This is the first part in a series of blog posts I am writing around my experience of Postnatal Depression. I find it incredibly difficult to write about even now, but I know that when I was going through it I would have gained much comfort from reading ‘real’ experiences; to know that I wasn’t alone and to know that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
If I can help just one woman, then the time spent writing these posts will be more than worth the effort. Please don’t struggle alone. Talk to someone if you can, or contact me through my contact page, I’m not a professional, but I’m more than happy to chat.
I have always been the type of person who hates surprises. I like to plan. To know where I’m going, and what to expect when I get there.
Motherhood was the biggest surprise of all.
Recently married, we’d bought our first home and we were ready to start our family. We found out I was expecting not long after our honeymoon and I began to make plans with blissful excitement. My pregnancy was pretty easy, a few niggles here and there, but on the whole I carried on pretty much as normal. Life was just perfect.
And then, quickly but with much drama and panic, he arrived prematurely at 36 weeks.
Labour had been progressing beautifully, until my contractions suddenly stopped whilst he was in the birth canal. He went into distress and after much panic filled chaos, the room was flooded with doctors and the decision was made to perform an assisted delivery. It failed; injuring his head, leaving it in a bloody mess in the process. Meanwhile, the drip I’d been put on to restart my contractions began to work and I managed to safely deliver him. He was placed on me briefly, which I only very vaguely recall, before I began to haemorrhage and consciousness was lost to me. While the team of doctors worked on me, he was found to be struggling to breathe properly and was rushed off to the NICU. I woke alone in the delivery room much later, exhausted and physically broken. I remember crying like I had never cried before.
When I look back, I can actually pinpoint the moment my spiral into PND began.
Entering the NICU ward I was wheeled towards his incubator. The room was darkened and quiet. Naked apart from a nappy, his eyes were covered with a mask, tubes protruded from his nose and his little body was covered with wires. He looked so vulnerable. I knew how I should have felt. Love should have swelled inside me. I should have felt protective over him. I should have felt the magic of our special bond. He should have felt like mine.
Instead I felt absolutely nothing.
What kind of Mother was I? I remember that feeling of emptiness haunting me as I was taken to the post natal ward. Just hours after birth I felt like a failure. My body had failed him and that was why he was born poorly. My body had failed during the birth, leaving him injured. My body had then failed to allow me to greet him into the world properly as it haemorrhaged. And then, as I had stood looking over this fragile, poorly baby, my baby; my body had failed to recognise him. This little boy whom I had spent the last 8 months growing inside of me, who I had stroked lovingly as he kicked from the inside and until just a few hours earlier had been physically connected to me, left me feeling blank.
As the days went by, things didn’t get any brighter. He was being tube fed and so latching wasn’t an option. I tried to express but I was producing barely anything. I remember being hooked up to a hospital grade express machine, sobbing my eyes out because I’d produced only the tiniest amount of colostrum after 45 minutes of pumping, my breasts sore and bleeding. In my mind I chalked this up as yet another failure.
When he was strong enough to be moved from the incubator I tried to breastfeed with the help of a supporter. It went about as badly as it could. He screamed, and screamed and screamed. He would not latch on. He would not feed. In the end a nurse took over and fed him a bottle of formula. Every antenatal class taken, every poster I had seen had told me that breast was best. Breastfeeding was the key to bonding with my child. Somewhere in my mind I had built up the belief that if I could just do this one thing for my son, then I would be ok. I could be a good Mum. But instead my body was failing to produce milk and my baby didn’t want me. All I could see was that I was failing at every turn.
If you are struggling with PND, help is available. Try speaking to a partner, a parent or a friend. Your midwife, Health Visitor or GP will also be able to help you. If you don’t feel comfortable with any of these options, please don’t suffer in silence. Mind (UK based) have provided a list of charities and agencies you can contact for help and more information.
Take care of yourself,