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Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 in Parenting, Travel | 16 comments

Post Natal Depression: Our first birth story – the aftermath

At the beginning of February I finally published and of our first birth story after almost five years. They were two of the hardest posts that I’ve ever written – I wanted to document what happened to ensure that I didn’t lose those difficult but important memories.

But that isn’t the end of the story. That isn’t how this blog came about.

Post Natal Depression is how this blog came about.

And this was perhaps the hardest post of all to write.

I’ve let it sit in it’s draft form for a week now, reading and re-reading it. But it’s not going to change what happened. It’s time just to press ‘publish’ and hope that my story somehow helps someone else who is struggling to cope after a traumatic birth and it’s aftermath.

* * * * *

Image courtesy of Master isolated images /

The first few days after the birth were as traumatic as the birth itself. Curly Girl was so tiny that she struggled to feed well. And without the support of a health visitor or midwife visiting me at home I had no idea that she wasn’t gaining the right amount of weight. When I finally took her back to the hospital for a check-up she was pronounced malnourished and I was chastised for not feeding her properly. I was doing the best I could but it wasn’t enough.

When the paediatrician left the room I sobbed hysterically in my own Mother’s arms. We were given a strict regime of breastfeeding every two hours round the clock and I was told to pump after every feed. Pretty soon I was mentally and physically exhausted. On top of this Curly Girl did not sleep. She cried all night long, it seemed, and we walked her up and down the apartment for hours at a time, thinking she had colic. We emptied bottle after bottle of Infacol, syringing it into her little mouth, hoping it would help.

I realise now that she was probably just hungry, unable to take in enough of the nourishment that her tiny body needed because she was just too small.

Thankfully the strict regime worked and she gradually started to gain weight. I dozed between feeds either on a chair or the cushioned window seat in the nursery so that OH could get the sleep he needed to go to work. Slowly time passed but after a few weeks my Mother had to go back to the UK and the lack of sleep and support and constant stress of her weight gain left me ragged and withdrawn.

I obsessed about my milk and wrote down the length each feed, timing them to the minute and keeping a detailed log.

When OH travelled on business I struggled to cope. From the elation of finally seeing our beautiful little girl in my arms after waiting and trying for SO long, I began to feel no emotion towards her at all. I knew that I should be happy but I felt numb and ungrateful. I was so tired but I couldn’t sleep. Thoughts started to pass through my head. Bad thoughts.

It was OH who came back from a business trip and realised I needed help. And thankfully, after a distraught and tearful consultation with a private psychologist I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression (now often called Post Natal Illness or PNI). She told me the thoughts I was having were normal after the trauma that I’d been through. She offered me anti-depressants but I refused them, fearful of the side effects. And so we turned to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and she taught me coping strategies that I could use when the black days came. One of them was writing.

Image courtesy of dan /

I wrote and wrote. I wrote on the good days. I wrote on the bad days. I wrote when I wanted to cry and scream. I wrote when it became too much.

And through the writing I started to find a way back to me. A way to cope. A release through creativity.

And then, eventually, seventeen months after the birth of our first child, the writing bore new fruit.

Bod for tea was born.

* * * * *

Post Natal Depression

Thankfully, through writing and a lot of support, I found my way through the fog of Post Natal Depression. These are some of the symptoms of PND (from PND Support) :

  • Tearfulness, weeping frequently
  • Panic attacks & anxiety
  • Being unable to sleep or feeling exhausted even when you have had sleep
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks to your labour & birth
  • Feeling physically ill, and physical symptoms such as chest pain, headaches, dizziness
  • Constant worry over your own health or that of your child/children
  • Worries over cot death
  • Not feeling any emotion to your baby
  • Obsessive thoughts or repetitive chanting thoughts or voices
  • Thoughts that you may harm your child or a member of your family either accidentally or deliberately, most mums with PND DO NOT harm their children
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Many women describe feeling in a deep pit or suffocating feeling
  • Worries over everyday objects that could cause harm to yourself or your child – e.g knives, stairs, even cars or buses
  • Self harm
  • Feeling numb & lack of emotion
  • Putting on a brave face to hide how you feel
  • Feeling like a failure and a “bad Mother”
  • Feeling of wanting to escape and that your family would be better off without you
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
If you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself get in touch with someone – your doctor, your health visitor, your family or one of these organsations and ask for help.

House of Light - PND Support - 0800 043 2031
Samaritans – 08457 90 90 90

  • Kim Carberry

    So very brave of you to share your story!! x

  • IotaM

    Thanks for sharing – I don’t underestimate what that costs.

    I think blogging has been a wonderful thing for people who have suffered, or are suffering, from PND. It’s a very supportive world out here, and much less judgmental than the local mum-and-baby groups. I think it’s easier for people to admit they are struggling, and find acceptance and friendly advice. At least I hope so. Even just knowing you’re not the only one is a huge step.

    Thanks again. I think your post will surely help someone. I really do.

  • bod for tea

    I hope that it helps someone else who has or is suffering from post natal depression. Thanks for commenting x

  • bod for tea

    Thank you for your kind words. It was hard and I deliberated for ages about writing it and then about posting it. I don’t write about PND often because I don’t want to let it define me but it HAS shaped who I am. I hope that it does help others who have or are suffering, at least to know that someone else has found the light at the end of the tunnel.

    I think I’ve finally found YOUR blog by the way! Is it The Iota Quota? Been trying to find you for ages. Thanks for all your comments over the past year – going to make some time to read through your posts when Curly Girl is back at school x

  • IotaM

    Yes, Iota Quota. Don’t know why it wouldn’t click through if you click on my name – probably some setting or other that I didn’t turn on.

    I like what you say about shaping but not defining. I feel that about hard things I’ve been through. Most of us, when faced with something difficult, seem to want to get through it, and get back to normal as soon as possible. But what is “normal”? I think we have to learn to embrace the fact that life isn’t always good, and that there are riches to be mined in the hard times. You really find out about yourself and those around you in a deep way when things are tough.

  • mumtoamonster

    So brave of you to write this. This is exactly why I started my blog as well. Havnt managed to write the main post on my PND yet but I will eventually. I can relate to the whole feeding issues and expressing and no sleep. My son is nearly one now. It does get easier but the down days are horrible.
    Cbt is fantastic isnt it . I also did that .

  • Ben

    That first week sounds just like our first week with Henry, such a tough period as you try to learn what this little bundle wants and why they are crying so much (and if it’s normal for them to cry that much).
    This is a great post and I’m glad you created your blog even if it was because of PND.

  • bod for tea

    It took me almost five years to write our first birth story and the aftermath of PND. It was a dark time for me but thankfully the clouds passed and I didn’t suffer at all with Little Man for which I’m so grateful. CBT was the best solution for me – I couldn’t take any more drugs after the infertility cocktail I’d been on for so long but I know it’s not right for everyone. Thanks so much for commenting x

  • bod for tea

    Thank you so much Ben. It’s been really comforting to have such great support after writing these difficult posts. Thankfully I’m out the other side now, so hopefully this will help others who are suffering.

  • Adele Jarrett-Kerr

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s an important story that needs to be told and heard. I’m glad you found solace and strength in writing.

  • Older Mum

    As you know, I had post natal illness too, now I think it’s morphed into general anxiety disorder. After two years of hell, I decided to take anti depressants and they really helped (I had also stopped breast feeding by then. I am still taking them and have no intention of coming off them until the menopause has passed; my problem being that I am very sensitive to the ebb and flow of my hormones. And I too began writing my blog as therapy through illness. The power of writing eh? A brilliant, honest post, so very well written, and I am going to be a little controversial in saying it’s not brave (hope you don’t mind that) because mental health issues should not be a taboo in any way – this is a post from a strong woman who came through a very tough time. X

  • bod for tea

    Thank you Adele x

  • bod for tea

    Writing IS such a powerful thing, and no I don’t mind at all because you’re absolutely right it should NOT be taboo and that’s one of the reasons I’m sharing my story. Thank you so much for your kind words xx (P.S. will I be seeing you at Brit Mums this year? Hope so :) )

  • Older Mum

    Yes you will! I am going to Britmums again. X

  • Franglaise Mummy

    Thank you so much for sharing what must have been a really hard post to write. I’m sure many women will take comfort in you coming forwards with your story.

  • bod for tea

    Thank you lovely. It was a hard post to write but hopefully it will be helpful for others.