When I found out I was pregnant I was so excited to become a mother! It was something that I had wanted for a while. I had dreamed of a mini me and James (my husband) to care for and nurture. I was so ready to be a Mother. I really enjoyed pregnancy, I was one of the lucky ones. I never suffered from morning sickness, I ate healthily, my face was glowing, and I wasn’t really worried about a thing. I was one of those…total smug face.
All throughout pregnancy, as all pregnant women experience, were anecdotes of birth stories, which were of course horrific, sleepless nights, vomiting etc. All things I could take in my stride I was sure of it. I just couldn’t wait to go on maternity leave! A year off work. A year of being with friends, and coffees and long lunches and relaxing.
“HA!” I hear you all say to yourselves. Of course. All of the above is laughable. Being a parent is the hardest most stressful job you will ever do, and so exhausting. I was told that, but my pregnant self thought I could handle it. How wrong I was.
You see 1 in 7 women suffer from post-natal depression (PND), and I am one of them.
This is my story.
After 40 weeks of relatively blissful pregnancy my due date came and went, until eventually I had to be induced. And you could say from there, everything changed.
Nearly four days after I had been induced our little man came into our life. I hadn’t slept a wink in those four days, and both my husband and I were exhausted. He went home to get some much-needed rest while I slept in the post-natal ward with our beautiful little man sleeping next to me. A few hours later he was taken into intensive care as his breathing was very fast. A few hours after that I was woken up by a Doctor to ask if they could do a lumber tap as they wanted to make sure he didn’t have meningitis! And I think from then on, I was just an emotional wreck!
Luckily, it turned out that there was nothing seriously wrong with Noah our son; he had contracted an unexplained infection, and we were discharged from hospital after a week. Not the worst start, but not the start of our journey as a family of three I had ever anticipated!
We didn’t leave the house for two weeks, not because we wanted to just chill out at home, getting used to being a family of three, but I was too scared to. Noah cried a lot. More than I thought was normal, but by then I was already unsure of what normal was even supposed to be. And wow, did my boy have some lungs on him even when just a few days old (2 years later, he still does!), so I didn’t go out, because I didn’t want people looking at us while our baby screamed his head off. I was also struggling with breastfeeding, so I didn’t want to try that in public either, as it was painful and difficult. So I literally felt like a prisoner in my own home.
We eventually left the house, and I did feel better for it, but I realised quickly that I could control matters much more easily if we stayed house bound.
Then when James went to work it was just the two of us and my God I felt like I couldn’t cope. Noah would cry for hours and hours on end, red in the face, nothing would calm him! I knew he couldn’t help it, that he was probably suffering from colic, but I just couldn’t cope with the constant screaming. I would phone James at his work crying my eyes out, sobbing, saying I couldn’t do this, we had made a huge mistake, what had I done? I didn’t know the first thing about how to look after a baby and I obviously wasn’t a very good Mother as I didn’t even know how to comfort him and stop him crying.
It got to the point that I was so mentally exhausted from the crying that I couldn’t think rationally anymore. There were times when all I could do was scream. I felt angry and helpless and desperate. There were moments when I felt I wanted to just leave Noah in his bouncer and drive off. Not come back. I thought that would be best for everyone.
I knew that I was struggling and while I knew motherhood isn’t easy for anyone, I also knew I wasn’t supposed to feel this way. I realised I was most probably suffering from post-natal depression so I plucked up the courage to go to the Doctor when Noah was around 14 weeks. I’m quite a practical person, and calm when I need to be, and I had worked out the main trigger for my anger. The Doctor agreed that what I was describing sounded like PND but he thought that I had a relatively good grip of things, knew my triggers and so gave me a number to call to talk to someone as he didn’t think drugs would help. He did say that if that didn’t work to come back and we would re-assess treatment. But did I call the number? No. I felt a massive relief telling a stranger how I felt. I felt proud of myself and I thought that from now on I would be able to control how I felt by talking to my husband, my mother and one of my friends. At first talking about how I felt did help, and it made me feel so much better when my friend who I confided in told me that she understood completely. Four months in, Noah’s crying bouts had eased, we had managed to get him into a good sleep routine, and I felt like things were improving. I had my ups and downs, like most parents, but no serious episodes like I had in those first four months.
Fast forward to when Noah was 15 months old and we moved out of London to a new house near the countryside where we had space to grow as a family. It was exactly what we wanted and needed. I should have been super happy, but instead I noticed that I started feeling sad again. Not only sad, but angry.
I don’t know what the trigger was, the new surroundings, not knowing people, Noah going through the terrible twos early and being quite a ‘physical’ child when playing with others? One thing is for sure, I did not react well to his tantrums. Everything felt out of my control, I was completely at a loss.
So I found myself losing my patience with him when he had a tantrum, plus I felt resentment towards him because I didn’t think we could socialise with other mothers and toddlers as he would always be the one that made them cry.
I felt so isolated.
When he didn’t do what I told him, I lost the plot, I would shout and scream at him. Then I would feel guilty for my reaction, because none of this was Noah’s fault. He was just a young toddler who didn’t know any better.
I felt that it was because of me that Noah was a very physical and loud boy. Because I couldn’t control my anger, I had made him like this. I had told myself I was an awful Mother. I convinced myself again that Noah would be better off without me. He would be better off with my just my husband who is a kind, understanding, calm and well-tempered person, exactly how I wanted Noah to be.
I felt so overloaded with emotional pain that I couldn’t think straight anymore. I wasn’t interacting with Noah like I used to, making up fun games, and singing songs, as I was so unbelievably exhausted. I felt like my brain was fried. One day after a disastrous soft play session, where rugby style tackles, pinching and biting ensued I was so upset, I cried all the way home.
I knew then that I needed to go back to the Doctor. Enough was enough. I couldn’t feel like this anymore. When I went for my appointment I completely broke down. After talking to him, we both agreed that it might be best if I took some anti-depressants to help address the problem.
After a while, it felt like I could think clearly again. It was like the medication had lifted a fog in my mind and I could see things with my own, true eyes again. When I woke up in the morning I didn’t dread the day, and didn’t feel completely shattered. Of course, I’m a mum, I’m going to feel tired, but I didn’t feel like my brain was emotionally drained anymore. I realised that in fact I had never really gotten over my PND from my first four months of motherhood, that it was just lying dormant, slowly bubbling away until another highly stressful period of my life came about where it could rear its ugly head again.
I am now much calmer around Noah, his crying doesn’t trigger any anger, his tantrums I react rationally to. I enjoy spending time with him. I love having a child. I feel like myself again. I feel motivated again. I am happier.
When I was at my worst, I worried that I didn’t love my son. But now I can see more clearly, those doubts have gone. I love Noah, and I always have. It just took me longer than I ever thought it would to realise that.
I know that drugs aren’t the final solution to curing this illness, but they have given me the clarity I needed to see the woods for the trees. That I’m not a bad Mother and that it was high levels of stress that caused a chemical imbalance in my brain that made me feel so angry and helpless.
Post-natal depression is something I had NEVER considered during pregnancy. In all the advice or personal anecdotes I was given, PND was never mentioned. Like it was a taboo subject.
But I’m here to tell you that it’s not. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s perfectly normal to feel like this and it’s something we need to talk about more, during pregnancy and after, in order to end the stigma that surrounds it.
The worst thing you can do, I have found, is keep how you feel to yourself. It’s so important to open up, let exactly how you feel come out. It is an old adage, but it’s true: a problem shared is a problem halved. It’s not solved, but it’s a start and from there you can work together to make yourself feel a little more like you.
Even though I am still just at the start of my journey to getting better, I want others who may feel like I have to know that there is hope. You don’t have to and WON’T feel like this forever.
To help others, I’ve launched a necklace for mothers, called LUNA, with £3 from every sale going to PANDAS, a charity that helps parents who are experiencing pre and post-natal depression.
The Luna design represents the two phases of the crescent moon. The waning crescent moon symbolises getting rid of negative energy in your life and the waxing crescent moon symbolises growth, wishes, hopes, intentions.
I want Luna to help:
- raise awareness of PND and get more people talking about it so that the stigma surrounding it can finally end, as that ‘stigma’ is half the battle
- people who are suffering from PND feel like they are not alone
- people who are suffering from PND feel like they have someone they can talk to
- I want Luna to be a symbol of light and hope at the end of a very dark tunnel and a sign of positivity for anyone wearing it
- I want Luna to be a symbol of support, solidarity and of no judgement
I’ve shared my story in case someone also identifies with what I’ve said and just needed to know that they are not alone. Or need someone to talk to. Or needed to read something like this to encourage them to get the help they need. I am on this journey with you, and I hope I can help you feel like there is light and happiness there for you in the future.
If you’d like to purchase a LUNA necklace, and support PANDAS you can buy one here: https://www.boochew.com/products/luna-br-marble-grey
If you need someone anonymous to talk to, then please do call PANDAS. Their helpline is available from 9am-8pm every day – 0843 28 98 401.