On 7 March 2011 we found out we were expecting our first baby! We were over the moon and couldn’t be happier! This was 4 days before our wedding day. So needless to say this was one of the best weeks of my life!
Everything with my pregnancy had been perfect, until around 21 weeks. When I became incredibly emotional, I was crying all the time and all of a sudden I literally hated my life! I felt so tired, so alone and everything felt very dark. I was feeling suicidal and even thinking that I didn’t want this precious unborn baby that I so desperately loved only the week before!! I couldn’t rationalise these thoughts, because this pregnancy had been one of the biggest blessings! I expected pregnancy to be one of the best experiences of my life, but in reality it was a very difficult time for me. I felt ugly, fat and and severely depressed! I knew something wasn’t right, so I booked myself an appointment with my Doctor. The doctor signed me off of work and told me to rest. She was careful not to diagnose my behaviour as pre-natal depression, so signed me off work with exhaustion. This was also accurate, as I had been working incredibly long hours and personally felt my depression had been brought on because I was so unhappy in my job and then the pregnancy hormones sent me into an even deeper depression.
I found it absolutely incredible that I could be so contented and happy one minute, then so terribly low the next. I wanted to shut myself away from the world. I stopped seeing friends, I hardly spoke, I didn’t look forward to anything and I wasn’t feeling excited about my baby coming anymore and all I could do was stare at the mind numbing TV and drink endless cups of Chai Latte! I was so mentally exhausted of trying to find a reason for my negative thoughts, that I felt constantly drained. So the doctor signed me off of work until my baby was due and I got additional support from a mental health advisor. This was when she said, I think you have something called pre-natal or antenatal depression! I had no idea what that was! I’d heard of post-natal depression but didn’t know what pre-natal depression was. Call me ignorant but I thought, how can anyone be depressed if they are pregnant with a planned and much loved child?! Well let me tell you, you can! Depression isn’t just about thoughts, it’s not just about your current circumstances or your past. It is a mental illness, whereby your body produces chemicals which attack your brain and you can’t stop it! You can’t stop these negative thoughts or very dark moods, you can’t even rationalise them. So your mind is in constant turmoil and so you become more and more mentally exhausted until you hit rock bottom. I’m so so lucky to have my wonderful husband and family, without them I’m not sure how I would have dealt with this low time in my life. It was also with the support of my GP, my health visitor and charities such as Mind, that helped to pull me out of this black hole.
Around 34 weeks, I started to feel a lot better and was starting to feel excited again, more connected with my baby and I started to go out looking for the perfect pram and nursery furniture for my gorgeous baby girl. By my due date, every piece of clothing and bedding had been washed, ironed, folded and placed perfectly in her brand new lined drawers around 3 or 4 times. Our home was spotless and I was completely ready for my planned home birth! Exactly a week later, my waters broke at 4.45 pm, when I was sitting at home with my mum, husband and youngest sister. I called the hospital, told them everything they needed to know, then went on a military style operation getting everyone to help me clean the already clean house and getting everything ready for the birth, stopping every 5 minutes for contractions. My other sister came rushing back from work, she was so happy to see me, asked me how I was mid contraction and I was a bitch! I can’t even remember what I said but I was short and snappy and I remember seeing the hurt and worry on her face. At that point, I knew I needed to be on my own, as the contractions were coming more frequently. So my family left and my husband was under strict instruction to keep them informed!
I did hypnobirthing and I really found it incredible. I was completely relaxed when the midwives arrived and when they examined me, I was around 5 cm. Two hours later, I was feeling the urge to push, my baby’s head was coming down, so I started on the gas and air. I had been fully dilated for over an hour but my baby still wasn’t coming. So I went into hospital and with a bit of help from a ventouse, my gorgeous baby girl arrived on 17th November at 5.20 am. She was the most beautiful, perfect, precious little darling I had ever seen and I just couldn’t believe she was mine! My heart literally felt like it was going to burst just looking at her. I was totally in love! It felt so surreal, that she was finally here! She needed me to love her, protect her and nurture her in every way a mother should.
When the doctor informed me that I had pre-natal depression, she said it was very likely that I could have post-natal depression too and to watch out for the signs, so I could get help quickly. I never really understood much about post-natal depression, only that it was rarely spoken about and it seemed only extreme cases such as puerperal psychosis were advertised. But post-natal depression can also be defined by anxiety, extreme emotional outbursts and low moods/ energy. But these can all be standard after having a baby anyway, so it’s not unusual for some cases to go undetected.
When my daughter was around 5 months, I started feeling very anxious again. I was worrying about going back to work, even though I didn’t need to. I was hysterically crying about my 5 month old baby starting school (4 and a half years away)! I was experiencing anxiety about completely irrational things, so I took myself back up the doctors! Where they referred me for counselling and I started taking a low dose of anti-depressants. The pair combined helped me massively, the anti-depressants helped to balance my moods and the counselling helped me to recognise what was making me feel unhappy and negative, so I could deal with thoses areas in a more positive way.
I didn’t talk about my pre and post-natal depression for a while afterwards, as I was concerned that I would be judged and to be honest, I didn’t want people knowing my business. So I kept myself to myself, avoided spending time with people I didn’t feel completely happy around and started to evaluate my life, my job and relationships and took steps to ensure I was only surrounding myself with love and positivity. At first I was concerned about how this would be perceived by the people and things I was distancing myself from, but then I reminded myself that it was my mental-wellbeing that mattered. Not just for myself, but for the people I love and care about most, because if I’m happy they’re happy and if they’re unhappy, I’m in a better place to support them.
Sometimes when you’re depressed it’s very hard to see what makes you happy, but if you can then it’s important you encourage that. You might not feel brave enough to say no to the things that make you feel negative, but I can tell you there is something empowering about taking steps to ensure a happier future for yourself.
This is my first blog, I hope you enjoyed reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Links you might find useful:
NHS – recognising post-natal depression
NHS – Mental health problems and pregnancy
Mind, the mental health charity
What is puerperal psychosis?
PANDAS – UK charity to support families suffering from pre-natal and post-natal depression