#ItHappenedToMe… twice actually. The first time was a shock because I’d never been affected by mental health issues before and the second time was a shock because I was convinced being diagnosed once would make me immune. The most important life lesson I’ve learnt is that perinatal depression does not discriminate.
From the moment our daughter was born, nothing was as I expected it to be. I was desperate to meet my baby (and I was secretly desperate for her to be a girl) so I was a bit surprised when I got to hold my beautiful baby girl and instead of feeling an instant love and connection, thinking “My goodness she’s so loud. Can someone, please make her stop crying. I can’t handle the noise.”
Nothing was as I expected. I expected to feel a certain way when she was born… and I didn’t. People would tell me during pregnancy “You won’t want to swap your life as a mum for anything!” but I was desperate to. People would tell me “You will instantly forget what life was like before you became a mum!” but I could remember every single detail of my freedom with painful clarity.
Instead of looking at my daughter with love and affection, I started seeing her as the reason for my unhappiness. She was the cause of all the disruption in my life. I started to resent her.
Taking her out in public became almost impossible. If she started to cry while I was in a shop I would throw whatever I had in my arms down onto the nearest shelf and run to my car, aborting my venture out of the house completely.
I only lasted 9 weeks in my mother’s group because I couldn’t handle being in the company of other mums who were blissfully happy and in control as they were.
I found it incredibly hard being shifted to the second most important person in my husband’s life, after I had been his first for so long. I loved how much he loved our daughter but I missed him and was insanely jealous of the bond he had with her that I still hadn’t been able to establish.
After talking to a friend and my sister, I received a diagnosis and started to get some help. Slowly…eventually, it started to ease. Before I knew it, I was in love with my daughter and enjoyed every minute of being a mum. The fog lifted, the sun started to shine again and I realised I actually had a really wonderful baby. She was sleeping through the night early, ate really well, was happy and calm and as I realised this I started to wonder what on earth I was so upset about… she really was perfect and I was the luckiest mother in the world.
Second time around was a different story because this time I knew what to expect and I was prepared for the sleepless nights, the crying etc. I was sure I wouldn’t get PND because lightning doesn’t strike twice, right? It came as a huge shock when I found myself bonding with our son instantly! I was madly in love with him from the minute I held him – he was absolutely amazing! The labour was a positive experience, my recovery was almost instant and our little fella was the light of my life.
Then the ‘happy hormones’ disappeared.
I found myself getting really angry all the time and I started yelling and swearing a lot. Nothing was easy – nothing. Deciding what to eat was hard. Getting out of bed and dressed was hard. I felt myself pulling away from my son and started resenting him too.
Hello perinatal depression round 2. I couldn’t believe it was happening again.
Nothing about being his mum seemed enjoyable. He was a terrible sleeper, clingy and his big sister didn’t cope very well with all the attention he was getting at the cost of her own. I felt like he was ruining our lives. What was once a happy little family had become my worst nightmare… and as a result, I disengaged myself from the source of all my problems, my son.
I hated how I felt and I hated who I had become. I was having terrible sleep at night yet when given the chance to nap during the day would lie wide awake in bed, being hit with an unexpected bout of insomnia.
I started thinking irrationally and became unable to make my own decisions. Being honest, my memory of those few months is very hazy.
After about 3 months, I spoke to my GP who hooked me up with a counsellor and I started medication. Since then, I am slowly getting better and my bond with my kids strengthens every day.
My experience of perinatal depression goes a lot deeper and I have only shared a little of what it was like for me. It affected me in more ways than I ever imagined. It impacted on my time with extended family, friends and work colleagues. It’s tainted my early memories of motherhood, negatively affected what should have been a positive experience and is my biggest reason for not having any more kids.
There is nothing I can do about the fact that #ItHappenedToMe however I can do something about the future. I can continue to talk about it and accept it. I can hug my kids each night as I put them to bed and know that tomorrow, as my recovery continues; I will still be their favourite person.
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"It happened to me… twice actually. The first time was a shock because I’d never been affected by mental health issues before and the second time was a shock because I was convinced being diagnosed once would make me immune. The most important life lesson I’ve learnt is that perinatal depression does not discriminate."