The day I had my first child was life changing. An obvious statement I know, it’s life changing for everyone, but for me it was not only the start of my life as a mum but the day the dark clouds of PND began to roll in. I used to say to my husband “our daughter was born but I had died” it sounds awful but that’s how I felt. I walked into hospital a happy, bubbly person full of hope and excitement for our future and came out a nervous wreck, feeling shocked at having given birth and terrified of the responsibilities I now had.
I couldn’t sleep, I was convinced if I slept my precious baby would stop breathing, between the 2 hourly feeds when she would sleep I would stay up watching her breathing. By day 3 I was so exhausted I was hallucinating – I was convinced it was snowing in the bedroom. Eventually I couldn’t last any longer and my body gave way to sleep. Waking to find my daughter was actually fine, slowly I began to feel comfortable with sleeping.
Intrusive thoughts were something I suffered with hugely in the beginning, I would obsess over them and start to believe they were a real possibility. Now I can look back and see they were ridiculous-At one point I was convinced someone was going to break in and put my baby in the oven! I would imagine ways I might accidentally hurt her, the thought of this would make me feel sick. I’d be worrying about how I could prevent anything awful happening to her. This resulted in high levels of anxiety, I constantly felt something awful was about to happen.
As well as these feelings I had the PND starting to settle in. The extreme tiredness physically & mentally probably didn’t help my ‘baby blues’ but I couldn’t help but feel down. I was crying, a lot. I felt angry too, I resented my husband for going out to work in the ‘real world’, having an identity, and most of all for sleeping. After numerous conversations I now know he was overwhelmed and scared of having a newborn, and his way of dealing with it was to let me take charge and lead him – I ended up doing all the feeds, nappy changes, day and night. To be honest part of me wanted to do it all and no one else, but I also really needed his help.
After a couple of weeks my ‘baby blue’ feelings didn’t disappear, they got worse. I kept my feelings to myself, always said “I’m fine” with a smile on my face. I didn’t want anyone to find out my secret, that I wasn’t coping, the image of a perfectly happy confident mum was a sham. It was all an act. For the first few months of my daughters life I felt I was mourning my old carefree days yet I couldn’t imagine my life without her, it was so confusing.
Over the months my depression worsened, I was isolated, I had no friends or family around as everyone was at work, my confidence was so low I couldn’t bring myself to go to baby groups. Eventually my confidence was almost non existent and anxiety so high I couldn’t leave the house without having horrendous panic attacks. Sometimes I wouldn’t leave my house at all, I’d avoid all social situations, withdrew from all hobbies, and from my friends. I was a shell of my former self, I would look in the mirror and I wouldn’t recognise the person staring back at me. I believed my husband and daughter would be better off if I was no longer around. I thought no one would notice if I simply disappeared. I’d hit rock bottom.
It was at this point I discovered PND, and that this was what I was suffering from. For the first time in months I felt hopeful – now I know what is wrong with me maybe I could get better? Another blessing came when my daughter was 6 months, I found out I was pregnant again with my son, it gave me another reason to hold on, he was a little ray of hope.