Well, having said this wasn’t going to be another “Mummy” blog…I’m in the frame of mind for writing a little post in that direction. I’ve been mulling over whether or not to write something on this subject for months – in the form of a blog post, or a piece for an organisation or something else.
What has stopped me is the potential reaction. People perceive you in certain ways and, whatever their current perception might be, this post is bound to change that – hopefully for the better but, for some, inevitably for the worse.
I mentioned in the About page that after having my daughter I suffered from PND. There are a lot of posts and articles on the subject and a lot of media attention around it too at the moment. Sharing it from my perspective may, I hope, help me in some way but hopefully help other people in similar situations to think “it’s ok…I don’t need to be ashamed of this or hide it away like some dirty secret. It’s not my fault and it does get better”.
My little one was born a day early, via emergency c-section after an initially productive labour which became less so as time went on. She was born on the Wednesday. By Thursday I was a hopeless emotional wreck. I didn’t want to see anyone, I didn’t want anyone near my baby and the tears just wouldn’t stop.
We all put it down to the trauma of the birth, lack of sleep, hormones, baby blues. But weeks later, the tears were still coming. And so was the shame. I continually tried to convince myself it was birth trauma, the health care assistant who’d been mean to me in hospital, the sleep deprivation. I told myself it was anything but PND. I even lied on the Edinburgh Scale (the questionnaire they give you to check if you’re depressed or not) because I couldn’t deal with the thought of being under mental health care, of having to see our lovely, but somewhat vacuous health visitor anymore. I wonder how many other women do that?
In some ways I think I was lucky as I never, ever felt anger or negativity towards my little girl. I feel so much for the Mums who do as part of their PND. My anger and negativity was all focused on me. Minor complications after surgery left me unable to do as much as I wanted for my baby and this just compounded the feelings I had of being utterly useless. So many times I felt I didn’t deserve such a wonderful little baby. I felt that I could do nothing right, that I was the worst mother in the world and that she would be better off without me.
I would lock myself in the bathroom…sometimes for a couple of hours, just to be away. One day my father-in-law came to visit and I couldn’t face having to see someone that wasn’t my husband or baby. So I said I was having a bath and just sat on the bathroom floor sobbing for the whole time he was there.
I wanted to run away from everything because I couldn’t see how I was ever going to be able to be the Mum I thought I should be. I was even angry at my husband. It seems so unfair because he has got me through this and could not have been more supportive or understanding. But all I could think at the time was “this isn’t fair. He knew nothing about babies before ours was born, yet now he’s bloody super Dad and I am the worst mother in the world”.
I thought every other Mum was so much more together than me and looking at me as if they could tell I wasn’t coping, that I was failing, and judging me for it. If Munch cried while I was out I could feel the panic rise in me and my brain telling me “this is because you’re useless. You can’t cope with this”.
Going to meet other Mums was to me like facing a firing squad. Which seems crazy now because my Mummy friends are the loveliest bunch of ladies, awesome Mummies and almost certainly would have been enormously supportive.
Being left on my own when my husband had to work felt like I’d been locked in a dark cell with no way out. It terrified me…not because I was scared of harming Munch, but because I was scared I wasn’t capable. And it made me feel so unbelievably lonely, that my support network was gone and there was no way out of the darkness.
And the anxiety? Wow, that was and at times still is, through the roof. I just couldn’t let go of anything. I would worry about the tiniest detail. Going on a day trip anywhere required a million lists, 3 weeks planning and 5 panic attacks! I still need my lists now but slightly less planning time! I would avoid going anywhere, I would cancel plans, or I’d get my husband to do it for me! He was certainly my strength when I was at my weakest, doing endless things for me that I couldn’t face and never needing to question why.
I couldn’t face the world, I was permanently exhausted and at times the feeling of not coping was so great that I just wanted to walk, and keep walking. There was a permanent grey cloud surrounding my brain that I couldn’t shake away.
It’s been such a long journey to get to a place where I feel almost normal again. This week has been tough as Munch hasn’t been sleeping and work has been stressful. It’s times like this when I can feel myself slipping a bit. But the difference is that now I can feel it happen so I can find ways to counteract it. Like drawing, or blogging!! Just finding time to do something for me…even if it’s just a few minutes. I definitely feel better when I eat well, exercise and go out and get fresh air with Munch, but occasionally what makes me feel better is to curl up on the sofa with a box of chocolates and some rubbish TV and just indulge in it for a minute. And that’s ok too. There are still rough days, but they are fewer now, and shorter and the rough isn’t so rough.
I do feel angry now at times. I feel angry because I feel the PND stole my joy at a time when I should have been on cloud nine. It stole moments from me when I could have been bonding with my little girl more. And I feel angry because it is a massive factor in my decision about any future sibling for Munch. I can’t look past it to make the decision clearly. Right now, I can’t face the thought of having to go through PND again.
But mostly, I think I have such an amazing little girl, a little girl who has a magic smile that has pulled me through the last 2 years and the strength of my love for her has pushed me to fight and recover so that I can be the Mummy she deserves. I don’t want to miss another moment of her, with her.
There’s so much more I could say about this whole thing but I think I’ve gone on long enough! Just hope that sticking my neck out by posting this (if it doesn’t end up just living in my drafts folder!) it might help somebody, somewhere, just a little. If you’re reading this and you are going through something similar, there is light at the end of what may seem like an endless tunnel right now. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Never think “I should be over this by now”. There’s nothing finite, there’s no set time limit. But it will happen and you will feel like you again.
Two organisations I’ve found to be exceptionally supportive: