Today I read the Telegraph report about Postnatal Depression with the headline screaming at me 'I want to drown my baby' - why women with postnatal depression don't ask for help'.
After I had got over the damaging negativity of the headline I read on, the sentence that jumped out at me was this "I defy any woman to say she was not totally blindsided by the epic changes that having a baby brings" well I agree and I will also add any couple or expanding family. Having a baby is a massive thing to deal with as any expectant mother will tell you. Your body changes, your outlook changes, you become precious and possessive about your growing bump, things that were easy to do seem impossible, things that were easy to reach seem to fall short of your grasp, you have more emotions than you ever had, you are told not to eat this or drink that, you are told what to eat and what to drink, with a bump people seem to want to touch you, the experts tell you all that they can, your friends with children tell you their experiences, you listen to everything and at times believe it all. What about expectant fathers whose partner is changing; together they have created something to be cherished, loved, protected, adored, looked after which is a joint venture. What about the older siblings who may not be old enough to understand that their mummy with her safe lap and a propensity to flop on the floor and go through contortions to amuse can't do that any more.
And that's before the baby is born.
Nothing prepares you for parenthood. Nothing.
When the baby arrives the outpouring of love and emotions is huge, the dynamics have changed and the partnership now has a new layer of management. New parents don't need to be told all the horrors they want to enjoy this new creation, this little bundle of need. They want to bed down and work out how their lives will change - without upsetting and frankly unhelpful headlines like the above.
And yes I do know what I am talking about because I had postnatal depression with all of mine and I know the dark days, the epic highs and the way down lows.
And while I'm at it having PND comes at a time when most people should be over the moon, sometimes the moon sinks.
My eldest arrived on her due date (statistics show that only a small percentage of babies are born on their due date) by emergency caesarian following a long and difficult labour. When she arrived I took one look at her and I was in love. Big Welsh with his huge hands and roughy toughy Valleys upbringing held her in his arms and he was smitten. My mother had told me that breastfeeding isn't always easy so don't be surprised if I can't do it. I didn't need to hear that and I wanted to give it a go, not because I had this burning desire to breastfeed but because I didn't want to get up in the middle of the night and deal with bottles. My choice. I didn't get on with it to begin with and when Annette our lovely community midwife grabbed my nipple and swollen breasts and actually showed me how to latch on it worked and I said thank you.
With a new born baby, full breasts and an infected caesarian scar not to mention sleepless nights and the fear I would never sleep again I should have been so happy. I was happy but I was also sad. Sad because I wasn't happy. Sad because I didn't know what to do about it. Sad because everyone around me seemed to be all happy and coping. Sad because the one thing that so many people crave was not the stroll in the park that I had been led to believe. I didn't want to go out, but I didn't want to be at home. I didn't want to be alone, but I didn't want to go out. I wanted to be happy and the world dictates that after a baby you should be happy. Only I wasn't.
I made an appointment to see my GP and said out loud "I don't know what is wrong with me and I think I have postnatal depression". She looked at me and said "well you're very brave admitting it". We chatted, I cried, she held my baby whilst I sobbed, then she prescribed anti depressants. That evening I told Big Welsh, but it was easy because I had already said it. I told a neighbour and she said maybe I should go and see the Dr because that is how I am feeling. My honesty helped someone.
A weight had been lifted and I was able to move on. I didn't surround myself with lots of baby groups and actvities instead I spent time with my grandfather who didn't judge or tut, instead he gave me space to find my feet and ultimately my wings. For this I will always be grateful.
When I had my second daughter who was a planned caesarian (oh I heard all the too posh to push negativity, but there was no way I could deliver naturally and that's how it is, thank you before you tut) I knew what to look for and so when the old feelings returned I sought help and took Sepia the homeopathic remedy which lifted me out of the fog. Not only did I have a small baby but I also had a toddler who needed my love and attention and I was not prepared to crumble.
Nearly 3 years later our third and final daughter arrived, she was due to be a planned caesarian (this time I had the too posh to push AND the bet you want a boy) but she was obviously so keen to meet us that she surprised us and I went into labour 4 days before the planned date, that was certainly not in the plan! The birth was horrific. I was in labour longer than my first, my previous scars were removed and the Dr also cut up into my uterus leaving me with a T scar and the words "you can't have any more babies". She got stuck, the big red switch was pressed and the world and his wife dashed in, there was no first cry and I was scared. Then she cried and my family was complete. I should have been happy which I was and not sad but I was. Not only that I had crippling tiredness, infected casesarian scar and the old feelings came back. Why me? I had, 1 school aged daughter, 1 nursery aged daughter, an incredibly content baby and a loving husband.
Off I went to the Dr and cried. He listened. He prescribed anti depressants and we had a post trauamtic stress consultation with the Consultant.
I had PND and people were shocked because "you're always so bright and bubbly and on top of it, I didn't know strong people got it".
I don't know what prompted my baby blues to be postnatal depression but I do know that the hardest part was admitting to myself, then saying it out loud to someone who would listen and be supportive. As I said a great weight had been lifted off my mind and I was able to see the lawn and the flowers in the garden as well as the wood not just the trees.
When I see articles about mothers being too scared to ask for help it really breaks my heart. How can anyone judge someone on how they are feeling. Are we so good and right that in everything we do that we can pass judgement on people's emotions? No.
Having a baby is a big change to your life and with it come changes to body and mind, some are visible some are hidden but there should never be any stigma. Make today a time for change, next time you see someone pushing a pram ask after the baby and the sleepless nights, ask them how they are and if things seem enormous then offer them some comfort, give them a hug, tell them it's ok to feel down, share your experiences, speak honestly and leave your door wide open.
Thank you to all those that didn't judge and who offered kind words and support.