#ItHappenedToMe… twice actually. The first time was a shock because I’d never been affected by mental health issues before and the second time was a shock because I was convinced being diagnosed once would make me immune. The most important life lesson I’ve learnt is that peri
natal depression does not discriminate.
From the moment our daughter was born, nothing was as I expected it to be. I was desperate to meet my baby (and I was secretly desperate for her to be a girl) so I was a bit surprised when I got to hold my beautiful baby girl and instead of feeling an instant love and connection, thinking “My goodness she’s so loud. Can someone, please make her stop crying. I can’t handle the noise.”
Nothing was as I expected. I expected to feel a certain way when she was born… and I didn’t. I expected to hear certain things from certain people… and I didn’t. I expected to bond with my baby… and I didn’t. I expected to love being a mum… and I didn’t. People would tell me during pregnancy “You won’t want to swap your life as a mum for anything!” but I was desperate to. People would tell me “You will instantly forget what life was like before you became a mum!” but I could remember every single detail of my freedom with painful clarity.
Instead of looking at my daughter with love and affection, I started seeing her as the reason for my unhappiness. She was the cause of all the disruption in my life. I started to resent her.
Taking her out in public became almost impossible. If she started to cry while I was in a shop I would throw whatever I had in my arms down onto the nearest shelf and run to my car, aborting my venture out of the house completely.
I only lasted 9 weeks in my mother’s group because I couldn’t handle being in the company of other mums who were as blissfully happy and in control as the they were.
I found it incredibly hard being shifted to the second most important person in my husband’s life, after I had been his first for so long. I loved how much he loved our daughter but I missed him and was insanely jealous of the bond he had with her that I still hadn’t been able to establish.
After talking to a friend and my sister, I received a diagnosis and started to get some help. Slowly… eventually, it started to ease. Before I knew it, I was in love with my daughter and enjoyed every minute of being a mum. The fog lifted, the sun started to shine again and I realised I actually had a really wonderful easy baby. She was sleeping through the night early, ate really well, was happy and calm and as I realised this I started to wonder what on earth I was so upset about… she really was perfect and I was the luckiest mother in the world.
Second time around was a different story because this time I knew what to expect and I was prepared for the same sort of stuff. Not PND, as I was sure lightning wouldn’t strike twice, but the labour, the recovery, the lack of bonding afterwards, the sleepless nights, the crying etc… I was ready for it all. It came as a huge shock then when I found myself bonding with our son instantly! I was madly in love with him from the minute I held him – he was absolutely amazing! The labour was a positive experience, my recovery was almost instant (the female body is insanely strong) and our little fella was the light of my life.
Then the ‘happy hormones’ disappeared.
I found myself getting really angry all the time and I started yelling and swearing a lot, sometimes right in the face of my barely 2 year old daughter. Nothing was easy – nothing. Deciding what to eat was hard. Getting myself dressed was hard. Getting out of bed was hard. I felt myself pulling away from my son and started resenting him too.
Hello perinatal depression round 2. I couldn’t believe it was happening again.
Nothing about my time as his mum seemed enjoyable. He was a terrible sleeper and a clingy baby and his big sister didn’t cope very well with all the attention he was getting at the cost of her own. I began to hate how much he had ruined our lives. What was once a happy, balance little family had become my worst nightmare… and as a result, I disengaged myself from the source of all my problems, my son.
I hated how I felt and I hated who I had become. I was having terrible sleep at night yet when given the chance to nap during the day would lie wide awake in bed, being hit with an unexpected bout of insomnia.
I started thinking irrationally and became unable to make my own decisions. If I’m honest, my memory of those few months is very hazy and I have a feeling my husband and mum could probably provide a better recount of what I was like than I could.
After about 3 months, I spoke to my GP who hooked me up with a counsellor and then I started on medication. Since then, I have slowly getting better and my bond strengthens more with my kids every day.
There is so much more to my experience of perinatal depression. It goes a lot deeper than I have shared and affected me in more ways than I have explained. It impacted on my time with my extended family, my friends and my work colleagues. It has tainted my early memories of motherhood, negatively affected what should have been a positive experience and is the biggest reason for me not wanting to have any more kids.
There is nothing I can do about the fact that #ItHappenedToMe however I can do something about the future. I can continue to talk about it and accept it. I can hug my kids each night as I put them to bed and know that tomorrow, as my recovery continues, I will still be their favourite person. I can go to bed each night and remind myself that for them, it has always been that way.