Lets talk Post Natal Depression.
It affects more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth. But despite how common you’re frequently told this illness is, it does not seem that way. You feel singled out, you feel alone and you feel ashamed.
PND comes in many different forms. For me, it came in the form of me not wanting the beautiful bundle of joy I had just carried for 9 months and birthed. How can you not want your own child? Yes, I know. Believe me, I was mortified. I had this preconceived idea that she would be born and as soon as I saw her mushy little face I would instantly be in love. The whole mother and baby ‘love at first sight’. Instead I was greeted with emptiness, a hollow feeling in my chest and most of all confusion. My feelings were all wrong. I handed her straight to my mum, I couldn’t bare skin to skin.
There I was, looking after this tiny human I felt no connection with. Family telling me how beautiful she was and that I must feel so content and full of love. Of course, full of shame I played along. I was in pain from having lots of stitches, exhausted and on top of all that I felt guilty and alone. It wasn’t long before I stopped people coming over, I couldn’t bare to be around anyone. I didn’t care for myself or get dressed. How do you tell someone that you don’t want your baby? That you don’t love them. I had all of the tell tale symptoms which thankfully for me, my mum picked up on. She let the health visitor know that it wasn’t just the ‘baby blues’.
I spent six months of my daughters life trying to love her, trying to fight against this illness. At a certain point in the day my parents would stop helping with my little one. I would be left to my own devices. I hated it. Every night it would just be Willow and I. She would cry and I would cry even harder. If I could have gone to sleep and just never woke up, I would have. Nothing felt right or natural. I would go through the motions. I would feed, wind and change her. I did the simple things. Despite not wanting to, my parents knew that hopefully I would get better and at least Willow would have been bonding with me the whole time even if it wasn’t reciprocated.
That whole six months was a nightmare. My parents actually discussed adopting Willow because of how awful the situation was. I wouldn’t eat, sleep or interact. Willows first smile was for my parents and it didn’t phase me. To everyone she was this little bundle of beautiful joy who had big eyes and a nose just like her mummy. To me, she was a baby that needed looking after to live. I struggled taking photos of her because I felt nothing, I would never thoughtfully pick out her outfits or spend time just talking to her so that my voice was her favourite sound. I would wake up in the morning, look after a child by doing the bare minimum and then I’d pray she’d settle so I could just lay and look at the ceiling whilst I fell apart not knowing how to deal with everything that was happening around me, to me.
On a brighter note, I overcame it. All of it. She is my absolute world, I love her more than life itself and I would do absolutely anything for her. I can’t thank my parents enough for forcing me to be there for her, to be her comfort and to be her mother even if I resented it because Willow doesn’t know any different. She doesn’t remember the fact that I cried whilst looking after her. She just knows that I am her mummy and I always will be. I had help from family, my health visitor and I was assigned a maternal health therapist. And I am beyond grateful every day for them.
I feel like what they don’t tell you is the aftermath when you finally recover. I still to this day feel a heartbreaking guilt for having PND. I have a chunk of photos from her first few months missing that I can never go back and take. I still look at her and feel awful that I ever felt the way that I did, it makes my chest hurt. I wasn’t the one that saw her first smile, picked out her first outfit and I wasn’t the first person to tell her that she was loved. BUT, despite still feeling all of this, I am aware that I have the rest of my life to make her feel loved, let her know how much I care and how beautiful she is. I will never take a day with her for granted, even when she’s being a nightmare because reality is, had I not have received help, I might not even have her today. I wouldn’t be a mother.
Please, you’re never alone. It’s not something to be ashamed of, it’s not your fault and you didn’t ask for it to happen. You are NOT a bad mother. Never struggle alone because there are so many other women like me that have experienced it and whilst every case is personal and different, I imagine I’m not alone in saying I’m here for you. Your baby won’t ever be taken from you because you have PND, believe me it was an issue I raised a hell of a lot. You’re stronger than you know and you can overcome anything. Don’t be afraid of having your struggle heard. YOU matter, not just the little life you’ve brought into the world.