This is the second part in a series of blog posts (you can read part one here) 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.
In hindsight I wish I had stayed in hospital for longer, but once one of the nurses in NICU mentioned to me that my son might be able to move onto the ward with me for short periods when he was stronger, I asked to be discharged at the first opportunity.
The idea of being left alone with him left me feeling panicked, like I couldn’t breathe. I told everyone that I needed to be in my own home to recover, that it didn’t matter as we literally lived across the road from the hospital, but really I was scared of my own baby, scared of how I wasn’t feeling about him. I really thought that I was a monster.
He stayed in NICU for just over a week, and when he came home from hospital things got progressively worse. Initially my husband was home, then my Mum and mother in law came down to stay with us, when I had support I was just about coping. It pushed the negative thoughts away. But then, my husband was back at work, my family went home.
I was all alone.
My husband, as wonderful as he was, worked long hours. Monday to Friday he was out the door by 7.30am and at best he would be home by 7pm, but it was often much, much later. He would come home and I would more often than not be in floods of tears. Although he wasn’t home much during the week, he did everything he could to support me. I told him how much I dared about how I was feeling and it was somewhat of a release. Without him, I daren’t even think about what could have been.
My family meanwhile lived a 6 hour round trip away. We visited for weekends, but I always pretended everything was ok. I’d steel myself for the two day visit, plaster on a smile and keep up appearances, ignore the pain and my broken heart. My sister had my nephew a couple of days after I had my son. She was a natural mother, kind and nurturing. I couldn’t help but be envious of the obvious bond she had with her son. Why couldn’t that be me? What was wrong with me?
I was convinced he hated me.
In the early days he slept a lot, but when he was awake he was grumpy and he cried a lot. I couldn’t bear the sound of his cry. Babies cry, I know that, but for me that cry shouted out to the world everything that I was doing wrong. I discovered early on that he liked to sleep in the pram, and so I would spend hours walking around with him in the pram, in the cold, the rain and the dark, willing him to stay asleep because every cry tore me apart a little bit more. I think I was scared of what would happen if he cried and I lost control of the feelings I was struggling so hard to keep under control.
Night times were the worst
He always screamed bloody murder at bath time (special thanks to the neighbour who used to bang on the wall, that really helped the anxiety levels), then came the rising panic over whether he would settle or not. He was actually a pretty good sleeper during the night and was going 7-9 hours at a stretch within the first few weeks. The problem was me. I couldn’t sleep. I kept having recurring nightmares of him being smothered in our bed, despite his never actually sleeping in our bed. I would wake convinced that he was amongst the covers, frantically searching for him. It felt so real. Even now, nearly five years later I can remember that sense of dread. It left me scared to go to sleep.
With a dizzying mix of constant anxiety, self loathing and sleep deprivation the days gradually grew darker, and even when the sun was shining all I saw was darkness. I remember feeling heavy all the time, like I was being pressed down from above, unable to get up. I was trapped in my own mind. I provided care for my son. He was always clean and well fed, but I knew that I was unable to provide him with the one thing he needed most from me – love.
For months I hid my struggles from the midwives and the Health Visitor. They used to ask how I was feeling, my answer was always the same. ‘I’m fine’. But inside I was screaming that I wasn’t. Despite my struggles I desperately wanted to be a good Mum to him, I just didn’t know how to get through how I was feeling. I was scared that if I told them, they would take him away and then I would never get the chance.
Then one day, my son wouldn’t settle for a nap. I’d changed him, fed him, cuddled him – he just wouldn’t stop whatever I did. The screaming got to me worse than it ever had and I grew angry with him. I didn’t touch him, but I had never felt rage like it. I removed myself from the room and I remember going into the kitchen. I stood with my back against the fridge/freezer and scream cried as I slid to the floor. I had cried before, but this was something else. It was raw emotion. It was everything I had been holding in and storing up, everything that I hadn’t dared to tell anyone about. It was then that a thought popped into my head. I wondered if my son would have a happier life if I were dead. I must make clear at this point that I never felt suicidal. But the fact that I had even thought something so dark, something so final, frightened me so much more than everything else that I was feeling or felt scared of.
I knew that I needed to find help.
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,