But I love her so much

As I mentioned in my first blog, I was diagnosed very late with my postnatal depression. This was partly circumstantial, partly because I didn’t know what feelings were normal after having a baby and partly because I loved my baby so much and felt I had a really good bond with her. Strange thing to say?

My ideas about post-natal depression were very different to my experience of it. In my head someone with PND hadn’t bonded with their baby, felt they wanted to harm their baby perhaps and/or could not cope in anyway with the change that had occurred. Although these can be indicators, this is definitely not a complete picture of all post-natal depression, there are lots of other indicators as well.

My experience was different. I bonded with Tigger right away, I loved her so much and my PND manifested itself in anxiety around whether as a mum I was good enough, whether decisions I made on her behalf with regards to food, sleep, things we did etc were going to have a huge impact on her life. Anxiety was a massive factor at the beginning along with a massive lack of confidence in my skills as a mum. Most mums feel ill-equipped in those first few days but this feeling continued for me and my anxieties were so out of proportion.

I also felt very little joy or had little interest in things I had always really enjoyed previously. I began to find it difficult to go to places I didn’t know something I had never struggled with before. I’ve always been a vivacious, fun-loving and outgoing individual with lots to say (too much sometimes) and a love of trying new things so this new me did not sit well. I also felt consistently tired but again this seemed normal for a new mum and everyone says how tired you will be or how tired they are but I now know that the fatigue was part of me being unwell.

Despite, all these things it took me at least 7 months before I began to worry about my mood. Seems silly now as it sounds so obvious but it’s funny when you are in it, there is a new baby to take care of who completely depends on you and you are desperate to look like you have adapted to mothering well, it’s easy to ignore all the warning signs.

You can find some of the warning signs here on the MIND website and also tale to someone on the PANDAS helpline if you are concerned at all about how you are feeling. Don’t feel that it can’t be you, don’t struggle in silence just share with someone that you are a little concerned about yourself and ask for help. Believe me I know this is hard but you will feel better for not being alone in it and remember spring will appear.

The big event

THIS POST HAS DETAILS ABOUT BIRTH. PERHAPS NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH!

From horror stories to no drugs and sailed through it. From a quick, didn’t make it to the hospital birth to a 50 hour struggle, anyone who has been near a birth has a story they’d like to share with you as soon as you mention you are pregnant or look obviously pregnant enough to take the chance.

I had one lady say “my cousin had her little boy a week ago and it ripped her to shreds”. Yes she actually said that to me when I announced I was pregnant! I felt so fortunate to be heading for that adventure!

Everyone is an expert but the reality is there isn’t a normal birth. Every single one is different (speak to any midwife)! Your body is different, your baby is unique and there are so many external factors which can impact your birth experience. There are, of course, amazing ways of preparing yourself physically and mentally for it, however the one thing you can guarantee is that it is an experience like no other with a large degree of unpredictability.

I wanted an active birth and preferably in the water and I was fortunate to get most of this. I did a lot of my labour at home and then was admitted to my local birth centre around 7pm. Tigger was born at 9:50pm in thhe birthing pool with all the staff saying what a straightforward and calm birth I had had. There was little concern as I was managing the pain and to be quite frank felt I should be in some pain having just pushed a human being out of me!

Things changed when I was examined after getting out of the pool and I had lost a fair amount of blood. I had a third degree tear, bordering on fourth. I needed to go to surgery. Suddenly we went from a safe, warm, soft lit room to the lift and delivery suite with bright lights and lots of noise! An assault of my senses a little after the calm experience I’d just had. I waited to be examined by the doctor in charge and then after waiting for a couple of emergency c-sections to take place was wheeled down to theatre. I had a spinal and the doctor ‘fixed my bits’ under a spinal.

After this, I went to recovery and around 4:30/5am was transferred back up to a small room on the birth centre. I was still numb from the waist down and unable to do some of the things I wanted to do but it was nice to be back in a more normal space with my new baby and husband.

I’m going to be brutally honest now, I mentioned it in my very first blog, but the first time I could go to the toilet after getting my feeling back in my legs I was so unsure about whether to leave Tigger or take her with me etc that I didn’t make it. A grown woman not making it to the toilet and having to call someone to clear it up is not fun. I remember being mortified even though the midwife was so reassuring that this happened all the time, let’s be honest you still don’t want it to happen to you!!!

Even though my birth wasn’t horrific in many ways, I didn’t spend 10 hours pushing or end up bring rushed for a c-section, I found it difficult to comprehend after. I was embarrassed that it had happened the way it had, I was also not sure whether the tear had happened because of something I had done or not done. Was it because I had a water birth? Did I push too hard? Did I not listen to the midwife? I know now that there are so many differing factors which can lead to tears that it is almost certainly not linked to one choice or action that I did or didn’t do but it took me a post-natal debrief and chats with some of my midwife friends after sometime to help me realise this. It also took a bit of courage to actually speak up and say it wasn’t quite what I had imagined and I was struggling with the experience. When people around you keep telling you that the baby is healthy and you had a quick, straightforward birth it is difficult to feel that what you are struggling with is valid. Take it from me, it is.

So that’s how Tigger came into the world! I wanted as part of this blog to be as honest as possible about my experiences so apologies if this isn’t what you were looking for or it was too much but my hope is that reading this account may help you or others to know that your story matters. That no matter what people say about your birth or whether you feel you got off lightly or had an awful time, talking about it can help and so can accepting that birth is unpredictable and you were not the only factor involved.

Past the first post!

I blog this first post with a sense of excitement, vulnerability and dread. I’ve been wondering about writing this for some time but now seemed as good a time as any. I’m venturing into having baby number 2 this May and so a lot of the memories feel a little fresher with the thought of doing the baby thing again. In this post I will tell you the outline of my story and then the blog will vary between my own continuing journey as a mum with PND and also ways of helping ourselves and finding help when you are struggling.

So where to start… In June 2012 I had a baby girl, we’ll call her Tigger (she has endless bouncy energy!), from this point on. She was perfect and I was so excited about becoming a mum. The labour was ok (as far as labour goes) however after suffering a third degree tear I was rushed to theatre and after a spinal and much stitching was delicately holding my baby girl again. I will share more of my birthing story in another post but it’s safe to say I experienced the shock that so many others experience at the loss of dignity and the difference between my expectation and the reality of what bringing Tigger into the world looked like.

I remember needing the toilet in the early hours of the next morning and not knowing whether to leave my newborn baby in the room while I went or whether I needed to call a midwife?! I had ideas that social services might be called if they found I had disappeared, safe to say that tiredness had set in I think.

I had so much love for my little one and it wasn’t for some time (about 6 months) that I began to wonder if there was something wrong as the feelings of exhaustion, loneliness and anxiety just would not budge. Why did I feel like this? What did I have to feel sad about? Why when I have so much support and love around me, do I keep crying and feeling so low? I tentatively began to ask the question am I depressed?

Next, life happened, my grandad passed away suddenly and as my Nans’ primary carer, it was not only incredibly upsetting but also logistically difficult to work out how we could best look after Nan. As a close family, we all pulled together and without sounding too melodramatic, our own needs were buried. There was also a reason to be sad so when I felt low and tired there was a reason so I carried on. My nan also passed away that year so it was a very sad and also hectic year. It wasn’t until the Christmas, 18 months after my little one had arrived, that I felt like something was going to break. I could no longer see light at the end of the tunnel and thing seemed so hard. This was when I first sought help.

So there began a journey I never expected. It has been and continues to be challenging and distressing but has also shown me so much both about myself but also about the pressures we heap upon ourselves and others when we become mums. I hope on this blog to explore post-natal depression and how it affected me and also provide ways of you seeking the help you need if you are feeling low after having a baby.

I blog with a hope I guess. Hope that telling my story may help someone, hope that support will increase for mums experiencing PND after having their babies and always with a hope that in the darkest of winters, spring will always appear.