Morning everyone – hope you’re having a nice Easter monday; spending time with your families, scoffing lots of chocolate and hot cross buns! Today’s post is on a topic that I’ve been planning to write a few posts on for awhile now – and then very fortuitously the lovely S popped up and asked me if I’d like a guest blog post on post-natal depression.
Although this isn’t a post specifically about breastfeeding, I think it’s probably safe to say that anything that can affect your self esteem like BFing must certainly have an impact on your mood. I don’t know if there is any research into it but I would have thought that if you were susceptible to – or have a history of – mental health issues like anxiety and depression, then difficulties with breastfeeding probably don’t help this. But I’m no doctor or scientist. Anyway, I’ll stop waffling and let S get on with telling you her story…
“I wanted to put this into writing, partly for my own closure but also to help other mummies who may be feeling the same…In December 2009 I was diagnosed with CFS/ME. this was after a lengthy time of feeling poorly and run-down, constantly picking up every infection going. At that time, I thought to myself, I’d never be able to have children..
I started a ME treatment, and the conversation about motherhood came up again and again. I had already told myself I’d be unable to have a healthy pregnancy, as not only did I have the ME but I also have a long-term mental health issue that can play havoc with me at any given moment, without notice. Having the chats with my psychotherapist and ME therapist they tried to make me realise that I could be able to have a baby one day.. It wasn’t until I started going to regular acupuncture that I began to realise that my baby was positively craving a baby! Together with the three different therapists, I started to build up confidence in myself that it was possible.
After only 1 month of trying, I discovered that little faint pink line on the stick that changes people’s lives. My belly started to grow tenfold, and I can’t even begin to explain how relived I was after the 12 week scan- not only was my broken body able to carry a baby, but I could finally get into my much-longed for maternity wear! Psychotherapy cut down to once every few weeks and then to once a month, although I was tired, physically my body was coping well.
Leading up to the birth, I attended NCT and hypnobirthing classes. I’d written a long A4 page full of a birth plan; I was going to have a hypno- waterbirth, no real pain relief to speak of, and my body would know what to do. I’d listen to the hypnobirthing affirmations daily, and my husband obligingly did the relaxation exercises with me. I would have this baby naturally, and pretty much guaranteed on time.
At my 37 week midwife appointment, the baby wasn’t engaged. It’s not uncommon, but the midwife explained the risk of umbilical cord coming out first if my waters were to break. Each subsequent appointment went the same way; 38 week, 39, 40. At 41 weeks I was sent for a scan to find out why the baby still hadn’t engaged. Of course there was no real reason, so after the first of what was to be many sweeps, I was sent on my merry way with a date for induction – 42 weeks.
After a week of induction gels, CTGs, walking up and down corridors of the hospital, positive thinking and tears of frustration, a c-section at 42+3 meant I finally met my baby boy. The first few days were amazing, I’d never felt as tired and yet I found energy from somewhere deep within and was allowed to leave the maternity ward with L 2 days later. My milk came in, my scar healed well, my body coped well with the lack of sleep.
In my mind, that’s where things started to go wrong. No matter what people said, all I could think of was how useless I was as a mum, as I hadn’t been able to perform my most basic of human instinct; give birth to my child. Despite the extensive work physically and psychologically, I had failed not only myself, but L also.
Days came and went, I kept a smile on my face while inside I was devastated. My mum, who had reassured me that she would stay with me as long as I’d need her, had to go to see my sister who had given birth – naturally – to my nephew 6 days later. OH went back to work after two weeks. All that remained was my beautiful baby and me, with my broken mind.
Only the fear of having my baby taken away from me prevented me from reaching out to the Health Visitors for support. L was a clingy non-napping baby which meant I couldn’t get much rest. Even having a shower proved nigh-on impossible. When L was 9 weeks old, we went to stay with my parents in France for a month. I’d had high hopes about them being helpful and giving me a break occasionally, but I grossly overestimated the amount of support they would provide. Every time I asked them for help, it would be met with a groan and rolling of eyes…
I left my parents a few days early as I’d had enough, I was starting to have visions of myself picking L up out of his bed, and either throwing him against the wall or dropping him from the balcony to the floor below. The child I’d longed for so many years, that I’d worked so hard to achieve, my little miracle.. I’d broken him. He deserved better.
August came along, and I was offered a Birth Afterthoughts session by the maternity hospital; a service provided by midwives who volunteered. We went through my maternity notes from start to finish, and by this point I was so emotionally switched off I don’t remember how I really felt. It was only towards the end of the appointment when the midwife turned to me with tears in her eyes and said “This is NOT your fault” that something snapped.
It took a few weeks, but I went back to psychotherapy for the first time since L’s birth and confessed my feelings of inadequacy and bonding issues with L. She looked at me, matter-of-factly, and told me that it was perfectly normal. It was as if I could have just told her what I’d had for breakfast that morning, it didn’t faze her. Slowly but surely, the fog began to lift. L started to wean and develop his own little personality, his over-excited laugh and – amazingly – the ability to nap without laying on me! I would go to bed around 2pm with L and have a nap myself.
By the time L was 6 months, I felt that overwhelming rush of love all over again for him. Every few days I find myself thinking “this is my most favourite phase of his development!” And it just gets better and better. I love seeing how excited he gets at simple things, how easily he’ll throw a tantrum when things don’t go his way, but mostly the fact that he’s such a contended and happy baby! To think I helped mould that little personality, helped to build his confidence and nurtured the sense of adventure in him overwhelms me with pride every day.
I find myself looking at photos I took when L was a baby, and slowly but surely, rather than thinking about how I failed him and that I should have reached out for help sooner, I see the complete adoration and unconditional love he had for me then, and still does now. Instead of reaching for forgiveness from him, I’m learning to forgive myself.”
A brave and inspiring story I think you’ll agree. If you’re having trouble or not feeling so good, please please seek help or confide in someone. There is some more information on PND on the NHS website and on the MIND website. If you don’t know where to turn or who to speak to then you might like to call Samaritans or talk to your GP or Health VIsitor – or call the Mind Helpline also. Please don’t suffer in silence, you are not alone and it takes a strong, brave person to seek help. To all the mummies out there who are feeling a bit rubbish – or worse – take care of yourselves.
Becky + Baby Thor