“If only I’d known about Post-Natal Depression” so many mums say. They prepare for the physical changes that pregnancy and childbirth brings, and prepare for sleeplessness and colic and poonamis but not for PND. It hits them out of the blue.
However, what if you expected to get Postnatal Depression but instead got something different?
I have a long history of depression, counselling, self-esteem issues and anti-dperessants, therefore, when I decided to become a mum, I naturally assumed I’d get Postnatal Depression.
But I didn’t. I was blindsided by something different. A mental health illness completely unexpected and not talked about enough. I hadn’t factored this in.
My son was born prematurely at just 28 weeks and 6 days, due to pre-eclampsia and HELLP via emergency c-section and it was terrifying. I thought we were both going to die. A length stay in hospital followed and throughout the 3 months he spent in the NICU growing and learning, his nurses kept asking if I was ok? And do I need to speak to someone? At the time I said no. I felt like I was coping as any other person would – I was celebrating his good milestones and crying over steps backwards.
We finally got to bring him home , on Valentine’s Day no less, which was a dream come true. But after the NICU journey and reflecting on his birth, mourning the lost last trimester and other lost experiences, I realised I was very damaged after all.
I was hit right in the gut by PSTD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and major anxiety. Every step I took, everything we did, my brain would list all the ways he could get injured or worse:
Carrying him down the stairs – “He’ll die if I trip”
Watching his sats monitor as he’d come home on oxygen – “It can’t go below a certain number or we’ll have to call an ambulance”
Venturing out in public – “No one can come near him or they’ll give him a cold and he’ll end up back in hospital”
Every minute of every hour of every day, my brain listing all the ways he could die. Topped off by the occasional nightmare where that actually would happen and I’d wake up in hysterics and sob over his cot with my hand on his chest.
Recording every millilitre, he drank and using a measuring jug instead of a sick bowl so I’d know how much to replace after a vomit because “if he doesn’t gain weight they’ll admit him to hospital as a Failure To Thrive and take him away from me”. I was constantly haunted by the thought that we’d end up back in hospital.
I’d never had a panic attack before I had Jack. For the first 6-9 months he was home, I was having them daily. I even took him to the Walk In Centre once or twice because he “wasn’t crying normally” and to A & E because he’d had a minor bump on the head. He was fine, obviously. I was not.
Eventually, I saw two different counsellors. One was specifically trained in neonatal issues to discuss Jack’s birth, NICU stay and feeding issues. The second was for me and my anxiety/PTSD. I needed help and was exhausted inside my own head.
Now? I’m getting better. Running and blogging have been the most helpful therapies. I like blogging as it forces me to arrange my thoughts into coherent sentences and hopefully helps others feel less alone.
Running, whilst obviously being great for my physical health and the required fitness level to look after a toddler, is my meditation. When I run, my head is empty and all my thoughts are quietened while I concentrate on counting my breaths in and out. There’s just me, plodding through nice scenery with nothing on my mind and it’s Bliss.
I’m so proud to support Liv and The Every Mum Movement. Yes, I fully expected PND but was crippled and broken by other no-so-talked-about post-natal mental health issues. If only I’d known. So I share our story. His story and mine. My boy is a fighter. But I can be too.
A Bit about Laura
Laura is a blogger who is passionate about supporting other mums who have experience of premature birth and maternal metal health. You can follow Laura on Facebook, Twitter @Beyond The NICU (@PurpleIsis) and Instagram and you can read her blog here.
Do you write about Maternal Mental Health and want to join Laura and our team of Maternal Mental Health Bloggers? If so, I would love to hear from you – please email me for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you believe “Every Mum Deserves the Right to Enjoy Motherhood” then please come and join The Every Mum Movement by liking The Facebook page, following on Facebook, Instagram and signing up to the movement on the website.
If you would like to join the closed Facebook group called The Every Mum Club please drop me an email at email@example.com.