When my husband asked me what was wrong I told him that when I looked at her I felt nothing and that when she was asleep I wished that she wouldn’t wake. This made me feel like some kind of monster for feeling that way about a baby.
When we got home I called the hospital and was in tears on the phone telling them how I was feeling. The midwife I spoke with was great and arranged for a community midwife to come to my home. She arrived within 20 minutes of me putting the phone down. She advised that she believed I had Post Natal Depression and arranged for me to see my GP an hour later. My GP confirmed that I had the classic symptoms of PND and prescribed anti-depressants and referred me to see Jan again.
The following two weeks were horrendous; things really did get worse before they got better. I was constantly crying and just hated the thought of being in the same room as Olivia. Whilst I didn’t wish her any harm, I just wanted her to disappear, I was convinced that if she was taken away everything would be OK and we could all be happy again. Whenever I was told that the things I was thinking and saying were just a symptom of the illness and that I didn’t really mean them I would get so frustrated. I didn’t believe it was the illness, I was convinced that this is what I really felt and that it would never get better.
After a few weeks things started to get better. I had seen Jan a couple of times and the medication was starting to work. The tears stopped first, although the thoughts and anxiety were still there. I started to feel more confident and relaxed around Olivia and found that I was enjoying holding her. I was smiling at her and it wasn’t forced.
Over time things just started to get easier. I still had the occasional “bad day” but these were getting less and less. I was confident enough to go out with Olivia on my own, which in itself was a massive achievement.
I look at Olivia now and it seems unreal that I used to think and feel what I did. I don’t resent the fact that I had PND; instead I’m proud that I survived it and feel like a stronger person for it.
I don’t think that I will ever be able to thank my family and friends and health professionals enough for all the help and support that they gave me. I do consider myself lucky that I got the help I needed so quickly and hope that sharing my story can raise awareness and help others suffering from this horrendous illness.