Monday, 10 October 2016

World Mental Health Day: PND and Me

I debated whether or not to post this because despite my work for an NHS Trust that specialises in Mental Health and my usual openness about my experience after having the mini one, there is still such a stigma surrounding postnatal depression.

If you've ever read my birth story, you will know the mini one arrived on this planet through quite a traumatic way. The emergency caesarean was certainly not the way I had planned for things to go and as I shook on the operating theatre with adrenaline while the anaesthetist tried to get an epidural in hearing "failure" and "not working" linked to the way my body was performing got things off to a bad start.

I was beyond happy when I found out my little girl was healthy and love her with all my heart, thankfully that was something I never lost even in my darkest days... but I felt a failure from very early on. From a difficult pregnant to traumatic birth to the first couple of days I just couldn't do anything right. I struggled with getting her to latch on, she cried a lot, I cried a lot! I remember crying to the nurse who came to check on me in the middle of the night that I was rubbish... she told me to keep trying and left me sobbing in the dark.

When we got home things got worse. I'd expected to be this glowing new mother who - as I'd always been quite a strong person - somehow managed to make dinner, clean the house, look after baby and catch up on books while she fed. How wrong I was! I stayed in my pyjamas for a week and despite a couple of visitors had never felt so alone. Everyone told me how gorgeous she was and how happy I must be, so I smiled and said thanks and did the usual muttering about lack of sleep (I was on about 3 hours of broken sleep a day) and so on.

I ate a pack of Oreos and drank water everyday, but when the water next to the armchair I said on in our bedroom ran out I didn't move until the now ex-husband came home and help the mini one while I restocked then sat back down again. She cried when I put her down so I never put her down. I bought a sling but was so terrified it would hurt her never used it until she was about 6 months old. I was a total failure in my eyes. I'd made a huge mistake thinking I could do this and as gorgeous as I found her and as much as I loved her I didn't think I was enough.

It all came to a head when my mum came to visit when the mini one was about 3 weeks old. I cried on her that night and she told me to go to bed and sleep when the mini one was asleep... she couldn't understand why I couldn't. My head wouldn't let me. I wasn't just failing my daughter, I was failing myself too. Mum forced me to get dressed and for the first time since I'd left hospital I went outdoors. I wanted to be proud as I saw people look and remark at how beautiful my daughter was but I felt like a flabby, useless lump that just wanted to put her pyjamas back on and cry.

There was no postnatal check in Oman, no one asked if I was ok... it was all "how are the scars doing?" I knew I couldn't continue with what I was doing when a paediatrician told me I was starving my daughter because she had a low birth weight. Not only was I failing at meeting her emotional needs I now couldn't even feed her properly.

We decided I would come back to England with the mini one and within a week of being back I met an amazing health visitor who listened and suggested support. She sent me to my GP and booked me onto the next new mums group running locally so I could deal with the isolation/fear factor by meeting new mums. I got help and it is much better now. Still there are dark days when I just feel a failure again, but I remind myself what a strong unit my daughter and I. How we have been through so much and each time somehow come out the other end.

She has become my everything, my reason for waking up and jumping out of bed when I want to lie in, the reason I'm considering buying wellies so we can both jump in puddles and the most important thing of all. She made me a mummy.

My advice to anyone suffering postnatal depression or finding themselves struggling and putting on a different face when venturing outside? Talk to someone. Whether it is your GP, a friend, health visitor, neighbour, lady you always see in Costa and chat to! Just make yourself heard and know that with the right help it will all be ok. X

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