Don’t worry, despite the fact that The Man has been ear-bashing John Lewis’ customer-service for the last 45 minutes, today’s post isn’t another unexciting installment of the ongoing saga of the broken washing machine.
What I want to discuss is something that’s actually a little bit difficult to talk about, but I don’t think I can go on with my plans for this blog without explaining something about my recent past. Let me start by saying that both my children were planned and very much wanted. The Boy arrived as soon as we made room for him in our lives but our little girl kept us waiting. And waiting. And waiting. With a couple of false starts I was starting to wonder if we’d ever have a sibling for our boy, but then he turned round one day, poked me in the belly and said “Mummy got a baby in her tummy”.
He was right and very shortly after the little pink line came the unrelenting nausea and the depression. I don’t know how much the depression was linked to the fact I couldn’t keep any food down, how much to the birth trauma I experienced having The Boy and how much was just the pregnancy hormones having a bloody good laugh at my expense, but it came silently, swiftly and quickly took over.
Mild disputes at work had me in sobbing heaps on the floor and calling The Man in despair because I couldn’t cope. I feel ashamed to think of it now, but more than once I clung to my two year old boy; crying into his soft blonde hair as he patted me on the back and tried to reassure and comfort me. Everything felt so black and hopeless. Every person I spoke to except The Man and my lovely midwives felt like an enemy and I even shied away from being honest with them until things got so bad I couldn’t hide it any more. I ditched everything I had been working on – my clients, my sub-contracted work with Mumsnet that I loved, this blog which I had put so much work into. The only way I could cope with just putting one foot in front of the other was to excise every responsibility and expectation except for the very bare essentials.
I broke down in front of my husband, my midwife, my GP. I got referred to a service for expectant and new mothers experiencing mental health difficulties. I confessed how I was feeling to a couple of trusted friends, to my online ante-natal group (and on that note do take a look at the post one of them wrote about the importance of a ‘Tribe’ on her blog ) and slowly – very slowly – I started to feel the darkness fall back a little. As the sickness eased and the remaining jitters from work-related anxiety receded my happy, horribly optimistic self returned and peace resumed in our little house, but it wasn’t without its casualties.
As I look out at my future post-babies I now do it from a completely blank slate of no clients, no Mumsnet Local-editorship and a missing nine months’ or so worth of blog posts. Just as sadly; I also lost a friendship when my careless words of hurt, hurt the person I said them to.
Luckily for all of us, once the clouds cleared they stayed gone, even after our darling girl was born I managed to stay (mostly) sane, although it wasn’t easy. Now I’m trying to work out my next steps and holding on tight to the friendships that survived. Post natal depression is well known now and well publicised, but ante-natal depression less so. There is help, you will be taken seriously, but firstly you need to recognise that you are struggling and that how you are feeling is not normal and you don’t have to keep feeling that way.
For more information I highly recommend the wonderful PANDAS who can offer advice and support in this situation and around all issues of mental health pre- and post-natally
Ante-natal depression support
Or talk to your GP or midwife