Great, very welcome news. Excited and nervous all at the same time. Now it’s happened a whole landscape of unknown stretches in front of me. I tell myself, I will cope I am a confident professional together woman.
Generally ok in myself, apart from a couple of scares. When I was only 8 weeks pregnant I bled while on holiday. I came to the devastating conclusion that I must have lost the baby. The following week, an emergency scan revealed my little baby was still in there, I felt relieved but also guilty, worrying about the alcohol I had consumed while away believing I had lost my baby. During the rest of the pregnancy I had a couple more emergency scans as I continued to have sporadic bleeding; all turned out to be ok. I was very lucky as I did not get morning sickness. The only other thing that bothered me was growing twice the size within a very short period of time! I looked 9 months pregnant at 3 months, this theme continued throughout my pregnancy!
Also, I was not prepared for the way my husband had taken on the role of future father; he did not behave the way I expected him too. I tried to talk to him about this (probably not in the most productive way), but he didn’t get it, and it just ended up in an argument, so I stopped communicating with him. He was not awful or horrid, he just did not look after me the way I had presumed, expected he would. I felt alone and disappointed a lot of the time.
All prepared, bag ready, body and mind definitely ready to ‘get this baby out’! I knew it wasn’t going to be a social outing, but was not ready for the experience I had. After 18 hours of ‘discomfort’ and having had every drug available, I then endured a traumatic caesarean.
The hospital stay…
One particular moment sticks in my mind, it was soon after the birth, about 9 ‘o’clock in the evening, my husband left me to go home and get some sleep, although the ward was packed to the rafters, I felt alone with my baby in the maternity ward. I remember looking at ‘the baby’ praying she would not wake as I was clueless as to what to do with her. All my confidence as a strong human being seemed to have evaporated, I felt alone and anxious.
I spent a couple of days on the ward, these are some of the difficult memories I have.
- I remember my husband returning the next morning with a big smile on his face and a McDonald’s breakfast in his hand, my thought was ‘I hate McDonalds, he knows that, he is horrid and selfish, and does not care about me’. This is a belief that continued to pop up in arguments from time to time.
- The second evening after the birth little Katie (now named) was screaming the ward down again, I felt completely helpless and inadequate; I had no idea how to make this baby stop screaming. In hindsight this little bundle just needed a bottle (I was not producing milk) and a cuddle.
- I remember on my last day in hospital looking across at the girl in the bed opposite, she looked so happy and relaxed with her new baby, it was lying across her chest snoozing the day away. I felt envious that I could not do that with Katie.
My conclusion was I was a bad mother. Everyone else could do it, but not me. I felt alone, sad and ashamed.
I cannot tell you why I or others did not pick up on my Post Natal Depression, perhaps I hid it. I guess my fear was that I would be exposed as a bad mother, so I struggled on in silence.
Some of the very difficult times:
- When Katie screamed and screamed, I sometimes thought my head would explode, I just wanted her to stop, sometimes I had the urge to just hit her to stop, this broke my heart, I told myself I was a terrible mother, I felt terrible guilt and shame.
- I was angry with my husband over everything. Maybe this was because I was envious he still had an escape, work, during pregnancy I had decided to temporarily give up work to be with my bundle of joy; I was very lucky we were financially able to scrape by for a while. But it was not the experience I had imagined; in reality a large part of my life, my identity, had gone. The relentless job of bringing up a child full time was not recognised by my husband or anyone else. Also, I was angry that his life had not changed; things were more or less the same for him. Well this was my perception, but again in hind sight, his life had drastically changed also, not only was he coping with becoming a father, but also with a new first time mother suffering undiagnosed Post Natal Depression, life was not good.
Throughout the first 18 months of little Katie’s life I held the belief I was a bad mother and everyone else could do it, but me. I felt guilty, ashamed, angry, anxious and depressed. It was not the wonderful experience I had imagined all my life.
Sometimes now I do feel a sense of loss, the loss of such an important period of time, I do wonder how Katie may have been, how different my experience of motherhood would have been had I identified the Post Natal Depression and sought help. I will never know the answers to these questions and now they do not have a negative impact on my life. Never the less, I would prefer not to have suffered, it was so unnecessary.
What I could have done differently: What YOU can do NOW
- Been more honest when filling out the doctors/midwifes questionnaire when they screen for Post Natal Depression
- Spoken to my husband or close friend, family member on a daily basis telling them my thoughts and feelings
- Sought individual therapy with a therapist that has extensive perinatal experience
- Sought couples therapy
- Read and understood Post Natal Depression
I wish I had known how common my thoughts and feelings were, there was no need for me to suffer.