When I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with our first baby, I had the months ahead all planned out; the bond we’d make the moment she was born, the feeling of pride and joy when visitors came to see us in hospital, the beautiful outfit I’d dress her in when we left hospital, how I’d breast feed her for the first year, the places I’d take her, and so on.
In reality it was a different story. I was shocked and overwhelmed by the pain and trauma of childbirth - I wanted to do it naturally with no pain relief (what was I thinking?!) When it was over I was exhausted and - sorry if it sounds dramatic - but I felt traumatised. I was immediately really possessive of Amy and didn’t want anyone to hold her or touch her. I couldn’t take my eyes off her, I was afraid she might stop breathing, I couldn’t sleep in case I missed something terrible happening to her - how would I cope if anything happened to her?
If I needed the bathroom, I made sure one of the midwives sat with Amy and watched her, I kept telling them that she was making strange noises, her body was twitching and she was breathing strangely - they giggled at me and assured me that Amy was perfect and everything was normal. I didn’t believe them, I was totally paranoid, there was a hurricane of confusion and emotion going on inside my head.
I didn’t want any visitors other than my mum (and my lovely husband of course). I just wanted to get home and feel normal again but I was scared that nothing would be normal again, I didn’t know what normal was anymore. I had so much love for this tiny new person but I was so terrified that something might happen to her and if it did, I didn’t want to live. Rather than just being in the moment and enjoying our new baby, I was consumed with fear and anxiety.
I was angry with myself because I knew that this wasn’t ‘rational’ behaviour - I knew how I was ‘supposed’ to feel and was so frustrated because I just couldn’t get there, it was out of reach. I cried pretty much all the time. I needed to sleep so badly but was having nightmares and my heart was constantly racing. I was terrified.
Breast feeding was so sore but I wasn’t letting myself give up, there were no bottles in our home, I had to do this all myself and show the world that I was a perfect mum. I was so tense, my back was killing me 24/7, I wouldn’t ask for help. In my crazy mind, I imagined that if anyone knew how bad I felt, they might take my baby off me. I actually wished I could put Amy back in and just be pregnant again for a while until I could come to terms with how I was feeling, give myself some time to prepare for all this now that I knew how it was.
I believe that the physical body is hugely affected by our emotions and am living proof of that, we all are... within a few months I was losing a lot of weight, sweating with a racing heart, my periods had stopped and I wanted to sleep all day and night. But everyday I got up, tidied the house, put on a brave face and carried on - I vowed that no one would ever know how bad I felt. Eventually the tiredness and weight loss became so bad that my mum intervened and made me go to the doctor. I was diagnosed with an over-active thyroid.
Roll on a few months and I began to emerge from the darkness and feel like the old me again. I could see then that I should have asked for help in the very beginning because we can’t control our hormones and if they’re out of whack, we need to get the balance back. If that means taking a few months of medication, it’s a very small price to pay.
We had our second baby two years later and whatever was or wasn’t going on with my hormones this time, I was absolutely 100% and sailed through motherhood with Harry.
There’s no shame in post-natal depression, it can be mild or severe but no matter what, please ask for help, you’re not alone.
… In most cases, the birth of a child will spark joyful and positive emotions, but this isn’t always the case. With such a wave of hormones, sometimes childbirth can trigger a period of sadness and depression that is referred to as postpartum depression. It’s important to remember that this is normal and won’t last forever. In this blog, we’ll cover all you need to know about postpartum depression, including the symptoms to look for and what you can do to overcome it.
What does it feel like?
You’ll probably sense it if you’re having emotional difficulties following childbirth, but it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of postpartum depression. Knowing what to look for and recognizing its presence is the first step to getting help. Generally, what you’ll notice is a sense of intense and debilitating sadness. This can result in difficulties in looking after your baby and taking care of the many other tasks that all parents have to manage.
Typical symptoms include excessive crying, withdrawing within yourself (including avoiding talking with friends and family members), mood swings, an inability to sleep, and anger. You may think that you’re failing as a parent.
What causes it?
There are many things that cause postpartum depression, and it’s not always easy to identify one particular trigger. However, there are a few things that have been known to increase the likelihood of a mother suffering from it. The most common reason is hormone levels, which rise when you’re pregnant, but then drop once your baby is born. This shift can trigger depression. Other causes include having a history of depression (or if people in your family have had it), or if you’re in a situation that makes being a parent more stressful (such as money problems and other concerns).
The baby blues
It’s important to note that not all feelings of sadness should be thought to be postpartum depression. Many women experience ‘the baby blues,’ which occurs a few days after childbirth and can last for a few weeks. This condition looks similar to postpartum depression in that it involves mood swings, anxiety, irritability, to name a few, but it’s less severe and shorter-lasting than depression.
How it affects fathers
While most conversations involving postpartum depression are concerned with how it affects mothers, it can also affect new fathers too. This is likely to be caused by stress, and can involve similar symptoms: a feeling of being overwhelmed, reduced appetite and problems sleeping.
What you can do
Many parents who experience postpartum depression feel a sense of shame, but don’t forget that it’s normal -- and that there are things you can do that can help. Treating yourself well is important, but the most valuable tool is to share what you’re going through with others. If you’re having difficulties that last for more than two weeks, then get in contact with your doctor. Alternatively, there are a number of support groups available such as postpartum.net that can help offer you advice and guidance.
Lots of love,