TW: Suicide mention & Some medical terminology
One thing I always wanted when I first started my blog was to help other mums. There’s a lot to learn when you first become a mother. Not only is a mind-jolting, permanently life-altering experience, full of magical first-cuddles and bonding experiences. For some Mum’s the whole ‘baby bubble’ experience feels like a work of fiction.
Some Mum’s struggle to bond. Some Mum’s don’t enjoy being Mum’s. I hope by sharing my story I make somebody feel a little less alone, and give somebody hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
I fell pregnant in late 2013. I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl August 2014 after a generally worry-free pregnancy and traumatic birth.
Holly was a beautiful baby. I remember seeing her and believing she really was the most beautiful baby in the world. How had I created something so perfect? In awe at my own bodies potential to create life. Holly was pretty close to perfect. She ate well, and she even slept well.
Things weren’t so easy
However, the ‘baby bubble’ was short-lived. Holly was extremely sick whenever she fed. My partner and I had ‘feeding clothes’ because we would undoubtedly get covered in projectile vomit after every feed. Everything I owned stunk and was doused in vomit. She’d then cry for more milk and be sick again. It was a vicious circle. Holly began inconsolably crying every evening for up to 5 hours at a time, every evening. She always seemed fussy compared to her cousins, or my friend’s babies. She would scream incessantly, especially if we were anywhere remotely noisy. Nothing I did consoled her. I don’t know whether it was in my head, but I always felt like people were staring at me wondering why I couldn’t stop her. Shouldn’t picking her up, and cuddling her help? Shouldn’t a mothers comfort be enough? I felt like I was doing something wrong. My brain
began convincing me I was a bad mother. All the other Mum’s could do it. But I couldn’t. All I could see was happy families with happy newborns. Holly even began to scream when we were outside the noise and crowds sent her into meltdown.
Things got harder
My partner went back to work after three weeks and things started taking an even sharper turn for the worst. I was alone with a baby 12 hours a day. Holly’s screaming got worse with age.
I can’t count the amount of doctors appointments where I tried to explain that I thought Holly had reflux and colic. They brushed it off as nothing and just offered me advice on feeding her on a different schedule or feeding her less.
Numerous health visitors shrugged off my concerns that Holly was suffering from reflux. If I remember rightly, one of them told me she was too young to be suffering from reflux. In hindsight, I should have pushed my concern but being young, naive and trusting I moved it to the back of my mind briefly.
My mood started to take a downturn. Nothing I did make a difference. I couldn’t go out and socialise without upsetting Holly. I was jealous of my friends who could go out and socialise. My appearance didn’t matter to me at all anymore. I became withdrawn. I couldn’t sleep, and I spent hours awake turning all of the bad stuff over in my head. Thoughts of suicide plagued me. I was obviously no use to anyone. My own daughter didn’t even like me. What difference would it make if I wasn’t here? I also began self-harming by starving myself or cutting myself on my hips – that’s something I never admitted to anyone at the time. It might even be a shock for people to learn about it now. I dropped down to 6.5 stone (from 9 stone) and my periods stopped.
All of my problems began to snowball. As soon as the doorbell went, my heart would race. I began shutting myself away. I never opened the curtains. People would come to my door, and I’d ignore it, pretend I wasn’t there. I’d watch from behind a crack in the blind until they had disappeared. My family became concerned, and they tried to get me out of the house. The harder they tried, the more I resisted. When people rang, I’d screen phone calls from friends, I just felt so overwhelmed that even talking to anyone was exhausting because it felt like I had to keep up an act.I had to pretend I was loving every moment. I was scared of what people would think of me If I told them the truth. Holly and I couldn’t bond, and I felt like I had failed as a Mother.
Eventually, I got a health visitor to listen to me and take me seriously as I choked back tears telling her all my struggles. In the beginning, I was so scared to tel anybody that I was struggling to form a loving bond with my baby. I was worried she would mean I’d have her taken away from me. Just because I was struggling to bond, it didn’t mean I wanted her taken away from me either. The Health Visitor asked if I was feeling OK, and If I was at all struggling with feelings of depression. I answered no. I wondered why she’d asked me this? Was it a routine question? Or was I showing signs of depression? Could she sense it? To me, I wasn’t depressed. I was just overwhelmed with a difficult baby. I was blind to what was plainly obvious to others.
She asked if I got out much. I answered no. Then she asked if I ever experienced anxiety, I answered truthfully – Yes. Since Holly was born I’d become a ball of anxiety. So much so I hated leaving the house. She explained that Holly might dislike noise and crowds because of me. When I felt panicked, maybe she could sense it too. This made me feel awful. I’d literally taught my baby to be anxious. She suggested we changed Holly’s milk, which helped the colic, and changed up her routine. She was also given different medications to help her stomach and digestion. She slowly became easier.
Starting to get better
My mother-in-law had a careful sit-down conversation with me to make me realise that I was depressed. She made me realise that shutting myself away, worrying and struggling in silence wasn’t how motherhood was supposed to be. Motherhood is supposed to be (for the most part) enjoyable. Thankfully, she convinced me to talk about it, and eventually that lead to my diagnosis. With the help of Citalopram and a friendly GP, and talking to my partner & my family – slowly the grey fog began to lift… It sounds stupid, but I hadn’t realised how low I was until I started feeling better.
Holly and I slowly became best friends. We couldn’t afford much, but I started taking her to the park, or just walk along the seafront or to the shops with her to buy Kinder eggs. I bonded with her by making her laugh and dancing and singing.
In 2017 I went on to have a little boy in 2017 and I am PND free!
I now consider Holly and her brother Harry my best friends. Holly’s always got a smile that fills up a room and she’s so polite. Harry is literally a menace and causes chaos and it cracks me up. I can’t imagine my life without either of my children. They’re the reason I wake up (even if slightly begrudgingly because I must leave my cosy bed!) every morning. I’m a better person for recognising and talking about my mental health struggles.
The feeling of guilt that I wasn’t able to bond with Holly, or found it hard to love her still haunts me. But I am forever grateful to my friends and family who helped me and put me back on the right track.
I feel like it’s important to note that PND has a huge stigma attached to it. When you say you’re struggling with PND, many will assume you don’t love your baby. Others assume you want to physically harm your baby. Although in some extreme cases this is true for some people, it absolutely wasn’t in my case, and it isn’t for many others. This is a stigma which has been perpetuated by mainstream media.
It’s also worth noting that there is no shame in taking medication or doing therapy. And if you are taking medication, and you don’t see an improvement – there is no shame in going back to your GP and asking to change medication or strength of your current medication.
According to the NHS, 1 in 10 women struggles with post-natal depression. PND is much more common than you think. It’s so important to find a friend, a family member or a partner to just offload upon. Don’t be afraid to talk to anyone about your feelings. Your feelings are valid!
Here are some handy links for help for those affected by PND:
Channel Mum Anxiety & Depression Support