A kiwi mum shares her Post Natal Depression journey.
I was 19 when I fell pregnant with out eldest (now 3); Hubby and I had been trying to get pregnant and we were very excited! However our rose-tinted view of pregnancy was soon shattered when I started throwing up. Unfortunately I didn’t just have morning sickness, I got Hyperemesis – taking things to the extreme, I was throwing up 12 times a day and fainting all over the place! I hardly moved from the sofa all day, and was hospitalised several times. Eventually I was able to take medication, but that only just managed it and my constant companion was still a little white bucket.
Stuck in the house all day, hardly able to keep down a meal, let alone be the loving wife, daughter and friend I was supposed to be; I got ante-natal depression. This is hardly ever talked about; I’d certainly never heard of it. I had my bright moments which lasted anywhere from a day to a few weeks, but I mostly just withdrew and became almost robotic.
Finally my very long ten months (she was two weeks late!) was over and my darling girl entered the world. We both had a very hard time of it; she turned sideways and wasn’t breathing, so they had to whip her out. An extensive episiotomy – they cut me three times; my mum-in-law, who had horrific births herself, said even she couldn’t tell where my leg ended and didn’t think they would be able to put me back together – and my 9lb 6oz (!) baby girl came out a purpley black colour. Thankfully she turned out fine and suffered no damage. I developed very hard scar tissue on my perinium, which was very painful, particularly during sex.
Probably due to the undiagnosed antenatal depression, and the awful birth, I then got postnatal depression, and it was truly the worst year of my life.
I loved my daughter, but I felt nothing. I felt nothing about anybody, or about anything. It was as if inside of me there was just an empty black vacuum, and I had no emotions. I hated myself and would spend ages curled up on my bed in a ball thinking about how worthless I was, and how my family would be better off without me. When I was breastfeeding my daughter, I would have these thoughts in my head – what would it be like to break her arm, or cover her face? Please understand I KNEW with all of my being that I would never, could never, do that, and if I was actually worried for her safety, I would have told someone what I was thinking. But as it was, it was a fleeting thought that I quickly discarded, and then hated myself for it even entering my mind, even though I didn’t entertain it. I felt like a horrible mother, a horrible wife, and as if I was sucking the life and fun out of everybody else. I was a burden.
PND for me was a whole bunch of contradictions, and I think that part was the most soul destroying. I felt nothing for my husband, and didn’t care if he left, but at the same time a part of me on the inside wanted to cling to his leg and cry, begging him not to give up on me. I wanted to die, but at the same time, didn’t want to kill myself. I wanted to leave, but I had nowhere to go. I wanted to be left alone, but didn’t want anyone to leave me alone.
I wanted to be well again, but the safety of being sick was so much easier to remain in. It was a vicious circle, and it was too hard to get dressed in the morning, let alone get out of it. I knew how to be depressed, and it was easy and almost comforting. I see it as a blanket that is big and warm but becomes heavy and suffocating. That was the hardest part about it, and something that only PND sufferers could understand.
I tried natural hormone therapy, but that didn’t work, and when my daughter was 1 year and 9 months old, I eventually took the plunge and went to my doctor. Sorry if this sounds overly dramatic, but I really did feel like someone who was drowning, and was trying to grasp at a life belt.
I told her everything I was feeling, and that I wasn’t sleeping etc. She then turned to me, and said I was failing my daughter. She told me I needed to take her to playcentre, and that by keeping her at home with me I was ruining her development, and affecting her negatively. She prescribed me some citalopram and send me out the door, telling me she wanted to see me in a month to hear how things were going.
Can you imagine?!
As it was, I was booked in for surgery a few days after that, to reconstruct my perinium. It went well, despite the prognosis that I was so badly damaged it was unlikely to make any difference.
After the surgery, I felt like a cloud had lifted. It was as if a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders, and I realised I had obviously been very affected by it. It wasn’t an immediate transformation, but I slowly began to come right again, and to feel things again. It was a long time before I was able to really enjoy life, and that took many months. I am now happy, and have TWO beautiful girls – my youngest is 9 months old. I had hyperemesis with her too, but found some very strong drugs that kept it mostly at bay.
You know, It wasn’t until six weeks after my eldest was born, and I was heading out for an afternoon shopping on my own, that I suddenly felt a rush of love for my daughter. This was both a happy and incredibly sad moment, as I realised what I had been missing out on. I’m so grateful that now I can enjoy my girls, and enjoy life as a family together.
I think the thing that most people with PND don’t realise is that you don’t necessarily ‘feel’ depressed every day. Some days were good days when I laughed and was happy, and sometimes that lasted for a week, and once or twice I even had a good month. I would always slip back into it though, and it wasn’t until that cloud lifted that I was finally on the way out, and even though I had the odd bad day, I was getting OUT!! 🙂