I am not one to mince my words when sharing my experience of motherhood, it has been far from the naive, perfectionist perception I had in mind. The brutal reality is that having my daughter very nearly killed me and my relationship! Even 28 months on as I write this, there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about it. I am however, forever grateful that I can now use this to help others through counselling and am campaigning for a better future for all mums. Thankfully I made a full recovery and I think its such an important message to share with other mums who may be in despair. It does get better, it does get easier, every storm runs out of rain eventually.
The shit hit that fan immediately after Aarya arrived (poor little thing). There were no magical moments, no connection, smiles or emotion. I went from active labour to hallucinations to nothingness. I felt completely numb and empty for a few hours, then the fear crept in. An overwhelming feeling of panic, anxiety, sadness and hopelessness, like nothing I’d experienced before. I knew by day 2 that something was seriously wrong. My training must have helped somewhat and I suppose in that respect it was a saving grace. I knew enough about the illness to identify it but not how to control it.
Just 3 days after Aarya was born I could only be described as catatonic, I wouldn’t eat and I couldn’t sleep (even with a cocktail of medication) because my emotional brain was wired. I didn’t want to see my daughter or hear her cry, I rarely moved from my bed or spoke, I stared at the ceiling, shaking, locked in ‘freeze’ mode. My partner, mum and sister stepped in looking after the baby. I was so afraid of telling them what was going on in my head for fear of being taken away, yet I knew I had to do what was right. My mum was the first person I confided in because she suffered from Postpartum Psychosis when she had my sister. I told her everything and admitted to having suicidal and intrusive thoughts. I said things about wanting to get rid of my baby (whom I didn’t call by her name). I remember feeling that I wasn’t allowed to and didn’t want to accept that she was mine, so referred to her as ‘the baby’ or ‘her’.
5 days after the birth I was admitted to an Acute Psychiatric Women’s Ward which I would not wish upon my worst enemy. Lets just say… somehow I made it out alive and was transferred to a specialist mother and baby unit a few days later. I had to be tricked in to agreeing this as my family (quite rightly) didn’t want me being sectioned. So I said I’d go in as a voluntary patient because I thought my daughter wouldn’t be there to begin with. I wanted nothing more than to be on my own, get some rest, be looked after and feel better before being reunited with my newborn to start creating a bond. Evidently mother & baby units have changed a lot since my mum was in one and my experience was somewhat different. I am not for one minute suggesting that all of them are like this, it appears I was dealt a bum card. I know so many people who went to different units and had pleasant experiences. Full exposure is how i’d describe mine! I was faced with everything that was bothering me and expected to look after my newborn (who was 10 days old) 24/7 with little to no support. I had no idea who she was or how to care for her. I was given 6 different labels by a Psychiatrist, loads of medication and sent on my merry way.
My story isn’t all sad I promise, after 7 very slow weeks and incredible support from family, I was able to go home. That was when my recovery truly began. I had a therapist who came to the house and I started looking after my daughter the way I wanted to, rather than the way someone in hospital wanted me to. Talk about having all your control stripped away from you when you need it most! My advice would be, talk, write, sing, do whatever makes you feel better. There is no right or wrong in this crazy world that is motherhood, the most important thing is putting your own mental health first and remembering that you are enough, you are the best mum for your baby. After all, we are only human, how can we expect ourselves to look after our child if we are not okay.
I am now running a retreat exclusively for mums to learn about looking after their mental health and well-being, a change to relax and reconnect etc. Just what I would have needed when I was ill to be honest but I think it could really help any mums out there to have a break. You can find out more about the retreat please email email@example.com.