Hi my name is Josephine, 31 years old, one healthy happy baby boy after a perfect pregnancy and labour, loving husband who's happy in his job and has lots of time to spend with us, living in a beautiful home in a lovely place. Perfect, right?
What pushed me over the edge was the 2 hourly feeding regime. The sleep deprivation took its toll quickly. Benjamin grew slowly and started losing weight around 4.5 months. Doctors were uncertain of the cause and there seemed no solution or end in sight to the regular feedings. It was obviously my fault, Benjamin certainly couldn't be blamed for the weight loss, he is a baby! Due to lack of sleep, I soon felt that I couldn't give him the love, attention, happiness and outings that he deserved. I was rapidly going down a hole of self-destructive thoughts and sleepless nights.
All the while I reminded myself that I needed to 'get over it', toughen up and start realising how good I had it. There are mums out there who can't breastfeed at all, or who had lost a baby, or who had struggled for years to have a child. And here I was, unhappy in my seemingly perfect life. Benjamin was always a happy baby and thrived in all other areas but weight.
I couldn't make this baby thrive physically, I was too tired to be pleasant to him (or his Dad for that matter!), I could not give him the love and cuddles he needed or play with him and take him out and about. I reached the conclusion that Benjamin, and his Dad, would be better off without me. The thought didn't scare me, it felt right. It was on the money. Weeks went by of me living in a daze where I was forgetful, quickly overwhelmed, exhausted, alone, and generally feeling inadequate.
During one of the many doctors appointments to figure out a solution for Benjamin's weight, the doctor asked me how I was. All I did was burst into tears. On explaining to her how I felt she prescribed anti-depressants and wrote out a referral to a psychiatrist. Having the doctor confirm that I was not in a good place and that I needed help to get out of this was a relief. I didn't simply have to toughen up by myself and I wasn't simply being weak.
That night I spoke to my husband about it. Which I hadn't done prior to this day. I didn't want to be more of a burden on him by “winging” about how I wasn't coping being a mother in a picture perfect life. Together we decided that I would tackle this without anti-depressants to start with. We agreed that I would try a month to get back on track without medication.
This approach worked for me, but may not be appropriate for others. I now felt empowered to take on the challenge of overcoming this depression. I wrote out a mental health plan that included five things:
- Exercise gratitude – I downloaded an app for this called Bliss
- Exercise or at least a walk outside
- Meditation – I downloaded an app for this called Smiling Mind
- Speak to a positive person once a day (my husband, counsellor, mother's group, two friends, my mum)
- Relax during nap time – I was only allowed to do one small chore and then something that would recharge me like meditate, read etc.
These five things really worked for me, but everyone’s recovery path is different so you need to find what works for you. Looking back now, I am forever grateful that I admitted to the Doctor that day that I wasn't well. As soon as I felt I was allowed to show the people closest to me that I wasn't coping I felt able to tackle this head on with their help. In the end, I felt disconnected with the world and our gorgeous baby for about seven months. My biggest lesson has been to yell out earlier and be a little less harsh on myself. Telling myself to toughen up in a time where I wasn't coping made me feel even more like a failure while opening up actually made me feel stronger.
"I couldn't make this baby thrive physically, I was too tired to be pleasant to him. I could not give him the love and cuddles that he needed or play with him and take him out and about. I reached the conclusion that Benjamin and his Dad would be better off without me."