I had wanted a child for such a long time. I had a wonderful pregnancy. I wasn’t one of those super annoying people that didn’t get morning sickness, but I did have a pretty good run and enjoyed all that came with it.
When Audrey came along on May the 23rd 2011, she was pretty casual about it. My water broke on Sunday afternoon, mid-roast at my parents, and allowed me to finish my apple crumble before we headed to hospital. I labored most of the night but she was just foxing. In the end the doctors put a drip up in the morning and from 10am it was on. Three hours, mostly of eerie silence from me apart from the primal scream I let rip when she crowned (pardon the pun – that still makes my bits twinge), and she made her appearance.
She was kind of swollen and a bit icky but we loved her nonetheless. It was only afterward that I was told having the drip put up was a fairly aggressive way to bring on labor and may have been the reason for my lengthy recovery. My body essentially went in to shock and things stopped working. Like my bladder. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to find clothing appropriate for accessorizing a catheter bag. Or a how difficult it is to position yourself when visitors arrive so that they don’t have to look past your wee to the baby.
Audrey also had a nasal gastric tube after she decided she didn’t want to feed from my enormous, bursting boobs. This turned out to be an ongoing battle and after three months of effort, tears and trying everything, we went with formula.
After a week in hospital I was absolutely elated when we were told we could go home. But at home there was no buzzer. No one to take my baby out so I could sleep. And nobody to ask for help at 3am.
I have little recollection of that first three months. Photographs jog my memory as to what we did and where we went, but I think my memories were mostly invested in how I felt.
I was tired, sad, teary, confused. I lacked concentration and struggled with things I normally found simple, like preparing dinner. I went out as little as possible and spent my days thinking of how I was failing my newborn and my family. I just didn’t cut it. I wasn’t coping with something that millions of others do everyday. And I was 33 and educated. How useless could I be? And the guilt. That was the killer. The guilt consumed me. I felt like a massive burden to my husband, parents and friends. And I had the most beautiful little girl who slept beautifully and smiled constantly yet I couldn’t enjoy her. How ungrateful.
I’d lied on all the Edinburgh tests I’d been given because I knew what they were looking for. But the day came when I grabbed my husband’s arm as he got up to go to work and I told him I couldn’t do it. He couldn’t leave me alone that day. The same day my mother said, “Sophie, it’s ok to cry when you have new baby, but you’re crying every day.”
So, I went to see my GP and she diagnosed me with Postnatal Depression. I was pointed to counsellors and given medication. Three years on, speaking up was, and will remain, the best decision I ever made.
That Bitch (as I like to refer to PND) does not discriminate. You could wax legs, teach children, crunch numbers, knit, train, nurse, defend or drive a two hundred tonne dump truck and she’ll still pick on you. It doesn’t make you any less of a person, woman or mother, it just makes you human. Yet, we still can’t seem to purge her, let her out so that other people can help bring her down – pull her hair and scratch her eyes.
It’s important as mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunties and everyone else, that we support those of us who carry The Bitch on our backs and be ready to hear about her.
And women must speak up.
So if anyone out there is keeping a lid on their PND, raise your voice. Give a big bloody yell and let’s beat that Bitch.