Living with postnatal depression: ‘I felt terrified of motherhood and had no love for my baby’
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.
For more information visit: www.facebook.com/benendenhealthcareTagged in: baby care, depression, motherhood, postnatal depression
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