What I remember vividly is the sense of terror I felt 24 hours a day. It wouldn’t let me go. I had no control over it and couldn’t “think ” myself out of it. I lost the essence of “me”…..my sense of humor, my creativity, my drive. I was afraid of everything : putting my baby in his car seat , afraid of dropping him, afraid of bathing him, terrified of cot death and checking him constantly. I had nightmares of him screaming and being unable to get to him. “Forgetting” him in carparks, in lifts and in closed up buildings with thousands of stairs………
I didn’t feel up to getting dressed or brushing my teeth. I was permanently in tears. I lay awake with a pounding heart waiting for him to wake up again. I was scared of leaving the house.I couldn’t face anyone or anything…it felt like the worst failure of my life. Guilt, panic, irrational fear, a sense of utter hopelessness , a feeling of being trapped : that is Post Natal Depression.
I had wanted this baby more than anything. I couldn’t wait for that moment when our eyes would meet for the first time.I had faithfully read all those baby magazines and all the books I could lay my hands on. I thought I knew it all. But nothing turned out the way I had it planned. I had an emergency ceasar due to high blood pressure. I did not recognize this baby and felt no connection to him. I caught myself thinking : “I wonder where this child’s real mother is? Can’t she just come and take him now? “….
Having battled with depression since about age 18 , suicide was always my “trump card”. It was a way out if things got too tough. I had the power to end the hurt. I could end it all and the world would be better off without me. PND brought it all back. In triplicate. My son would be better off without me. I couldn’t be his mother. I had no idea how to do it. I had it all planned out : his grandmother and his father would raise him. I would not be part of the equation.
I took an overdose.
I ( finally ) got help.
( what this “help” entailed is another post for another day…)
What contributed to my PND ?
– a history of incorrectly treated depression
– my mom’s death while I was 16 weeks pregnant with her first grandchild
– being a perfectionist
– unsuccessful breastfeeding. IF IT DOESN’T WORK, IT DOESN’T WORK. GIVE THE CHILD A BOTTLE AND GET ON WITH YOUR LIFE. I wish someone had said that to me.
– my MIL visited for 7 weeks after the birth and played ” Baby Baby ” as if he was her own. She took him when he cried and claimed his first smile as being ” just for grandma”. To me at the time it felt like the ultimate rejection. He didn’t want me. End of story.
My advice for caregivers :
- just listen. Don’t question.
- Understand that this a very real condition. And know that a history of depression is almost a guarantee for PND.
* don’t say “pull yourself together” . We just can’t.
* be aware of symptoms and GET HELP.
* Don’t take a suicide warning lightly. If suicide is threatened it will most definitely be attempted.
If this sounds like you: THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. THIS DISEASE IS AN ILLNESS BUT IT IS HIGHLY TREATABLE. Sort it out fast.
DON’T TRY TO “RIDE IT OUT”. PLEASE. IT WILL GET WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER.
LET GO OF THE GUILT.
You and your baby deserve a wonderful life together. Go and get it.