Post-Natal depression affects many families; and it affected mine. I am a mum to three beautiful children (a feisty yet sensitive 12 year old daughter, a quiet and thoughtful four year old boy, and an unpredictable 18 month old son) and have suffered either pre or post-natal depression with each of them. It is a debilitating illness that affects the entire family and I was painfully aware of this after the birth of my third child when I was at my most ill. I witnessed my older children, then three and eleven, look at me with confusion when I was crying again and asked me why I was so sad. I saw them shy away from me when I was irritable and tip-toe around me when I was locked in my own anxiety ridden hell. It wasn’t their fault, it wasn’t anything yet they’d done, but it know they were affected by it. I know they were confused by what was happening to their mum who was such a confident and lively person.
Here is my story:
When I was 23 I became pregnant, and soon found out that I would be facing the journey alone. Naturally I had expectations. Of the pregnancy, of the birth, of what being a single parent would be like. And with my first, and every baby after, those expectations changed, and were either challenged, or exceeded.
That very first time I suffered with PND I, and many others, put it down to the fact that I was a single parent, sleep deprived and struggling alone. There was no counselling offered, no antidepressants, and it was never mentioned or talked about again. Until I got pregnant with my second baby. (this time planned!)
My daughter was 6, and I was living with my now husband. I was excited about having a baby. About having a baby with a man who wanted to have a baby with me. I didn’t expect all of the unresolved problems and emotions from my first pregnancy to come back with a vengeance. I became irritable, panicky, suffering so many palpitations that I eventually needed an ECG, which thankfully was normal. I became a paranoid and jealous woman. (yes I even checked my husband’s phone and emails) I would cry, a lot. I couldn’t seem to get a grip. My husband could do nothing right (don’t get me wrong, he’s not perfect by ANY stretch of the imagination, but he didn’t deserve the abuse he was getting) and my daughter didn’t understand where the mummy she knew had gone. So pre-natal depression was diagnosed. And this time I was offered counselling. There was a waiting list of course, but thankfully not too long. Counseling was hard. I regularly didn’t want to go. Didn’t want to talk about myself yet again. (which is MOST unlike me!) However, I had light-bulb moment during session four, where I realised that I was subconsciously expecting my husband to disappear like my daughter’s father had done. Thankfully counselling helped, and once my son was born I became better, and enjoyed being a mum.
Three years later I had my third (and definitely last baby!) You’d think having done it twice before I’d be well prepared. That my expectations of parenthood and being a mum would be pretty much spot on. That nothing new could throw me because I’d been there, done it all and got the t-shirt! I knew the depression might come back again, but I was confident I could survive it, and naively thought it was partly due to circumstances before, and that now all of the unresolved feelings and emotions had been dealt with I’d be ok. Oh how wrong I was. My third baby, my second son, challenged me in every way. For he didn’t sleep, at all. And I didn’t cope, at all. I couldn’t understand it at first, ‘but my babies sleep’ went round my head and out my mouth often and I felt like I was failing as a mother. He didn’t do what I’d expected, and I wasn’t coping how I’d expected, and it threw me. I spent my days unable to look at him because when I did I would have a huge panic attack. I firmly believed that I couldn’t look after him, I was scared I wouldn’t be able to stop him crying. I spent my nights desperately trying to get him to sleep, crying uncontrollably when five minutes after he’d settled he’d be crying for me again. I’d scream at my husband, whilst hitting myself, that I couldn’t do it, that he needed to take him away. The self-loathing was overwhelming. I constantly planned how I would run away, and where and when I’d go. (middle of the night, to a friend up north) I mentally wrote the note I would write and leave to tell my husband that I couldn’t be a mum to this baby, that the family was better off without me because all I did was panic and cry and shout. I’d cling to my baby son during the day and not let anyone hold him because if they did, he would wake up and the crying would start. People say I looked trapped. I certainly felt trapped. Every day was a battle, a mountain to climb. Everyone knew something was wrong. Even me deep down. But I just thought I was sleep deprived. That when I got more sleep I would feel better. Unsurprisingly I didn’t. Five weeks in and my son was only waking once in the night for a feed, yet I had developed insomnia, and would cry and have panic attacks all night, unable to sleep a wink. Thankfully my health visitor recognised that I was ill. Very ill. And one day, when I was sat in my car outside the supermarket, thinking how I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again because life was just too hard and that nothing other than permanent sleep would make it better, I recognised that I was ill too. And that I needed help. And lots of it.
I didn’t expect to get post-natal depression so badly the third time around. It was debilitating, affected the whole family and was an unbearably dark time in my life.
My children are why ‘A Monster Ate My Mum’ is so important to me, I want to be open with them about my illness. For who knows, maybe one day they may need to be open themselves. I desperately hope that the book will help many families of those who have suffered or are suffering. Please help to spread the word, and thank you for reading x
If you would like to read more of my blog posts about PND here are some links:
The original poem: http://instinctivemum.com/pnd/a-monster-ate-my-mum/
An A to Z of PND: http://instinctivemum.com/uncategorized/an-a-to-z-of-pnd/
The Last Tablet: http://instinctivemum.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/the-last-tablet/