Holding My Hands Up To Pre & Postnatal Depression.

You got me! You friggin' got me good. I know it’s no longer Mental Health Awareness week, but believe me, it has taken me this long to write this.

Unfortunately depression during and after pregnancy is really common, what’s not is the lack of support I had. It is also not particularly a well known after effect of having a baby. I had pretty much diagnosed myself, I mean, all the signs were there, I don’t think it needed someone with medical training to see it, but it was never acknowledged by the people who mattered most. Not really anyway. Everything and anything was simply my fault, and my fault alone as I struggled to rationalise, and just to cope really.

During breastfeeding I felt like a failure. Everyone else seemed to have nailed it and I just couldn’t. It made me tired, sore, drained of the energy I desperately needed, and I craved all the food that was making me gain weight. In the first few weeks I had to stand up to feed because sitting down was agony due to my episiotomy, not to mention my cracked, and bleeding nipples. I was told by my doctor and health visitor to increase my milk flow by pumping in between feeds, but even they didn’t listen to me when I desperately explained I didn't have time because she was ALWAYS feeding. She was struggling at the 2nd percentile, and so was I.

I could barely do anything for myself, as a result of breastfeeding I suffered from De Quervain's tenosynovitis, and there's no pain quite like it. I couldn't even lift the kettle without being in massive amounts of pain. I couldn't sleep at night because I would have pins and needles shooting all down my arm constantly. It took my mum to help me out and offer phoebe a bottle at 3.5 months to a great sigh of relief, but that ensued the biggest guilt trip ever. I felt freer than I had in months, and happier that my baby was more content, but then that demon on my shoulder kept whispering in my ear about the benefits of breastfeeding over formula, and then the guilt would kick in.

I chose to combination feed Phoebe until she was about 5 months as it helped to have some of the responsibility taken off me.  Looking back, I made the right decision for me and my baby, but at the same time I was my own worst enemy.

However, if you think another new mum has got it together in one aspect, they usually don’t in other areas. The trick is to try and not compare yourself, no matter how hard that might be. I had added pressure on my shoulders to socialise with other mums and take Phoebe to baby groups, ya know, wear silly things and sing sweetly out of tune. However, the extra embarrassment and failure was ALL I needed at that point. I was threatened daily that Phoebe would become a troublesome child, unable to integrate, and struggle socially if I didn’t make the effort, but with a lack of available transport (we only had one car) the thought of it was just exhausting.

She's not any of those things btw. She is honestly the most confident, smart and loving child I have ever met. Not to toot my own horn but TOOT TOOT.

I don’t think my prenatal depression was as much to do with my hormones, but more to do with family circumstances. Admittedly, I have never felt as level headed as I did during the time I was pregnant, but when Phoebe was born I crumbled. Strangely enough, my love and care for Phoebe never really faulted. I never took it out on her, and I never thought it was her fault, which I believe some new mums do when they are suffering from this type of depression. Not me on this occasion. I loved her fiercely and would do anything for her, and that still stands today. Admittedly, I am a bit of a worry wart and very overprotective, but aren't all first time mums?

I was perceived as difficult, emotional, argumentative, you know, all those negative things, never struggling though. No, I was never deemed as struggling and terribly sad. God forbid the million times I asked for counselling was just for laughs.

I'm a hoot.

You know, I guess it is kind of funny looking back on it. Not to be dramatic, but I was dying inside. I felt so worthless, out of control, and a bad mum with nothing, or no one, to help build me back up. I was a completely different person, and even now I don't think I will ever, truly fully recover who I once was. Experiences change you.

That hormonal crash after giving birth in a way you hadn’t planned for was horrendous. I was in so much pain, shock, I was feeling pretty much every emotion you could possibly have. My life was then to change forever, more than it already had in the few short months since that problematic Christmas was too, horrendous. And I am not just talking about not being able to control your bladder!!! I didn’t have someone I could lean on, who would honestly listen to my worries without a grunt and a ‘well, you brought this on yourself’.

I cried pretty much every day. I was so SO aggressive, to the point where I couldn’t control it, it was like this fire ball of frustration in the pit of my stomach. I was angry because I hadn't been stuck up for, I was angry because Phoebe was absolutely perfect and she was unacknowledged for so long, I was angry because I felt like I had the weight of Phoebe’s troublesome feeding on my shoulders, I was angry I had gained weight and there was nothing I could do about it. I think I was most angry about being alone though. There would be days I wouldn’t and couldn’t even get dressed or have a shower. I felt disgusting.

During that time, I was never once complimented on how I looked. I mean, it sounds a bit silly to write that now, but what’s a white lie, or several if you think it will help someone you love? To be honest I would have probably laughed and brushed the comments off, but deep down it would have helped fix a lil’ something, ya know? Keep that spark alive and all that. All the new mums I spoke to said they had breakfast bought to them in bed, lucky eh? During the day I would only be able to eat things that were grab-able, and if that was chocolate or crisps, then so be it.

Counselling helped. I went to perinatal counselling on my own which was provided for by the NHS, and then only 2 sessions of couples counselling. I didn’t feel so much alone at these sessions, I felt heard, and I only wish I was deemed worthy enough to carry them on… It was expensive but I think if you are struggling as a couple and both want to work hard to make everything ok again, then it is worth it. For me, making it work for Phoebe was paramount, regardless of the cost. But it takes two, and when the other person is too invested in an other woman's problems than the ones at home, I had no chance. I think it is important to note that you can't be counselled by two different people, so instead of choosing my CBT referral for a traumatic birth I chose couples counselling. C'est la vie. 

Lesson learnt. Always put yourself first.

I feel bad admitting this, but it did get better when I went back to work. I felt like I had something I could be good at again, praised for and appreciated. But unfortunately, the damage in my personal life was already over a year deep. I was made to believe that my struggles were just my reaction to things, and if I had just ‘left it’ I wouldn’t have been in such a position.
I disagree.

I (and everyone else) was silly to believe I could have gotten out of all this by myself. I think my advice would be to get help, whether that be medicinal or someone to talk to, don’t feel ashamed, or embarrassed. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not a nice person, or a good mum, because you are, you are just lost. Hormones make you do the whacky (get the reference there) and if there is an unbalance then that's not your fault? After 6 months of antidepressants and a completely life changing decision, I’m getting there. Thankfully. It’s been hard, but it will be totally worth it in the long run. Police threats and all

I still worry daily about whether people think I'm a good mum, but if I let those thoughts consume me I wouldn't get anything done. Don't get me wrong there are lots of days when I don't think I can do this and I just want to hide in bed forever. From suffering with postnatal depression it has brought to the surface some very damaging life events indeed, ones that I am no longer afraid to talk about because when you've hit rock bottom, and been there, it's like you have nothing left to feel embarrassed about. But you know what? I'm more than enough, no more self deprecating.

Sorry for the long, rambley post, but if it can help anyone else out there going through the same thing then..

You aren't alone.