Living with postnatal depression: ‘I felt terrified of motherhood and had no love for my baby’

Liz Wise
post natal depression 300x225 Living with postnatal depression: I felt terrified of motherhood and had no love for my baby

Posed by models (Getty Creative)

Depression – I never believed in this word, especially not postnatal depression, how could anyone be depressed when they have a wonderful new baby, I thought?

It was 1986 and I had had a fantastically easy pregnancy, labour, delivery and had given birth to a healthy baby girl. However I felt strange, detached and very frightened by the overwhelming responsibility. Perhaps it was just my hormones and the pethidine that I had been given and hopefully I would feel better tomorrow I thought.

I didn’t feel better the next day or the day after, in fact as the week went by I felt considerably worse every day. I felt anxious, panicky and terrified of motherhood and no love for my baby at all. I was thinking I had made a dreadful mistake in having her.

Although I was a trained nursery nurse and had looked after many other people’s children I felt nothing for my own baby. I was wishing I had never had her. I couldn’t go on feeling like this so I went to my GP and told him my feelings, he said I was suffering from postnatal depression and prescribed me antidepressants. I was relieved that I knew what it was but I couldn’t believe I only had PND, I felt as if I was losing my mind and believed I had schizophrenia.

The medication didn’t seem to be working and I was feeling worse and worse until I started thinking that the only way out of this was to take my own life. Deep down I knew that if I wasn’t feeling so bad I wouldn’t want to stop living but there didn’t seem to be any relief for my dreadful feelings and thoughts. I confided in my husband and my GP. They were both very supportive and I was referred to a psychiatrist at a maternity hospital in West London. I was terrified of telling her how I was really feeling as I thought not only would she tell me that I had something far worse than PND but that she would also want to put me in hospital, which was my worst fear.

Instead she became my lifeline, she changed my medication and every time I saw her she would constantly reassure me that I would recover although I never believed her. She explained to me that the reasons I couldn’t feel my love for Emma was due  the severity of my depression, my feelings were suppressed and as I started to get better and the depression started to lift, my feelings would come through.

She was so right, gradually I would have glimpses of the old me and moments of feeling nearly ‘normal’, eventually when Emma was about a year I looked at her and realised that she was my baby and I was feeling attached to her. The relief was huge, I was actually getting better but it was a very gradual process. As the months went by my feelings for my gorgeous little girl grew and grew. She is now 26 and my love for her and Holly, now 23, has never stopped growing; they are  a remarkable young women with no recollection of how terribly depressed I was after both of them.

When Emma was two we decided we wanted another child and Holly was born 10 months later. I had some preventative treatment of progesterone injections for a week after delivery but when I stopped then I felt very low and anxious again, similar to my feelings after Emma was born. I lost my appetite, had major irrational thoughts about my health and death. I recovered with the help of antidepressants and counselling.

Postnatal depression is the worst experience I have ever been through and just to put it into perspective for those who haven’t been through it; I had a very rare form of cancer when I was 24, I have lost a parent and two very close friends, been through a divorce, had a total hysterectomy and had bowel cancer five years ago. NONE of these experiences were nearly as bad as my PND. However, it has allowed me to be more compassionate and understanding of others and I think a stronger person for having gone through it.

Symptoms of PND include low mood, inability to enjoy or look forward to anything, high anxiety levels, despondency, and irrational obsessional thoughts. It is a myth that mums with PND don’t love their babies; there are many women who have no attachments issues but still have PND.

If you feel that you are struggling with your feelings or may be experiencing PND please talk to your GP or health visitor so that you can get the support that you need. Don’t be afraid, health professionals are there to help and the sooner you get it the sooner you will recover.

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  • $27446095

    Err, where on earth did the subject of abortion come from. We are talking about post natal depression not someone’s decision to terminate a pregnancy. Just because you have a friend who told you something doesn’t mean that her alleged experience is true for everyone.

  • Elle J Morgan

    One way to help is to get someone to take the baby when the baby is crying, it really helped me with my last child, it broke the negative cycle I felt, I felt I was getting a break and started to look forward to holding her, I’d had a hurrendous birth, she was my fourth C-section and I had an internal infection til she was 8 weeks, at 10 weeks after her birth I became a lone parent, i’m also disabled, so it was crucial that I didn’t get depression again..She is now 13 months old and thriving, I have really enjoyed her..

    This is such a contrast to my eldest now 14, I couldn’t bear her near me, this started at 2 weeks old when treated for a suspected blood clot, I was talked into having her in hospital with me when I couldn’t look after her, I resented her and would look to anyone to take her from me, which went on and on, her Dad forced me to breastfeed her, and I had serious untreated depression which lasted until she was 8 when I had a breakdown….

    Depression/mental health is serious and frightening, we should be encouraged to seek help, never judged for it, but we often are…

  • julianzzz

    Your comment is inexplicable and excremental, without logic, evidence or reason, you remind me that some beliefs do turn people’s brains to excrement.

  • Popstar2012

    It is now increasingly understood that babies are much more aware than previously thought.

    A lack of social and emotional interaction with a new born can be devastating for the developing brain, and create a life long legacy of intractable mental health issues.

  • $27446095

    As I said in another post, if the mother is supported by her partner and family during pregnancy, birth and after, the negative effects of PND can be greatly reduced for both mother and baby.

    I had PND after the birth of my first child because I had little support – I had a crappy job, I did not live near my family, my husband worked long hours and we moved to an area where I knew no one. I did not have PND after the birth of my second child because I had more support from both family and friends.

  • Popstar2012

    I should also have pointed out that the critical social and emotional interaction does not necessarily have to come from the birth mother, and thus fathers and/or others can do the necessary.

  • $27446095

    The problem is that in this modern, capitalist world, support for families just doesn’t happen because the economy and profit comes before children.

  • gingerpops

    “Children are a lot more resilient than we give them credit for.” WRONG! On the contrary, children from day one are much more sensitive than you seem to think,
    any psychiatrist can tell you that. Depression can start in the womb if the mother is disturbed or unhappy. Emotions produce chemicals and the embryo is affected by them.

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