My Story : I am a Postpartum Depression Survivor
I am a Postpartum Depression Survivor. I’ve sat down many times and tried to write about my Postpartum Depression Journey and Postpartum Depression Recovery Story. It’s been difficult to know where to start. To be honest I have avoided it at times as I know this will be one of the hardest things I ever write. I am going to do my best though as I want other mums with Postpartum Depression to know how they are feeling is totally normal and that it does get easier with time. I’ve decided to roll both in to one story.
The Beginning – Pregnancy – Postpartum Depression Survivor
Looking back my journey into the darkness of postpartum depression began when I was pregnant. It should have been an amazing time preparing for the arrival of our little one – but it wasn’t. Instead I became submerged into a world where I had to be the perfect mum.
I was convinced that if I knew all there was to know about looking after a baby that I couldn’t fail. It’s easy to see now that I was suffering from Prenatal Depression and Anxiety – but at the time I had no idea this was happening to me. I thought it was just the normal nerves of being a first time mum. Its wasn’t – I was scared I would fail my baby as a mother – I obsessed about it so much, it took over me & my life.
I read every baby book and website I could find. I memorised every detail to do with caring for your newborn. How to breastfeed, how to bathe them, the best number of blankets to use depending on the temperature of the room. I spent hours researching about the best cot, steriliser & pram. I needed to have the best for him so he’d be OK and I’d be doing a good job as his mum. It was all there taking up masses of space in my head. I felt I had to stick to all this rigidly when my baby arrived so that I was being a good mum. I worried and stressed about every tiny detail. These were my thoughts 24/7. To say I became isolated and submerged in my own world of worry is probably a major understatement!
His room wasn’t immune to my need for perfection either. I’d seen in a baby store some blue wallpaper with white stars on – I HAD to have it. It was £20 a roll – pretty expensive. I looked at many alternatives but none of them were good enough. We had to buy the expensive one.
(I’m sat looking at the walls now thinking he’ll probably want to tear it down soon for something Fireman Sam or Paw Patrol related – I should of brought the £6 a roll stuff from B&Q)
The Obsession – Postpartum Depression Survivor
My obsession with having to a perfect mum also stemmed from the fact that I had always planned to return to work after my maternity leave – but I felt massively judged for this decision. I’ve always worked full time since I was 18 years old. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting to a high-point in my career and I didn’t want to give up this up as I am proud of my achievements.
I had comments made along the lines of , “You’ll Change Your Mind Once The Baby’s Here”, “I Couldn’t Leave My Baby All Day”, “Can’t You Work Part-Time Instead”, “Well You’re Not Really The Maternal Type Anyway”
However I wanted to return to work, I enjoyed my job, and there was also the small fact that we needed the money! These comments though – especially “I couldn’t leave my baby all day” lurked in the back of my mind. I wanted to work, so did that mean I wanted to leave my baby all day? If so what kind of mother did that make me? What kind of mother didn’t want to be with her child 24/7?
Of course all of this conflicted with my addiction to be the perfect mum, I was failing my little one already and he hadn’t even been born yet. If I was going to return to work I HAD to prove to everyone and myself that this was the right decision and that it in no way was detrimental to my baby or my ability to be a mother.
So the quest for perfection began. The plan was to have a natural calming water-birth and I was going to breastfeed. I researched about freshly prepared weaning meals that covered the nutritional needs of my growing baby. I read about how I would get my baby settled into a perfect sleep routine, ready for my return to work.
In my quest to learn more about breastfeeding I attended a group about breastfeeding your baby. I was quite liking the idea of doing combination feeding for when I returned to work or when I was out and about. As I wasn’t sure if I’d be brave enough to breastfeed in public. The general theme for the meeting was that EVERYBODY can breastfeed.
They told us a story of how a grandmother had to take over looking after her grandchild as the mother was no longer with them. Even though she had her children 30 years before she was still able to produce breast milk – so woman who say ‘I can’t produce enough milk’ were just making excuses. I thought this was a bit harsh and totally untrue about mothers making excuses. There a plenty of mothers out there who can’t breastfeed because they don’t produce enough milk, are on medications so they cannot breastfeed. Some have just chosen not to out of personal preference.
I asked about combination feeding; (breast and formula) and felt like I was shot down in flames for suggesting such a terrible thing. The whole hour it was drilled into us that breast is best. That there’s no excuses as to why you can’t do it.
So that was it I was going to have to breastfeed, there was no reason why I couldn’t – the midwives had said so.
What could possibly go wrong with that plan – and besides I had to pull it off – I had to be the perfect working mother.
The Middle – The Birth – Postpartum Depression Survivor
I planned for a water birth, in a nice relaxing environment with my favourite music playing. I’d only have gas and air during the labour. I didn’t want to do it with medicines and other pain relief. We are built for this – so I’d be fine. Besides women always take great pleasure it telling you ‘Yes I Only Used Gas And Air’. It was a badge of honour.
My due-date came and went – the baby didn’t. I was booked in to be induced as he was 10 days late. They didn’t want to leave it any longer. So there went the water birth idea – it was a bed for me. I felt as though I had failed already. My body couldn’t even do the basic’s like have contraction on its own without them being brought on by having my waters broke and pumped full of hormones and drugs to get things going. I had a drip with hormones to start of my contractions and a drip to keep me hydrated – one in each hand – fabulous! Also the heart monitor around my middle was very fashionable. I did not look or feel nice and relaxed ready for the wonderful experience of giving birth. I felt bloody terrified and stressed to the limits of what I could take.
The midwife told me I would more than likely need an epidural at some point. Apparently the pain from being induced is worse than if contractions happens naturally. Great another thing I didn’t want and now it was going to be extra painful. I think it’s fair to say my birth plan had gone completely out the window at this point!
I refused the epidural at first but after several hours in agony I asked for it – thank god the pain would be better. Wrong – they did my epidural twice – and twice it failed – I could still feel everything. It went on and on for 12 hours. I was 6cm dilated and had been for 3-4 hours. This wasn’t going anywhere! They increased the hormone levels in my drip but nothing happened.
All through this they were concerned about my baby’s heart rate as at times it would go too low. I had a heart rate monitor across by stomach and they monitored it every few minutes. They did a pin prick on my little ones head (whilst still in there!) to check that his oxygen levels were OK, thankfully they were.
Late that night I’d had enough. I was tired and in agony. I wasn’t getting any-more dilated and they were still concerned about his heart rate. They decided to do an emergency c-section as I couldn’t take it any-more. Plus they were getting worried he couldn’t either.
The Birth Continues – Postpartum Depression Survivor
I don’t think I’ve ever been moved so quickly in my life! Or for that matter seen so many doctors and nurses in one place. After I signed the consent form I was off! I remember them asking me to sign it and asking me did I understand what was going to happen – my signature ended up more of a squiggle on the page, how anybody could do their signature whilst in that much pain is beyond me. As the epidural had failed twice they had to give me a spinal block to perform the operation.
I remember sitting in agony whilst they did it. Then 5 minutes later all the pain of the last 12 hours was gone. I remember lying there thinking ah this is nice and peaceful (finally). It was a relief and I was so happy to not be in pain. I didn’t even realise they had done the c-section until I heard a baby crying. I was like oh have they already done it? Is that my baby crying? It was – he was finally here after all that. I tried to breastfeed, he didn’t want to know just yet but not to worry we’d soon work it out.
As a first time mum I can honestly say this was the worst experience I’ve ever had in my life. I thought childbirth would be an amazing, magical experience – instead I found it traumatic and stressful.
That night as I lay in the hospital bed – my little man was in his cot – he was crying – I couldn’t get up to see to him as I was still numb from the waist down. So I had to press a buzzer so that a nurse could come and pass me my own son. I felt like the worst mum in the world. Plus I didn’t get to be the first one to dress him, or change his nappy or give him his first bath. I couldn’t even walk to get up to him when he cried.
I carried on trying to breastfeed, but he didn’t want to latch on. So I tried expressing and feeding him out of a bottle but he wasn’t having it. We ended up stopping in hospital for a week. They wouldn’t let us go home until his feeding was sorted. He was crying he was hungry, he was losing weight. I was losing my sanity, in the end I said I couldn’t do it any-more and asked for some formula. He drank the whole bottle and was a very happy full baby.
I felt such a failure, I couldn’t go into labour naturally, I couldn’t give birth to him and then I couldn’t feed him. It had all fallen apart and I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I was the worst mum in the world. I thought that everyone else would think the same. In the space of a week all my months of planning and preparation had fallen apart. I was devastated.
The In-Between – Adjusting To Your New Life – Postpartum Depression Survivor
Adjusting to my new role of stay at home during maternity leave was difficult. Everyday for the last 10 years or so I’d got up and gone out to work. I was in charge of my own little team and enjoyed the role I did. On my last day at work before my maternity leave started I actually cried on my way home as I didn’t want to say goodbye and not go for 9 months – there’s definitely something wrong with me!
I had absolutely no idea what I had signed up for having a baby. I don’t think anyone really does. Being at home all day everyday with a baby is so hard and very lonely. The days can easily become boring and repetitive. The first 6 weeks were especially hard as I couldn’t drive as I’d had a c-section, not helpful when you’ve got a new baby and you’re the only one that drives – I felt trapped.
For the first few weeks I wouldn’t go out of the house on my own with the baby. Which meant I only went out on weekends when my hubby was around. I don’t know why I was so worried about going out on my own with the baby – but I was. Eventually I went out on my own – we just talk a stroll down to our local shops 10 minutes away from our house. When I got there I was like hurrah I made it! I took a picture of us out together. It wasn’t so bad.
We went to a baby massage class and a rhyme and song class for a couple of months which was great because it got me to make the effort to go out of the house and be around other people. When the classes finished though I didn’t join any others which was a mistake looking back.
The consent cycle of making bottles, sterilising, changing nappies, crying and no sleep – this s how it was for months. Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for being a Mum. Everyday was the same. I felt like I was living in Ground-Hog Day. In the end I wished my life my different, I didn’t want it to be like this anymore. I wanted my old life back.
I wanted to be able to work and have the freedom to just jump in the car and go to the shop in 5 minutes. Not for it to take half hour to just get there. I wanted to sleep!
The lack of sleep was the worst. So my husband let me sleep at night. Then he’d be up most of the night and at work all day. I couldn’t cope. We couldn’t survived like this – but what to do?
In To The Dark – Postpartum Depression Survivor
You care, of course you do they’re yours. But rather than enjoying it, you do it because you have to not because you want to. You can’t function. Everyday is a struggle, you feel like you’re moving further away from what makes you ‘you’ and you don’t know how to get back. You become a shell of who you were and lose any hope or feeling for anything .. and anybody.
You know you should look at your little one and adore every inch of them and love them more than life itself. However, they are just ‘there’. You are just ‘there’ doing what needs to be done. Day In – Day Out.
I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it as then their view point about me returning to work would be valid. Maybe I wasn’t very maternal like I’d been told. Maybe this whole thing had been a terrible mistake.
I booked myself a doctor’s appointment – this was it I was going to confess all. I’d done some research about postpartum depression and it sounded just like how I was feeling. The more I thought about it the more anxious I became. How could I tell some-one I was struggling to bond with my baby, what if they thought I was a terrible mother for not being completely in love. What if I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression? Would they take my baby away from me?
I became convinced that if I went to the doctors and told them how I was feeling they would take my little man away from me. So I cancelled the appointment and carried on. I couldn’t risk them taking him away I needed him in my life – it was a constant struggle between loving my baby and the depression – it was exhausting. I carried on still struggling, still suffering, still getting worse.
Further In To The Dark – Postpartum Depression Survivor
Most nights I would have a shower and wash my hair, then as I’d sit drying it I’d cry. Not just cry but full on break down – everything was so hard, I couldn’t cope. I wished things were how they used to be. Was this now my life?
I thought I was the worse mum in the world for not having a natural birth and not being able to breastfeed. So many others could manage this – but I couldn’t, what was wrong with me?
This is not how I thought motherhood would be. I thought It would bring me and my other half closer than ever, but the stress seemed to tear us apart. My whole family was falling apart around me and there’s was nothing I could do to stop it.
Then came the time to return to work. I hoped this would help as at least my days would be broken up and a bit different. Plus I enjoyed my work. It didn’t help. I was even more exhausted than before. I slept all night and was still tired in the morning. My husband would be up all night with the baby so I could rest, then he’d work all day too, I don’t know how he survived.
Those around me still thought that going back to work after having a baby was a bad idea. They weren’t sure about me leaving my baby in full-time childcare. They felt I should be home looking after my baby – maybe everyone was right and I was wrong.
It was all too much to take. Then it happened, I was lost. Gone. I felt nothing, cared about nothing, enjoyed nothing. I got up did what I had to and went to bed. There was nothing …but darkness.
As my family continued to fall apart around me, I was oblivious to what was happening and that I was suffering from Postpartum Depression. We existed like this for a total of 18 months after the birth of our little man.
Then it happened – it all collapsed around me – my husband moved out. What was I going to do? I couldn’t cope on my own with a baby? What was I going to do about my marriage? How was I going to work all day and be up in the night with my little one? So much worry.
I couldn’t sleep. My mind was just racing and wouldn’t shut up. I was lucky to get a couple of hours a night. I wished I could just turn off my brain. When I did sleep I’d wake up having panic attacks. I’d never had them before – the first time I thought I was having an asthma attack but after a few minutes I knew it was something different.
Turns out when I have panic attacks I also get hives. I’d have the rash all over my body and it felt like it was on fire. My lips and eyes swell up and the sweat pours off me whilst my temperature sky-rockets. Also when I am stressed I suffer from IBS – a great mixture! I spent many hours in the bathroom, I even fell asleep on the floor in there one night.
I cried all the time and I couldn’t eat or sleep. I was a total mess. Yet I carried on – I had to, for my baby. I’d do everything I needed to for him. I wouldn’t cry in front of him as I didn’t want him to see me like that, but as soon as he was asleep in his cot and I’d shut his bedroom door I’d fall apart. I managed to go to work for a short while whilst this was going on – trying to be normal but being far from it.
Slowly In To The Light – Postpartum Depression Survivor
Then someone asked me ‘do you think you’ve got postnatal depression?’
I burst into to tears – I knew it was true. I’d known it a long time. However I’d been scared to admit it. I thought everyone would think I was a terrible mum and would want to take him away from me. After, I felt like a weight had been lifted from me. I’d finally admitted what was wrong with me, now it was time to fix it and the disaster my life had become.
I saw my GP a few days later and explained how I felt. She said I was indeed suffering from Postpartum Depression and had been for some time. (surprise, surprise).
I was given anti-depressants to help. The first couple of weeks were rough with side-effects. I felt sick a lot which kept me up at night, but it soon went. After a few more weeks when the medication kicked in I felt slightly better, I had to increase my dosage in the end as the lower dose wasn’t making enough of an improvement , but I didn’t mind it was nice to have something to take the edge off. It was nice to have a clear head without constant thoughts racing around.
My work were massively supportive and understanding when I explained my situation. I really couldn’t of asked for better support from them. The GP signed me off work for the first two weeks off starting my medication. I knew if I had more time off I’d find it difficult to return but at the same time I wasn’t ready to go back full-time. I arranged with my work that for 6 weeks I would work 9am-1pm 5 days a week. This was great as it got me out the house and talking to people but also gave me the chance to rest and recover.
The Recovery – Postpartum Depression Survivor
It was 18 months until I got help and started medication. I think I’ve lost enough of my life to this now. I like to think of myself as a Postpartum Depression Survivor. I’m so ready to move on and be done with it. My little boy is 3 years old soon and I just want to focus on him, my husband, myself and our life together.
I think I am winning. I feel like my ‘normal’ self again and looking back I honestly can’t believe how unwell I was, the memories are like remembering someone else’s life. It’s a really weird feeling having memories that don’t feel like your own.
I’m glad that I am well and nearing the end of my postpartum depression recovery. However there is and will always the fear that I will relapse, but I’m a Postpartum Depression Survivor and I’ll keep going !
It’s time for us to start enjoying life as a family and for me to enjoy being a mummy and a wife again. I’m ready to be the mum I know I am. I am not scared and anxious like before. I’m ready for the challenge – bring it on toddler – hahaha.
I’m sure my little man will keep me on the right path, he is the shining light in the dark, the best reason to fight and recover, to stay well and never give up. I will not let it take me back to that place again – its already taken close to 3 years of my life – 3 years – I’ve lost from my life, from my family, from my baby.
Well no more I’m done with you now. I have won – you have not.
I am stronger than you – Goodbye Postpartum Depression – I am a Postpartum Depression Survivor.