Postnatal Depression: Our first birth story – the aftermath
At the beginning of February 2014 I finally published part one and part two 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.
Postnatal 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.
The first few days after the birth were as traumatic as the birth itself.
Our little 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 our daughter 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 the husband 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had to go back to the UK and the lack of sleep and support and constant stress of her weight gain left me ragged and withdrawn.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 my husband 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. Thoughts that I can’t even bear to put into words here.
It was my husband 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 Postnatal Depression (now often called Post Natal Illness or PNI). She told me the awful 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.
And through the writing I started to find a way back to me.
A way to cope. A release through creativity.
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 then, eventually, seventeen months after the birth of our first child, the writing bore new fruit.
Bod for tea was born.
* * * * *
Postnatal Depression Symptoms
Thankfully, through writing and a lot of support, I found my way through the fog of Postnatal 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
- 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
Photo credits: image of man with head in hands courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net, image of pencil on paper courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net