Tag Archives: birth

Postnatal depression or normalities of motherhood?

There have recently been some new babies born to friends and extended family of mine. It’s led us to chat about the early days and months of motherhood and I’ve offered my support and shared some of my own experiences. I can’t help but constantly be on the lookout for their mental health. I don’t want another woman to have to be trapped inside her own mind wondering is it, isn’t it and struggling more than she needs to.

It’s only when doing this that I realise that I’m not as truthful as I’d like to think I am on this blog.

My experiences may have been tainted by the now obvious and apparent fact that I had some form of postpartum depression. This lasted well into George’s second year, if not beyond. I continued to believe I could fix it myself but it always crept back in. One good day would be marred by two bad days.

I have worked in and around the mental health sector for the entirety of my Pharmacy career the 11 years prior to George’s birth and solely being employed by a mental health trust the 8 years previous to leaving my job to become a stay at home Mum.

I knew the mental health system relatively well. I had been in close contact with many types of mental health conditions when people were at their absolute lowest. Yet when I myself felt that I needed help, I was so scared of seeking it for fear that I would lose George. It was never going to be the case.

If you are considered to be a threat to yourself or others you may be sectioned under the mental health act. Despite having very desperately low thoughts, I was avidly aware of them and it upset me that I didn’t want to feel like this but I couldn’t stop it. I wanted to just run away. I told my husband countless times I wanted to leave him when all I really wanted was to vanish. He was the only person I could fully confide in despite his own issues.

Not more than a month after George’s birth, hubs own father died suddenly of a heart attack. He was in his fifties, the same age at which hubs grandad also died of a heart attack. We now look back and realise that hubs always suffered with mild anxiety. Who doesn’t. But losing his father and witnessing me have a severely traumatic birth was the trigger to make him have what in the olden days would be referred to as a nervous breakdown.

He couldn’t even bear to be in the same room as his own mother due to the intenseness of his anxiety. Running upstairs in tears during a visit, leaving me to see them out. Quickly realising he couldn’t bear to be in a room by himself without feeling desperately scared and anxious of having an heart attack. Thankfully this intense week was exacerbated by the GP starting him on Beta Blockers which had the opposite effect to what they should have. (This can happen and is known as a paradoxical side effect). After stopping the tablets he slowly improved but it was a long road.

Having had an emergency Caesarean section and needing to stay in hospital with George with us both suffering with suspected infections for 6 days I was weak and in pain at the start. By the time of hubs breakdown I was healed and able to be strong for all of us. It was hard and we had some great support from family.

Hubs wasn’t able to work and I had given up my job due to struggles with health and being able to juggle what was expected of me in my work role and as new mother. This all added to his anxiety over needing to support his family and being unable to. Although self employed, the guys he was contracted to were very supportive and understanding.

As hubs grew stronger, my own mind must’ve relaxed and with it came flooding through all the negative thoughts. My mum said with what we had both been through it was a wonder we hadn’t experienced this sooner. George was now almost one years old. I could still cry several times a week. I remember if I couldn’t console him, feeling so helpless I would just cry. Then I’d feel better and he would soon settle.

I’d tell people and no one made it seem unusual. A few suggested I go to the doctors but I was so scared of explaining it wrong to the doctor and being sectioned or George being taken away. I was absolutely no danger to George and I knew it and deep down I knew this wouldn’t happen but the depression made me irrational.

In the end anyone who made me feel even slightly unhappy I shut out and pushed away. Even now I still don’t know if I lost friends because of my behaviour or theirs. I don’t know if I took my frustration at myself out on them or if they genuinely were not compatible with me now I was a Mama. I changed. I’m still me but I have changed.

The mask became a powerful thing. Sometimes I couldn’t hold it together and I found myself quickly rushing George to the car so I could hide the tears that I couldn’t hold back. I cried over the stupidest of things. But overall when I saw people the mask came up and I smiled and it was a brief relief from the negativity I dwelled in behind closed doors.

 

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I no longer enjoyed things I previously enjoyed doing. I went along but just willed it to be over. I wasn’t interested. I was flat. I didn’t care. Eventually when George was around 16 months old I visited the GP and was put on Fluoxetine. It made me feel so, so nauseous. You’d think it’s a small price to pay but food was the only thing I found enjoyment in and to lose the willing and desire to eat made me feel even worse. What’s more they didn’t make me feel any better.

Antidepressants can take 4-6 weeks to have an notable effect. My GP agreed they wasn’t doing me any good after 3. Ultimately this was because they made me feel so nauseous, I lost my passion for food and eating. Food was all I had left that I enjoyed. The thought of losing that was just too much. I know it sounds ridiculous, especially since I need to lose weight. It was how I felt though. I had to stop the fluoxetine. From there the GP follow up was non existent. Presuming I would return if I felt low again, there was no further contact to see how I was doing.

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Cake is the answer to everything.

Thankfully after that period of time, something changed. I don’t know if maybe even the short amount of time I took the Fluoxetine was enough to reset the chemicals in my brain. It also coincided with my neurologist introducing some new medication for my migraines. They happened to fix my long term vertigo and I was able to drive again. I had my independence back and I think this contributed massively to my self worth and happiness.

What I do know is that I feel better than I have for a long time. Stronger, fearless, happy. Once you’ve considered your life worthless you tend to lose your fear of things. You realise nothing is as scary as the thought of escaping your life.

So what’s the point of sharing this with you? I suppose I want mums out there to distinguish between what is normal and what really isn’t when you have a baby. If something doesn’t feel right then please speak to someone. Your partner, parent, friend, health visitor or GP. Okay,  my experience with the GP wasn’t wholly positive but I wasn’t completely honest with them and I should have been more persistent.

mental health

I got so good at the mask, my GP visits saw me sitting with a smile on my face. I felt stupid. No way someone sits there trying to explain how low they feel whilst smiling. People break down and burst into tears. But I’m too polite I just smiled. If you’re the same, maybe take someone along to the appointment with you who has seen you at your worst. Don’t suffer in silence.

Can you relate to any of this? I find it so hard to know if I can say I had/have postnatal depression. Does it ever go away? My moods are certainly more changeable but is that how parenthood feels? I genuinely still have no idea.

It’s only a phase – the parenting guide to phases your child will go through

Parenting, in a nutshell it’s only one phase after another. I’m going to give you a little satirical guide to the phases your little one will go through.

So you’ve got that magical positive result on the pregnancy test. You feel excited, overwhelmed, in denial, emotional, elated. Little do you know, you have just signed up to at least an 18 year sequence of phases.
I will now describe to you the phases I myself have been through with George. We are only at the two and half year mark. No doubt this is a post that will eventually become a long standing series.

Phase

For ease of writing I will refer to your little one as he. Let’s face it, as much as we thank the men in our lives for this magical event, with the amazing joy comes occasional annoyance. Pretty much sums up the male species from my perspective (winks coyly with her tongue in her cheek). So “he” it is.

Congratulations. You are pregnant with a baby boy or girl. Or both but let’s just assume everything I say and double it, triple it, depending on your brood. I’m sure I’m being naive and there’s more to it than that. I only have the one so can’t comment.

Phase
Third trimester. That incredible yet surreal feeling you get when your baby is moving inside of you. Something which you can often see as well as feel now. You love it, you’re thankful for it, then comes being woken up at night with the kicking and fidgeting. You’ve just settled back into bed, surrounded yourself with 6 pillows after your tenth wee, and now the little darling decides it’s time to start practicing his gangnam style. Welcome to the “get me out of your belly” phase. Towards the end (I’m talking around the 36 week mark), the head can engage and the “get me out of your belly” phase progresses to “fuck it I’ll make my own way out” as you can almost feel the head pushing down there trying to eeek his way out. Uncomfortable isn’t the word.

Phase

Let’s cut to the birth. It happens however it happens. Don’t beat yourself up about it. He has to come out somehow so as long as you are both safe and well at the end of it, you are a hero. You’ve grown this little boy. Give yourself credit where it’s due.

You’re first night together. Poor little darling is stressed. He cries on and off all night; “It’s cold out here, and I’m hungry. What happened to that hose with all my scrummy food. I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going on. I want to go back in the tummy please”. Welcome to the “indecisive charades phase”. He won’t quite know what he wants but he will make small movements and random incoherent noises. You must learn to decipher this code, get the correct answer, then apply this answer to little darling and see if he is satisfied. Keep trying this for 6 months.

Congratulations! You made it six months! You thought the charades phase was tough. Wow you really have no idea what’s in store. The last six months has seen you become a master. A master of dangling things in front of your little darling. Master of bouncing him, rocking him, feeding him, changing him. The washing machine has become a multitasking part time babysitter. And it’s worked right? He’s been happy and content for the majority. You are both learning each other ways but overall you are managing to not annoy each other too much. But all good things must come to an end.

Phase

Welcome to the fidget arse phase. By now your little one will likely be rolling over, shuffling, maybe even attempting a backwards crawl. Suddenly dangling things in front of his face or bouncing him gently is unsatisfactory. No. He’s had his eye on that DVD cabinet for 6 months now and he wants to know what exactly is in all those little cases. What does that red glowing button do? That fluffy long thing at the end of the cat looks fun.

You suddenly need eyes in your arse. How do I see using eyes in my arse you wonder. Well let me tell you, you won’t be sitting on it. You’ll be up and down and up and down and up and down. Rescuing little darling before he delves into something else. Rearranging your house slowly day by day.

 

Phase

Never fear. You will soon tire of the fidget arse phase and will begin willing your little darling to take their first steps. We are homo sapiens after all. It’s instinctive. You eagerly encourage him until one day, hurrah, those teeny tiny steps are taken without your assistance. A triumph in your naive eyes. At last he can walk. The end of the days of you carrying them around is in sight.

But what’s this….he is climbing the stairs! Darling little can suddenly get from one end of the lounge to the kitchen in the time it takes you to sip your cold cup of tea. He’s had more bumps, trips and falls than an accident insurers handbook. What have you created you absolute plonker!

Phase

And then the day arrives. Little one’s first birthday. A milestone. A day to celebrate. But what are you doing? Sobbing, and updating your Facebook status mourning your little one is no longer a baby. They are “all grown up”, “where did the time go” “time to think about having another”.
And so the cycle begins again. (Faceplants).

Phase
Ps. Honestly I’m not as cynical as I sound. From the moment I got that positive result, I have thanked my lucky stars for being given this opportunity. Something many would give anything for. Doesn’t hurt to tell it how it is sometimes. We all have our own experiences. This is mine.
To be continued…….

Until next time………

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday