Post natal depression comes in many forms and effects mothers in so many different ways. Charlie has bravely decided to share her story with us, it’s emotional but full of hope and the perfect way for us to end Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.
“There is nothing that prepares you for a baby. You can have the most wonderful pregnancy. You can go to every pre-natal class and learn about what it will be like once baby arrives. You can then have the most amazing birthing experience where everything goes according to your plan in that peaceful environment you have set, surrounded by the ones you love. But then you get home and everything changes. Nothing prepares you for a baby.
Let’s go back. I loved being pregnant- my Crohns went away, I could eat what I wanted, I was craving watermelon and pineapple, it was a perfect pregnancy. But through all this, I found it very difficult to speak to ‘bump’. I sang a lot but never knew what to actually say. And when he arrived I cried and cried and cried the happiest of tears. And then the fear hit. How am I supposed to look after this perfect, fragile little person that I grew and looked like a mini version of me?
Night one: after a 24-hour birth I was absolutely exhausted but I just couldn’t sleep. I was terrified that Jack would not be there when I woke up. It was so silly looking back but I just couldn’t shake the thought that something would happen to him. Then we went home and it all went wrong. I couldn’t get Jack to latch on so night two became a battle of trying to get him to feed and finally hand pumping and getting him to take it from a syringe. Day three I chose to stop breast feeding directly and bought a breast pump. On day ten, we got discharged by the health visitor and had to visit hospital. As the nurse called me in I was feeding Jack and she said “is that formula?” to which I replied “No” and I got this is return; “Well I guess that’s better than NO breast milk” and so started my spiral into a dark hole of despair, of believing I was not a good mother, that I was doing everything wrong and PND really hit.
Post Natal Depression does not always mean you don’t love your child. For me, it was loving my child so much I didn’t know how to deal with that and having this absurd belief that anyone else would do a better job than me at being Jack’s Mum. I spent the first 3 months of Jack’s life telling everyone “I’m fine, I am so happy, life is amazing” but breaking down every night crying uncontrollably either by myself or on Neil’s shoulder. Then I went back to work and it all got so much worse. Neil was at home with Jack most of the time and I started to see this beautiful bond forming between them and my belief that neither of them needed me got stronger and I wanted to run away. Throughout all of this Neil was amazing; he always reassured me that I was doing the most amazing job and being the best mum for Jack, he held my hand through all of the dark cloud days and lifted me up every night keeping me sane. It was like the world around me had stopped and I was not moving on the outside but inside my head was rocking around like a and the screaming noise in my mind wanted to take over, and through all this I kept pretending I was OK.
Jack is nearly 2 now and although there are still dark days they are few and far between. Jack is my absolute world and to know how happy, silly and kind he is fills my heart with joy. I was lucky enough to be coached out of my PND by my family, friends and work colleagues, without having to go on medication, but other mothers don’t always have that network of love and support around them, and to those mothers I want to say this – You are not alone! You are an incredibly strong and brave woman who created life. You are the best for your little person and they love you more than anybody else because you care, you support and you nurture. You are amazing and I believe in you even if, right now, you don’t believe in yourself.”