A question I’m asked often is “were all your children planned?” – the short answer is yes they were….I have 3 children very close in age, when my third baby was born I had 3 under 3yrs. During that time I struggled with severe postnatal depression and anxiety that was so bad I didn’t leave my home. During my second pregnancy I was so low I came very close to ending my own life, so I can understand why people are curious.
I always hoped for a big family, my dream was to have four children if I could, so when I had my first child and postnatal depression hit I couldn’t help but feel my dream slipping away.
My first child, Amelia, was born and the next 6 months were spent in a fog of anxiety, isolation, confusion, depression and a feeling that for my whole life I had been sold a lie about what being a mum was. I couldn’t rest, each moment was filled with dread, fear, hopelessness and although I loved this precious child I didn’t enjoy my life anymore. At the time I had no idea I was experiencing postnatal depression, I wasn’t aware of the symptoms and so believed this was what it must feel like to be a mum.
I knew I would want to have another baby, and I wanted a sibling for Amelia so we started trying for a second baby when she was 6 months old. Very small age gap I know, but In my mind I thought things would be easier as they got older, once I was out of the baby phase things would be different so let’s get this baby bit over and done with. So we started trying for a baby and fell pregnant instantly with our second child, Ryan.
Once I was pregnant my existing postnatal depression got worse, I felt awful, I was on edge all the time and my anxiety became uncontrollable. As I sat in bed one night I wrote some of my symptoms into Google and up popped the Mind website. I read through the postnatal depression section and couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was like someone had gone into my mind and written the words I couldn’t find to explain how I felt.
I now knew what was wrong – this wasn’t what being a mum was like….it was postnatal depression.
I reached out to my midwife and was referred to the local perinatal emotional wellbeing team. I began CBT therapy, and started to notice a small improvement. However treatment lasted for only 6 sessions and once it was over I felt my mental health start to decline. Instead of reaching out again I kept quiet and battled on, which resulted in me becoming very low and struggling with suicidal feelings. I hit rock bottom and very nearly ended my life. It was at this point I knew I needed help again.
After my second baby was born I reached out to my GP who referred me for further therapy and medication, and over time I noticed myself improving. Slowly but surely my mental health progressed over the coming year. As we approached my sons first birthday we began talking about how we would like more children. I was feeling much better and I still longed for a big family. We discussed it at length, the pros and cons, our main concern was my mental health. We came to the decision that we would try for another baby. Not a decision we took lightly at all, but one we felt was right for us. We knew I had recovered before and we would reach out if we needed that help again. So we started trying and soon fell pregnant. We were overjoyed and feeling positive.
Unfortunately at 6 weeks we I started bleeding heavily. A scan at the hospital confirmed our worst fears, I was having a miscarriage and I was advised I was possibly experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, I would need emergency surgery and my Fallopian tube removed.
The whole thing came as a shock, and I couldn’t stop crying. Most of the nurses were really sensitive, and kind. They could see how this had shook me, and they were very patient which I appreciated. When I woke from surgery I was told I hadn’t needed my Fallopian tube removed and it wasn’t ectopic but a “regular” miscarriage, they also told me I had a condition called Endometriosis. I felt so low, I was in pain and heartbroken by the experience.
Once I had recovered we began trying again, the miscarriage had only reinforced our longing for another baby, but as the positive pregnancy tests appeared my feelings were very mixed. I was happy but nervous, I didn’t want to go through the heartache of miscarriage again. The pregnancy was different to the last two. Instead of enjoying the kicks, and looking forward to scans, I was anxious for each appointment. I became obsessive about my health and how my pregnancy was progressing. I started to become obsessive again about my children’s health. I struggled with my mental health through the pregnancy but what did keep me going was a fantastic midwife who made me feel like I could talk to her whenever I needed to.
After my third child, Alaina, was born I referred myself to the perinatal mental health team for therapy. I knew I was slipping into postnatal depression again and so took the steps I knew I needed to get myself recovered.
This time I felt confident in my ability to tackle the illness. I had set up plans for incase I became unwell, and as soon as I noticed I was struggling I reached out for help. I spoke to my family, and I began doing all the things I knew helped me previously. I began participating in #pndhour run by ‘PND and me’. I soon made a set of supportive friends and I managed to get things back on track.
I found I managed much better after my third child. I believe this is due to putting things into place, preparing incase I became unwell. Some women who experience postnatal depression can go on to have another baby and not be affected. We were very much of the opinion that it was likely to happen and so prepared for that.
I truly feel that knowledge is power and preparing mothers during pregnancy can have a positive impact, if done sensitively and correctly. I think if I and my partner had been even just made aware of the symptoms I may have realised what I was suffering from and reached out sooner.
The decision to have another child is a very personal one and one which is completely you and your partners decision. It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons, and if you decide to go ahead, prepare and make sure you have support in place for both you and your partner. Speak to your midwife so they can support you and take care of yourself. Either way, whatever you decide be sure to make the decision that’s best for you and your family.
Elaine Hanzak has a great book Called ‘Another Twinkle In The Eye’ which is about having another child after experiencing PND and you can find out more about it here