My first guest article in our World Mental Health Day series is written by Lisa from Thirty Something Belle. Lisa lives in Manchester, is Mum to two girls and is also a bit of a crazy cat lady like me!
She has a pretty cool sense of style and a vintage mirror that I would love to steal…
Lisa’s article is about her experience of Post Natal Depression after a traumatic birth as a young mother.
I became a mother aged just 17 in June 2000. Unexpected and unsure of the road that lay ahead, I tried to embrace this life changing experience. My daughters arrival on this planet was less than smooth. A traumatic birth resulting in an emergency Caesarean section left me tired, confused and in pain. During the night, I was left alone with my new arrival and after a few nervous cuddles, I attempted to feed her. The feeling when she looked up into my eyes was indescribable. I was utterly in love. This beautiful child who was now completely dependent upon me to provide for all of her future needs – emotional and practical.
I left the hospital with Megan’s dad and brought her back to our humble home. Our relationship was still in it’s infancy, becoming a couple just twelve months prior to her arrival. We were still in the early stages of building our home, having moved into our first house together eight weeks before Megan was born. After the excitement of eager visitors, friends and family members, we began settling into our new normal. Megan’s dad worked full time during the day and I began working night shifts in order to help us make ends meet and cover childcare between the two of us.
I’d been feeling increasingly low in the months after Megan’s birth. I dismissed this as the ‘baby blues’ and carried on regardless. When I was asked by my health visitor and midwives how I was doing, I plastered on a fake smile and reassured them that things were going perfectly. I was desperate to prove myself, to prove that I could do this. After around 4 – 5 months, I was running on auto-pilot. Wake up, feed baby, sleep for an hour or so, make food, clean, work, nap on the sofa, bathe, feed, change nappies, smile, entertain guests, cry in secret…
On a routine visit to my G.P, I plucked up the courage to admit to him how I was truly feeling – empty, scared and despairing. I was quickly dismissed. He explained to me in a delightfully patronising manner, that parenting was, well…hard work. I simply had to deal with it and that most people feel like this in the early days. I left the doctors surgery embarrassed, humiliated and feeling more alone than ever. I was failing.
A few weeks after that appointment, my mum had called over to our house unexpectedly – I was sat on the living room floor, sobbing whilst Megan cried in her cot. After some gentle coaxing, she took us both to the G.P and insisted on seeing somebody (my mother is a lady who gets results and does not take no for an answer) This time, it was a very different result. I spoke with another doctor and through the tears, explained that is wasn’t the sleepless nights or change in circumstances making me feel low – this was something a lot darker. I was having thoughts that terrified me, suicide was starting to feel like a logical escape route and I desperately needed help. He diagnosed me with postnatal depression, enlisted me for counselling and put me on a course of antidepressants. I had never taken them before so was a little wary of the way they may make me feel but at this point, I had very little to lose. This was rock bottom.
I also decided to give a few parent and toddler groups a go. I had been feeling isolated yet the idea of putting myself in front of bunch of ‘perfect’ mothers hardly appealed either – I’m an introvert at the best of times. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. After the first few awkward play dates, I began to make some real friends. A few of which were in a similar boat. As the taboo topic of PND reared it’s head, it transpired that I was not alone. It was a fairly common illness amongst new mums, regardless of ages, status or finances. Mental illness does not care how wealthy, secure or supported you may be, it can get it’s destructive claws into anyone.
I slowly began to feel a little lighter. My counselling really helped and we discussed various topics. My fear of being judged, the experience of Megan’s birth which had left me more traumatised than I’d realised, lack of confidence, the relationship with her father, the lack of support I was feeling plus many other things. When Megan was around three years old, I had finally began to feel like myself again. There was no magic cure, I just woke up one day and felt like the fog was lifting. Lucky really as not long after that, I became pregnant with baby number two.
I’ll be honest, I was utterly terrified of developing PND again. I just could not face the idea of living through that hell with not one, but two babies to support. I waited and waited after Lucie’s birth for that dark cloud to descend – but it didn’t. I started to enjoy motherhood and all the wonderful things it entailed.
If you can relate to my story then please do get some form of help. Go and see your G.P. Talk honestly to friends, family and health professionals. Shout, cry and scream until somebody listens. It will not just go away. There is absolutely no shame in this nor much you can do to control it on your own. I hate the fact that it still remains a somewhat forbidden topic, hence my decision to publicly share my experience with you.