Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Post Natal Depression: My Story

I suffered with Post Natal Depression (PND) after the birth of my first child back in 2006.

I had no previous history of depression and I had a very easy and happy pregnancy.  We knew we were having a little boy (Mr D said there was 'No doubt about that!" after we saw him for the second time during my 20 week scan), and we were both so excited about welcoming this new little dude into our family.  I read every book that was available during those 9 months and followed every tiny, daily detail of his development and I just couldn't wait to meet him.  I thought I had every angle covered and it didn't for a minute occur to me that I might get PND.  I knew almost nothing about it and I even naively judged people for having it.  "How can you not love your baby when you first meet it????"  I thought, appalled!  "What kind of a mother would do that???"..... and of course the classic "It'll never happen to me!" were among some of the things I thought on the topic.  Well guess what...........IT DID!!

I went into spontaneous labour just shy of 36 weeks which took us all by surprise (you can read about that here).  Once the contractions started to fully take hold of my body I remember going into a complete state of shock.  Nothing like the cool, calm and collected self that I thought I would be during labour.  It all went on for hours and when he was eventually born I was so exhausted that I literally passed out!  Master J's arrival was very stressful as he didn't breath straight away and an army of medics had to come rushing in to assist.  I don't remember any of this - only what Mr D has told me.

I first met my little boy about a couple of hours after he was born when Mr D woke me up to give him his first feed.  I remember being very groggy and not quite 'with it' and neither of us had a single clue of what to do.  I was trying to give him my boob, but he couldn't latch.  I couldn't seem to help him and we both ended up in tears.  So back to Mr D he went, where he instantly settled (apart from being hungry).  And so it began.........  (I wish I knew then what I know now).

I have to be totally honest and say that there are large parts of Master J's first 6 months that I barely remember, but I do know that we didn't have the best of starts and things slowly and steadily spiraled out of control.  The only thing I was any good at was keeping up appearances with the outside world.  

It didn't occur to me for weeks or even months that I had had PND.  All I thought was that I was the most useless mother in the world and I was too ashamed to admit it.  What would people think of me?????  "How could she not love her baby??"  I used to read blog forums over and over again where all these mothers described their overwhelming love for their babies the minute they were born.  A connection or bond that they shared instantaneously, which was so amazing wonderful it was hard to put into words.  Why didn't I feel that??  I tried - god I tried, and it just wasn't there!! I didn't even seem to be able to produce enough milk to feed him never mind anything else.  Did that make me a monster??  I certainly felt like it.  I asked Mr D if he felt an instant bond with Master J when he first saw him, and he said, "Yes!!" without a moments hesitation.  I could see it in his eyes every time he held him and it tore at my heart.  He had it and I didn't - and I carried him for 9 months.  What was wrong with me??

I still couldn't admit that I had these feelings, so I stared to blame the baby.  I convinced myself that he didn't love me.  That was why he screamed whenever I went near him.  He just didn't like me.  He loved Mr D, that was obvious, as his little face lit up every time he entered the room and that screaming - the uncontrollable screaming, would just stop as soon as Mr D picked him up. Just like that.  It stared to become a vicious cycle, the more I backed away, the more Mr D embraced fatherhood and the more useless, hopeless and angry I felt.  These feeling were building up like a thick black cloud inside my mind, pushing out any available oxygen so that eventually it felt like my sanity was slowly slipping away.  Yet still, I put a smile on my face and embraced the outside world just like any other new mother would (or so I thought).


During some of my darkest days I would feel like I was at the bottom of the a well and that I was just too deep to climb out.  I was so convinced that Master J didn't love me that I used to plan how I would leave him and just disappear one day to a completely new place and start again under a new name.  I knew he would be ok because Mr D loved him and they had each other.  I had it planned down to the final dotted 'i' and crossed 't'.  I would leave and not tell a living soul where I had gone.  SO convinced was I that this was my only solution that I was perfectly prepared to leave my mum, dad, brother, sister and friends behind too.  NO ONE could find me and that was the ONLY way that that I was ever going to make my way back to the surface.  I had so completely lost myself that I truly believed this plan made perfect sense.

I think that one of the biggest casualty in all of this was Mr D.  He had to lie in bed most nights listening to me literally sob my heart out and I would not let him in - even for a second!! Fortunately Master J doesn't remember anything as he was such a little thing, and we really have the most wonderful and loving relationship now.  I believe now that he will never be affected (although knowing this doesn't always stop the guilt).  Mr D realised long before I did that I was suffering from PND and tried so hard to show me all of his research, but I just refused to even listen.  He eventually went to my parents for help which was the best thing he ever could have done, but at the time I felt like he had totally betrayed me.  The only thing that I was capable of doing was gripping on to my secret and he just went and gave it all away without my permission. To me, at the time, it was the ultimate betrayal and I was so angry with him.

I don't remember what made me eventually google 'Post Natal Depression' - maybe it was Mr D, but I remember so vividly reading the first page that came up and being genuinely stunned that what I was feeling actually had a name!  That it was real!  That other people suffered too!  That there was a distinct possibly that I wasn't crazy!  Like I said, I really don't know what made me open my eyes (and ears) to sense, but it couldn't have come soon enough.  I think I was seriously dancing on the edge of a complete breakdown.

It wasn't over yet though, but at least there was a glimmer of hope!  I stumbled across a website (I wish I could remember what it was) but there was a lady who had a similar story to me and was offering help to take the next step.  I emailed her that night and laid bare my most rawest emotions.  It felt easier to talk to someone who I couldn't physically see, and who didn't know me previously.  She responded within minutes and literally saved my life.  I know that may sound dramatic but I honestly don't think I could have hit a lower point.  She emailed me a letter which explained briefly how I was feeling and that I had PND, and she encouraged me to print it and take it with me to my GP.  That way I wouldn't have to talk.

I made and appointment and clutched that piece of paper so tightly between my sweaty hands. My heart was racing and my legs felt like they might give way beneath me.  I walked into his office and the minute he said "How can I help you?" I broke .... and just sobbed like a baby. Completely unable to even utter a word I handed him my letter.  He read it, looked at me and said "I'm going to help you and you will get better."  He was right.

It took several adjustments to my medication and several months before I started to feel like me again.  With each day I got better I could feel my mind, and my sanity slowly returning and could could at last see the situation for what it was.  I also started to realise that Mr D wasn't the enemy. My confidence grew and grew and so did my love for my little boy.  I may not have been aware of it at the start of our journey as mother and son, but I believe that it was always there.  It just took me a little while to see it.

I came off my medication by myself after 12 months and have not looked back.  I now have three beautiful children and fortunately for me I have never suffered from PND again.  I had a brief spell of Post Natal Anxiety after my third baby but we recognised the signs immediately and it fortunately never developed into anything.  My approach to my second and third births were very different to the first and both Mr D and I were ready to tackle whatever came head on.

I now know that PND does not effect every person, nor does it effect every pregnancy and birth, but it does affect a LOT more women than you realise and it is something that is completely out of your control.  The best advice I can offer is to seek help!  Do not suffer alone.

My story has a very happy ending which I will be eternally grateful for, but I would love to offer my 'ear' to anyone out there who would like to talk.  The first step is always the hardest.

I can't end without thanking Mr D and my family for their never failing support.  I love you all. 
xxx

26 comments:

  1. I'm in tears reading this because so much of your story is so much like mine. I have a history of Mental Health issues and so I was prepared..so I thought. Nothing could even begin to prepare me for what I felt in those first few months. The feeling of utter uselessness because I felt I was going through the motions and didn't feel that same connection that everyone else around me did. Thank you for you writing and sharing your story.

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    1. Thanks for reading my story Tegan. I really do wish that there wasn't such a stigma attached to PND (well all mental healthy actually). I hope you know that you are absolutely NOT useless and that how you felt was caused by an illness out of your control. I hope you're feeling better now too. Big hugs xxxxx

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  2. Mrs D what an incredible post! Your story in its raw honesty is very powerful. It takes courage and clarity to write these words. I hope that one day they may offer solace to someone else in need. Big hugs x josefa from #teamIBOT

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    1. Thanks Josefa - that's amazing coming from you, who's writing I admire so much xx

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  3. Hi Mrs D, just wanted to say that this is a fantastic post. It's so important for women to start talking and to talk openly about PND. Sharing your story like this is so helpful to others who are currently experiencing the same thing; it's vital to hear that you should ask for help and that it is possible to overcome depression. Thank you :)

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    1. Thanks so much for reading Liz. It can be such a scary thing to talk about these feeling at the time that I really do hope I help someone open up! Suffering alone is the worst thing and we really shouldn't have to xxxx

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  4. Oh Robyn so hard to read you in so much pain back then. We are always told what we should be feeling, it must have been so hard, sad and heartbreaking for Mr D. After No.3 arrived I have to say I felt a lot like this, actually only since he turned 1 or 1.5 years did I actually start to feel human again. Thanks for sharing your story xxx Em

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    1. It's really tough isn't it? Especially as you don't know when (or if) it's strike. I'm so glad that you're feeling your old self again Em, the world wouldn't be as funny if you weren't smiling xx

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  5. I was moved to tears by your account if PND, particularly when the lady sent you the letter to give to your Dr so that you wouldn't need to speak. I am so very glad that you were able to find a way out of such a dark place. Thank you for sharing your account of it.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading it. I've actually been quite overwhelmed by the response it's had xxx

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  6. Oh Robyn, you're so brave to share this. I had a bout of PND after the Big Sister was born and I couldn't see a way out either. I felt such shame for the way I was feeling. It will take lots of brave women like you who share their stories to finally remove the stigma from PND. Maybe then, women with PND will feel safer about revealing their suffering. Big love. xx

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    1. Thanks Amanda and I'm so pleased that your found a way out of yours too. I just don't feel that there is enough education given to mums about it prior to having a baby. I feel the most important thing to get across is that you cannot control whether or not you get it, so you can't blame yourself. Easier said than done of course but I would love to get the message across as I bet there are hundreds of women out there who have been through it or are going through it too. Big love back xx

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  7. Thank you so much for sharing, you are so brave. Did you have any other feeligns other than wanting to run away? For me, I was terrified that I would go crazy and harm my baby or somehow lose control and do something terrible to her... I never ever 'wanted' to but I had all these intrusive thoughts that would plague me every night, in my mind I was a criminal and should be locked away. Did you ever have a counsellor or was it purely the medication? I am so glad you feel better now and are clearly loving being a mummy xxx

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    1. I distinctly remember once driving onto the drive at home and thinking about not stopping the car but driving straight into the house! I also felt like a criminal too - so I can totally relate to that. I didn't really start to get a grip on reality until the medication kicked in and it was only then that I realised that the thoughts plaguing my mind were just the chemical imbalance in my brain and not really me. I did try to see a counsellor but it wasn't for me and the medication really did work. People wouldn't think twice about getting an antibiotic for mastitis and I PND is no different. I hope you are feeling ok and please feel free to email me directly if you're like to. Robyn xxx

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  9. Oh Robyn, My heart breaks that you suffered such pain and I'm so glad that you found your way out of the dark. Look at you now! You are an amazing loving mum and an utterly awesome and courageous person for sharing this. Big love x

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    1. Thank you beautiful Aleney. I feel so lucky to have made such lovely friends through writing this blog and you are definitely one of them xx

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  10. That a wonderful post Robyn, showing how terrible the suffering with PND but also how full recovery can be. Well done you for posting.

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    1. Thank you so much Seana - and thanks so much for sharing it too. Lots of love xxx

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  11. Robyn, thank you for sharing so openly and honestly about your experiences and journey forward. I believe strongly that the more women who can share honetsly like this the easier it becomes for our community to love and support each other and reach out for help when things are not OK.
    I too am the mother of 3 and suffered depression after baby #2.
    Linda x

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    1. Thanks SO much for reading Linda and I totally agree with you. There needs to be so much more support and love and understanding for PND in our community and there are so many of us that suffer and often for far longer than we need to xxxxx

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  12. I am bawling my eyes out right now, bringing back memories I still cannot get rid of, let alone talk about. I had PND after a miscarriage, so much so that I was planning to kill myself....seriously. There is it, blam...Can't believe I have just admitted that. Thanx for your courage. :)

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  13. it is encouraging, post partum depression is obvious in women even i have read that men feel it too. life of parents change suddenly when baby comes, mother can take proper sleep, does not eat properly because of child as the whole intention goes to the baby only.

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  14. Oh Robyn I was living this struggle as I was reading your words. Jeez it really sucks this PND thing !! When you are in the middle you have no idea it is only when you see the light you realise how dark it was. Thanks for allowing me to read this. x

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Thanks so much for your comment. I LOVE hearing from you all and will do my best to reply xxx