When I was pregnant with my first baby, I cannot tell you how excited and overjoyed I was to go from believing that I could never have children, to carrying a little miracle in my tummy. What’s more I was having a child with my best friend and the love of my life. I had the smoothest pregnancy ever to begin with. A little bumpy towards the end with Pre-eclampsia; but overall it was a wonderful experience.
Then there was the birth. When it’s your first time and you have no idea what to expect, you sort of just go with the flow and I didn’t have any pre-installed fears. I had heard 3 million different birth stories during my pregnancy and I had come to the conclusion that my experience would also be unique. It was a shock to me though that after 20 hours of labour, I wasn’t progressing and my baby was showing signs of distress.
I went from bouncing on a birthing ball and shoving chocolate down my throat (while off my head on gas and air); to being rushed into theatre and having my stomach cut open in what felt like 30 seconds. There was so much I wanted to say, but no words would come out. I wanted to tell my partner that I loved him, I wanted to say that I was scared and wanted to say that I was bloody freezing but I didn’t need to because I was shivering uncontrollably anyway. I was in shock. I felt an almighty tug, I got a 2 second glimpse of my daughter and then…. nothing. I don’t remember much about the rest of that night.
So all the hearts, flowers, fairy dust and rainbows that people talk about; were not there. Not to say that I didn’t love my little girl. I had loved her since I peed on that stick. But I didn’t experience the ‘magic’.
During the first couple of weeks at home, I cried A LOT. I don’t know what I was crying about, but I was told not to worry “It’s baby blues”. So I wasn’t worried.
After a couple of months, I started to realise it was probably more than that. I cried, I got mad at myself for not being happy during what was ‘supposed’ to be the happiest time of my life. I kept a lot of my feelings to myself and when I did open up I would immediately hate myself for casting my negativity onto someone else.
I was asked so many times by the health visitor, doctor and midwife “How are you feeling? Have you been feeling down at all?” I could only bring my self to say “No, I’m fine.”
I think I was scared of being judged. What if I start pouring my heart out and they think I’m a head case?
The truth was I didn’t feel like a person anymore. I felt invisible, useless and pretty damn lonely; even when my house was packed with people. It was all ‘baby this and baby that’. My daughter would cry relentlessly in the evenings and there was nothing I could do to comfort her. I know now that it was probably colic, but at the time I just thought it was because I was a useless mum. I would give her to her dad, go and sit on my bed and just cry. Thinking that they didn’t NEED me. I was just a sagging sack of tears slumped on the edge of a bed and it would probably be better for everyone if I just disappeared altogether.
It was these thoughts that sparked the realisation that I was in fact suffering from postnatal depression. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want it. But I knew I couldn’t ignore it. When I finally opened up to my partner about how I was really feeling, it such a f*cking relief. I didn’t have to hide it anymore. I could feel however I was feeling and be understood. We talked and came up with a plan.
My problem was that I was desperately waiting for life to get back to ‘normal’. Only after talking about it, I realised that wasn’t going to happen. I had to accept a new ‘normal’ and create new ways of being myself but as a mother. I’ve always loved dance as a hobby and found Latino Bambino. This dance class is the thing that got me out of my depression. I could do something I enjoyed, with my baby and people who I actually had something in common with. I felt like I was getting some of myself back.
It was only once I was feeling back to normal-ish (after about 6 months), that I felt able to share with my friends what I had been going through. My friends are closer to me than some of my family, they mean the world to me. And so I need to say this:
“F*ck you postnatal depression!
How dare you creep up on me and my family and try to isolate me from everyone I love?!
You tried to make me feel like I was NOTHING and it worked for a little while.
You even faked your way in! Disguised as a normal part of my transition into motherhood.
You had the audacity to stop me from telling my friends, my sisters!
You are a nasty BULLY and a coward.
I see you now. I’ve clocked your movements and you are not welcome here anymore.
Fool me once, shame on me. You won’t fool me twice.”
I know that postnatal depression affects different people in different ways and to varied extents. But the one piece of advise that I will give to anyone who is feeling low or worried that what they are experiencing is more than ‘baby blues’ is:
TELL SOMEONE. ANYONE.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be your health visitor or GP (although this might be a good idea in some cases). It just needs to be the person you feel comfortable telling to begin with. A problem shared really is a problem halved and hopefully you’ll soon be on your way to beating the bully.
5 months after giving birth to my second baby, thankfully postnatal depression HAS NOT returned. But I am thinking about joining back up to that dance class… got a few things that need tightening.
Excited to be linked up with…