I’ve actually been meaning to do a post on post natal depression for a while. It’s one of those things that is so common (1 in 3 moms in the UK suffer from it) but people struggle to talk about it. I guess when anything is linked to parenting moms tend to shy away from it for fear of being labelled a bad mother or not being able “keep it together”. They often feel shame and guilt. This is sometimes made worse by partners or family members who don’t understand what they are going through.
Some symptoms include:
Loss of interest in those around you
Crying, for no apparent reason
A constant underlying sense of anxiety
Feeling overly anxious and protective of your baby
Often feeling disconnected from your baby
Feeling lonely and isolated
Lack of motivation to do anything
Guilty because you don’t feel that overwhelming love for your baby
If you do feel like this, it is important to talk to your GP, community midwife, your partner or family/friends you can trust. It’s more common than you think and there are ways to get it under control so you feel like yourself again.
You can read more about it here.
I am lucky to have a close-knit group of online friends, all who had their babies around the same time as me. I can tell you who’s baby is allergic to diary, who’s baby walked first, who’s has sleep issues. I can also tell you who has suffered from PND. One of those lovely and very brave ladies has shared her story to raise money for “The association of post natal depression” and I suppose this is what finally brought me to write this post I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Patricia Finlay, here is her story:
I couldn’t wait to become a mummy, the day that I found out that I was pregnant was the happiest day of my life. Only 2 months earlier I had suffered an early miscarriage so I felt that this was my little miracle baby.
I breezed through pregnancy with no sickness and, although it was 10 and a half hours, my labour wasn’t too bad.
I worried about not bonding with Erin immediately as I’d heard about postnatal depression but as soon as she was handed to me I was in love. She was so tiny at only 5lbs 11oz and looked up at me and my heart melted.
I settled into motherhood like a fish in water, everyone commented how calm and relaxed I was with Erin, she was an easy baby to look after so I think that helped. On the 4 day after she was born I suffered from the ‘baby blues’. 8 in 10 mums suffer from this. It’s said to be caused by hormonal changes in your body during the week after giving birth and makes you feel moody, emotional and irritable, I remember holding Erin rocking back and forth while sobbing, my partner sent me off for a bath and I sat in the bath hugging my knees and sobbing. I knew I had no reason to cry and knew I was being silly. Luckily though, this only lasted one evening.
The rest of my maternity leave was spent taking Erin places and enjoying my time off work. I was going back to work when Erin was 5 and a half months old so I was making the most of it. I would have loved to have taken longer but it was just not financially possible for me. I was also looking forward to getting back to work as well as I enjoyed my job and couldn’t wait to have adult conversations again.
My partner proposed to me in July and we decided to just have a quiet wedding and only have family there. We agreed to keep it a secret and just announce it after it had happened. The planning started on that, I got a dress and shoes, got Erin a dress and on 18 October 2012 we got married in a small ceremony in the local council office. It was a perfect day.
I can’t actually pinpoint when things started to turn but it must have been some time in November. Things just seemed to start to snowball. All I seemed to do was rush – rushed out to work in the morning, rush home to get Erin, rush to get her dinner, rush to get our dinner sorted and rush to organize things for the morning. Just felt I had no time to do anything. Felt that the house was a mess, that I had no time to do washing or ironing or no time to just relax and do anything for myself.
It was at this point where the light-headedness started. Every few days I would get light-headed and feel dizzy. I went to my GP who referred me to a cardiologist. I then developed headaches. I’d never suffered from headaches before but these were agonizing – right across the top of my eyes. I went back to my GP who asked if I was stressed or anything but I said no. I then had an ECG and had to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours to check that everything was ok.
It was around Christmas 2012 that I noticed that I was numb, I didn’t have any ‘feelings’. I felt like I was in a bubble. I looked at Erin and my husband and felt nothing. I knew I loved them but couldn’t actually feel it. It was horrible and I chose to bury my head in the sand and ignore it and get on with things.
It was when things started to get on top of me in work that I knew that I had to do something about it. I felt safe in work as I felt normal there. But I started to feel panicky if I had a few things to do which is not like me at all.
I spoke to a close friend about how I was feeling and she suggested that it might be postnatal depression. It hadn’t even occurred to me that it could be this as Erin was now 11 months old. It was after that conversation when I opened up to my husband about how I was feeling and made an appointment with my GP.
I told the GP everything about how I was feeling and I was diagnosed with postnatal depression. He explained that the headaches and light-headedness were all because I was ignoring my symptoms and that it was manifesting itself as physical symptoms. He asked how I felt about taking anti-depressant medication, I said that if he felt it would help then I’d give it a go so he gave me a prescription of Citalopram and told me that I should expect to feel worse when I started the medication but to not stop taking them.
I started the medication that day (Thursday) and I had agreed to go out with friends on the Saturday for lunch. I’m usually a sociable person but on the Friday I was panicking about going, I felt that my friends didn’t really want me to come and that they had just asked me because they felt that they had to. I went but couldn’t relax at all and left early blaming a migraine.
I had booked the Monday off work to spend some time with Erin but by the Sunday evening I wished I hadn’t, any time that I was on my own with Erin I felt panicky, I remember waking up on the Monday morning and opening her drawers to get her clothes and feeling so overwhelmed, I couldn’t pick something for her to wear and started to panic. My heart started racing and palms were sweating, I quickly got Erin ready and went to my mums with her so I didn’t need to be on my own with her. Looking back now it seems so silly but this is how it affected me.
I went into work on the Tuesday but I very quickly realized that would have to leave, my heart was racing and felt very panicky. I spoke to my line manager and explained and he was very understanding and told me to take as much time as I needed. I left and went home and got straight into bed. I didn’t get out of bed until I had to collect Erin from her nanny’s house and I brought her home and got back into bed with her. She fell asleep and I prayed that she would sleep until my husband came home from work so I wouldn’t need to look after her as I felt panicky about it.
The next day I went to my mums and told her about my postnatal depression, I didn’t want to but I had to. She broke down in tears as she was worried about me but I told her I was fine even though I wasn’t. I told her that I was going to take some time off work until my tablets settled down but at the minute they were making me panicky. I told her that I didn’t want to take Erin out of her routine so she would still be looked after as if I was working for me to focus on getting back to normal.
The next while seems like a blur, there were days when I could barely get up and dressed. I managed to get Erin to whoever was looking after her but that was about it. I came home and crawled back into bed. I dreaded having to collect Erin and counted the minutes until my husband came home from work so I wouldn’t have to be on my own with her, I got into bed with her and when she fell asleep I’d pray that she stayed asleep until he came home.
Someone told me that starting a diary would be therapeutic and good to look back on; these are a few entries from it:
“Had an up and down day today. I’m dreading phoning work and telling them I’m going to be off for another 4 weeks. I’m still not connecting with Erin and it’s killing me. She’s developing her own little personality and I feel I’m missing out on enjoying it.”
“Dreading Erin’s birthday tomorrow. Keep thinking why did I have a baby in the first place and that things were so much easier before she came along. Slept for 2 hours this afternoon and having to get a few things and make buns got too much for me even though it was only a few things. What is wrong with me?”
“I thought I had a good day today but no, I hate myself”
Reading these back now it scares me to how I was feeling. I remember thinking that it would be better off if I wasn’t around, not that I would’ve done anything stupid. But I remember one day seeing my box of pills and wondering what would happen if I took all of them, it was only for a fleeting second then I wondered why I was thinking like that.
The doctor doubled my dose of citalopram to see if made any difference but I still felt the same so he decided to switch me onto Sertraline which meant weaning off citalopram first.
I saw a counsellor once a week which I found helpful, although my husband and mum knew I felt that I couldn’t tell them everything about how I was feeling.
The main word I would describe how I was feeling would be guilt. I felt guilty for feeling the way that I did, I felt guilty that I felt that I didn’t love my baby, I felt guilty for being sick. I felt guilty that there were people who couldn’t have children and that had ‘proper’ things to worry about and here I was with a beautiful baby and a husband who loved me yet I was feeling terrible.
My husband was very supportive but I know that it was hard for him too; he had to tiptoe around me for the fear of upsetting me. I think we’ve grown closer because of it though.
Once I started the Sertraline I started to feel a bit better, was able to function daily. The next step would be getting well enough to return to work.
We had booked to visit my sister in England and I took a bit of a wobble on the way to the airport, think it was because it was taking me out of my comfort zone. That’s when I realized that I may not be as well as I thought.
I’ve returned to work on a phased return which seems to be going okay. Still get a bit worried about juggling everything but fingers crossed it works out…
When I was diagnosed I contacted my health visitor to ask if there were any support groups in my area to meet people going through the same thing and was shocked to hear that there wasn’t. I searched Facebook and came across a private group for women suffering from the same thing and it was a relief to know that I wasn’t alone. I have since discovered that a lot of women I know also have suffered from this illness. I guess I’m writing this because I don’t think that Postnatal Depression is talked about and people don’t realize how it affects sufferers. I also want to let women going through the same thing know that they are not alone.
Patricia has a Just Giving page…you can find her story here and also donate to her cause.
Patricia with her beautiful daughter Erin
So please dig deep and donate generously, it will help so many moms out there. And if you’ve gone through this or are going through this, please feel free to share Patricia’s story. The more awareness created, the more moms out there will know they are not alone.