Mental health has always been apart of my life. Growing up with a Mum who struggled with mental health issues and myself experiencing mental health issues from my teens. Mental health was not new to me. In the past, I had experienced depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and eating disorders.
But, nothing could prepare me for my experience of Post Natal Depression.
I don’t know about you but when I was pregnant I didn’t even give my mental health a thought. Yes, I was more than aware of pre and postnatal depression. But, throughout my first four pregnancies, I hadn’t experienced anything more than the baby blues. I consider myself very lucky! Maternal mental health, more so Post Natal Depression became more apparent to me after the birth of my fifth son in December 2014.
Having had mental health issues in my past, it was, of course documented in my pregnancy notes. When completing my booking forms it became apparent that I met the criteria of being at a higher risk of developing Post Natal Depression. I shrugged it off. I mean, come on, I had been pregnant four times before and I had been absolutely fine. Extra precautions such as mindfulness, counselling and options of medications were all put on offer to me. Which to be fair, looking back, was a very sensible thing to do. But I didn’t feel I would need it.
Throughout my fifth pregnancy, I was juggling working next to full-time hours and raising four boys. My husband Matthew and I worked around each other just so we didn’t have the excruciating cost of childcare for four children. We hardly saw each other.
I went through my pregnancy with no major hiccups. I had consultant led care due to having an underactive thyroid.
The Countdown begins
Once I had left work to start maternity leave, I realised that I hadn’t spent much of my pregnancy preparing myself for the birth of another baby. That I hadn’t truly felt like I had nurtured and cherished this pregnancy like I had my previous four. I started feeling panicked like I wasn’t ready. I had an awful gut-wrenching feeling that something was going to happen to me or my baby. That I wouldn’t bond with my baby.
On 7th December 2014, Cohen Paul Rocks was born. Cohen’s birth was a little dramatic with me being very close to giving birth on the front of the hospital. Cohen was just perfect. I instantly fell in love with him. I don’t know what I was worried about. All my worries melted away once I had him safe and sound in my arms.
Cohen took to the breast with no problems at all. He was a little dream come true.
We had to stay in the hospital for 5 days due to the fact Cohen had jaundice. He was put under a UV light and wore a Bili-blanket. But that wasn’t a problem. It was more bonding time and time for me to recover after the birth without having the demand of home life from day one.
The baby blues hit right on cue.
I knew it was normal to have the odd mood swing, tearful day. To feel tired and achy. But something wasn’t right, I couldn’t shake off the feeling. I felt like a black cloud was hanging over me.
I couldn’t understand why. My family was complete. I had a husband that adored me and five handsome sons.
My other four boys took to being big brothers perfectly. They admired their little brother. No jealousy or sibling rivalry was to be seen.
Now if you know me. I am a strong and independent woman who finds a solution for everything! I take charge and just get on with things. But since Cohen’s birth, my personality changed. I was tearful, anxious, paranoid. I had compulsive thoughts that everything needed to be perfect! That we had to have Cohen in a routine, that things needed to be done as soon as possible. I would get frustrated if I didn’t get the washing out of the washing machine in time. That I didn’t have dinner ready for 5 o’clock on the dot. I had a picture in my head of how everything should be. I didn’t give myself time to adapt to being a Mum of five. Three of them being under 4 years old. I was just trying to pick up where I left off.
Matthew was working 70 hours a week. Sometimes overnight. While I was in sole charge of our five boys.
I was losing control
My world around me was falling to pieces. I felt like I was a failure because this ‘perfect mum’ couldn’t hold everything together. Emotionally drained from doing the night feeds and sharing a bed with 2 toddlers. It was the only way I could get them to sleep. I had compulsive thoughts that Cohen would die in his sleep. I would spend all night making sure he wasn’t too hot or too cold. That he was breathing. Surviving on next to no sleep, I was delusional. I had feelings that I wanted to not be here, thoughts that my family would be better off without me. To look at me, I was a train wreck. Struggling to cope. I wasn’t the strong independent woman now was I?!
It was all too much
I couldn’t stand too much going on around me. My head was spinning as if I was on the Waltzer at the fairground. Noises, touch, smells. It was all too much. My senses had been heightened. It was what I imagine a sensory overload to be like. I felt like I was being taken over. Dizzy, nauseous, confused. I was scared.
Paranoia made me distance myself from the world. I stopped talking to friends. Started making excuses why I couldn’t go out. The truth was I didn’t dare leave the house. I was petrified to go outside. I remember my Dad coming over. We were going to go for a walk with the pram. Feeling physically sick at the thought of leaving the house. I managed to walk 3-4 steps onto the drive and I froze before I ran back into the house, hysterically crying. I couldn’t do it. My head wouldn’t let me. I was physically shaking. I was inconsolable.
That was the turning point.
I knew then that something wasn’t right. I wasn’t in denial anymore. All I can describe it as, is I felt like I was being controlled by something. That I wasn’t in control of myself. I felt like I was floating. Like an outer body experience they talk about on those Ghost Hunting shows.
Matthew got me an appointment at our doctors. I was seen by a male doctor. Now, I am not judging this doctors competency but after reading my notes and knowing my history you would think action would have been taken. But, no, this doctor told me to come back in a months time. I was distraught, I was losing myself. Frantically scared for my own life.
As the days and weeks went by I felt my mood getting lower and lower. The thoughts of self-harm and wanting to die increased.
One of my friends was messaging me on Facebook. All I could say was self-destructing comments.
One morning my health visitor rang me out of the blue. She asked how I was. Well, it all came flooding out. I was in pieces. She got me an appointment straight away with a female doctor. Within two minutes of hearing my story and going over some questionnaires, she diagnosed me with Post Natal Depression.
Finally, an answer.
I wasn’t losing my mind after all. There was a reason why I was acting out of character.
I was ill.
My doctor offered me medication to help regulate my moods. To help me think more clear, to enable me to function. I put into place all of the mindfulness and self-care techniques I was told about during my pregnancy. You know, the ones I didn’t think I would need.
As the months passed, the bad days were coming few and far between. My symptoms subsided. I started to feel like the old me again. It was slow and gradual progress.
Looking back, I would say it took me around 8-9 months to start feeling and acting like me again.
My experience of Post Natal Depression has given me a fear of having any more children in the future. I suppose it’s natures way of telling me that five is my magic number. And I am truly blessed to have been given my five handsome princes.
My Advice To All New Mums To Prevent Post Natal Depression
- The best advice I can give any new Mum is making self-care a priority. Make time for yourself. You need to be fit and well to care for your family. You need to remember that you are important too. Don’t neglect yourself.
- Accept any help and support you can get. Even if it’s just for an hour so you can take a bath in peace or pop out to the coffee shop alone.
- If you don’t feel ‘right’ talk to someone. Call your midwife, health visitor or GP. Get support early on.
- Don’t think your ‘Supermum’ after the birth of a baby. Take it easy. It doesn’t matter if the house is untidy. What matters is your health and welfare.
I hope that by reading my story I have given you an insight to the signs, symptoms and life with Post Natal Depression.
This article was first published by This Mummy Rocks