‘2-3 weeks pregnant’ the test read. I looked down in horror. the lump in my throat seemed to be growing by the second and my heart was hammering. I unlocked the bathroom door, and said ‘thanks for ruining my life’. As I burst into tears, my poor husband didn’t know what to do with himself. This was not like the movies, and these were not tears of joy.
The first thoughts in my mind were, how will I get this thing out? I can’t even have a blood test without going into full blown panic, how am I going to give birth?
I visited the GP the very next day and spent the appointment crying, as she explained I would need to book my first midwife appointment. I was so anxious and angry all at the same time. For the next few weeks I felt nothing but resentment. At 7 weeks in to the pregnancy the sickness started. This was no ordinary morning sickness. I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Oh the joy. I couldn’t keep a single thing down, and was sick up to ten times a day. The sickness didn’t stop until the day I gave birth, and I lost 2 stones in weight during my pregnancy.
Being sick all the time took a toll on my mood, as well as my physical health. I couldn’t identify with this thing growing inside me-it felt alien. At about 14 weeks I went to visit my GP, and told her I felt nothing for this baby. I was struggling emotionally. After speaking to me at some length, she finally said ‘I think you’ve got antenatal depression’. I didn’t even know that was a thing. I had never heard of it. No one talks about these things and no one explains that’s being pregnant might not be the wonderful, exciting experience you expect it to be.
I left the surgery feeling confused. Was I actually depressed, or was it the constant vomiting getting me down? The weeks dragged on, I did more research into HG and how it affects your mood in pregnancy, and eventually I began to accept the sickness as part of my daily routine.
At my 20 week scan, we found out that we were having a girl. That was the defining moment for me, the moment I realised that this girl was coming into our life and needed me to be the best version of myself. I owed it to her. At 26 weeks I suddenly started bleeding. I was at work, and had to rush to hospital where I was kept in overnight. I spent that night wishing with all my heart that she would be ok. I had gone from not wanting this baby, to not being able to live without her, in a matter of weeks, without having ever met her. Luckily the bleeding had stopped by the morning and she was fine. I felt my mood lift and change in the coming weeks, and once she was born the sickness completely disappeared.
However, on her day three check up, the midwife discovered that she was very jaundiced. I had been breastfeeding, and it turned out Leya hadn’t quite learnt how to latch on properly. I also wasn’t producing a great deal of milk, so those two things coupled together meant that Leya wasn’t getting enough to drink and became dehydrated. She was admitted into hospital the same day and then it was test after test, and her in a little tube having phototherapy. It broke me to see her like that, so tiny, so helpless. My husband and I slept by her side on a little pull out bed for the two nights she was there, and once we got her home she was bottle fed. Slowly, I started to get into a routine with her, and my mood lifted.
With my second pregnancy, the sickness started at six weeks. It was even worse than the first time and required hospital treatment with fluids. To add insult to injury, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. Due to the sickness, it couldn’t be treated with tablets or insulin, although I had to try both to begin with- yes the needle phobic had to inject herself!
The diabetes meant constant hospital visits, and couple with the sickness, made my pregnancy a miserable one. The familiar feelings of resentment returned. I felt so alone, everyone around me was excited and happy, and I felt pressurised to feel the same way. Your body goes through so many changes, physical, hormonal, emotional, and you’re expected to push that aside and smile and be happy.
When I was on my own I would cry. I didn’t want Leya to have to share me with someone else. I didn’t want her to feel pushed out or neglected. That was my biggest fear, she was my baby, she needed me. How was I going to love something else like I loved her? Did I have that much love left? It may sound awful, but that is the reality of my thoughts at the time.
At the 20 week scan once again, the sonographer told us we were having a little girl, but this time no rush of joy for me. My husband was over the moon, but I couldn’t get past how unwell I felt.
I had to be induced at 38 weeks and the labour was complicated and terrifying (I’ll spare you the gory details). We had what is described as a ‘birth trauma’, and when I did finally hold Aria, all I did was cry and apologise to her for not wanting her. Once on the ward, I started to feel a distance between us, and it continued when we got home. I would avoid holding her, and diverted all my attention towards Leya. There were times when she would cry and it was almost as though I couldn’t hear her. It felt like a baby crying in the distance. I loved her-I knew that, but I just didn’t have the overwhelming urge to cradle her in my arms and comfort her. My midwife picked up on my feelings right away, and gave me a questionnaire to complete. I scored really high up the scale of post-natal depression. She wanted to refer me to a specialist team but I declined. ‘I’ll pull myself out of this’ I told her.
We agreed to meet in a weeks time and when she came back my score had halved. The road to recovery was long and hard. It took a while before I felt like me again.
Aria is two and a half now, and there are still days when my mind tries to take me back to the darkness of that delivery suite and the moment I almost lost her. That was the moment my subconscious mind tried to sever the bond we had, to prepare me for the possibility that she might not make it. I have to work hard to remind myself that she’s fine, she’s healthy and she’s here.
post-natal depression affects women differently and some aren’t as lucky as me, they find it impossible to come through without medication and therapy, some experience psychosis and many even harm themselves. Untreated it can lead to life-long mental health problems and it is much more common than we are led to believe. It shouldn’t be a taboo subject.
Look out for the new mums around you, look for the signs that they might not be coping. Being a new mum is exhausting and we need to be reminded and reassured that its ok and normal to feel that way. It doesn’t make you a bad mother to ask for help.
I Love BOTH my daughters with every bit of my being. My experience of post-natal depression was luckily short-lived, and I got through it with the support of those around me.
If you’re suffering, don’t hesitate to reach out! Happy Motherhood.