I write this to you in the hope that you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and in the hope that what I have to say about my own experiences will remind you that you’re not alone.
It is only on hindsight that I can see that I suffered with postnatal depression after my first child in 2010. In some ways, I rejected the idea that I was depressed, because the difference between being able to sleep, eat, shower, and go out whenever you want as a child-free person and being completely at the beck and call of an infant every second of the day is a huge life change. I adored my son but I was not prepared at all for how exhausting life would become, and in many ways the emotional darkness I felt after his birth seemed to be quite logical – I was simply responding to all the changes that had occurred. Who wouldn’t feel depressed when you’re physically wrecked, utterly sleep deprived, can’t breastfeed, and feel completely incapable of being a parent?
I googled PND and felt frustrated by the info there. I was either (a) experiencing the ‘baby blues’, which seems a ridiculous cutesy term for what is essentially bawling your eyes out, or (b) mentally ill, and I know it’s stupid but I was afraid to tell anyone I might have postnatal depression in case they tried to throw antidepressants at me or judged me. I feared that they’d take away my son.
With my second child, I felt a lot more prepared and was actually able to enjoy his infancy because I actually knew what I was doing this time round. Even so, the same thing happened – every night my mood would slide. That’s how it felt. I didn’t want to feel so sad. I wanted to enjoy this time, because I knew it was so brief and I would have to go back to work soon, but I was powerless against the mood-sliding. I began to talk about it, first with my family and friends, and then to my GP. I was surprised how good it felt to be honest about it, and I was surprised by how supportive people can be. I think I find it difficult to ask for help – and I’m probably not the only mother who is like that! – but support is important for recovery, and I did recover.
I think the most important thing is to be open and honest about how you feel. I used to go into the toilet to cry when my mother-in-law was around, as I felt so embarrassed about the way I felt. I thought she would judge me for not rejoicing over my baby, but it turned out she had experienced the same thing! I might have recovered a lot sooner had I opened up to others.
I had counselling and was on antidepressants for a while, and I found that regular yoga and ‘slowing down’ were really useful tools. People talk about mindfulness and I interpret it as slowing down – life gets so fast and busy with children, and it’s not a good to state to live in. When I went back to work I had to work hard at finding a way to balance everything so that I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed, which began to happen. You do have to take care of YOU in order to take care of the kids.
I wish you all the love in the world. You’ve got this.