Did I suffer from Post Natal Depression or was it Baby Blues?
To be honest I will never really know, but I think I suffered from PND for the first 6 months after the birth of my baby girl. All I can tell you is my story and what I went through and maybe it will help another mom going through the same thing.
The thing about my experience is that there are so many things that come into play with what I was feeling like during that time. I can’t just exclusively tell you my experience after birth as I feel I would need to explain all the factors that come into it. I just had so much to deal with. Some things I can’t share with much detail. Not because I don’t want to, but because this is not only my story. It involves my husband and I don’t have the right to share his personal life.
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My baby was a surprise, a huge one! I was in a very new, long distance relationship. We were together for only 3 months when I found out I was 4 weeks pregnant. Luckily for me I really believed he was “The One” even before I fell pregnant. But being pregnant didn’t fit at all with the “plan”. I had a mental vision of doing things the old fashioned way. I wanted to date, get married, enjoy married life for a while, plan a baby and then welcome a baby into our lives. That was not meant to be.
He was far away and I had to break the news on the phone. What would he say and what would he do? I was terrified! Even though I believed he was “The One” you can’t really know someone after just 3 short months! On top of this I am an alcoholic and a drug addict in recovery. I have also been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, but I am also skeptical about that diagnosis. How many mentally stable drug addicts do you know?
I am nearly 5 years clean and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in rehab, and since 2008 I have been on mood stabilisers. When I got the surprise that I was pregnant the first thing that I did was go to my psychiatrist. I was on Seroquel and Epitec and didn’t know if it would be dangerous for my baby if I continued. I was told both meds would be dangerous for my baby. We discussed the fact that I might be mentally unbalanced without the meds and that would be dangerous for me and my baby. If I relapsed on my addictions that would be a lot more dangerous for my baby than the meds I was on! I trust my psychiatrist and followed his advice. I went off the Seroquel immediately and I weaned myself off the Epitec in one week as instructed. It took nearly 3 months to get me on the full dose of Epitec in 2008 so you can imagine going off those meds in just one week was rocky.
My life changed the moment I saw those two lines. I had an active social life with my friends, family and recovery network when life suddenly did a flip. I became tired and emotional. “The One” proposed and we decided to get married before the baby arrived. We also decided I would move towns to live with him as I was working for myself and it would be easier than him having to find a job in Cape Town.
We got married when I was 6 months pregnant and I moved to Saldanha. It meant that I had to travel to see my counselor and my psychiatrist until I realized I should do online therapy – https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/is-online-psychiatry-effective/
My pregnancy was fine up until this time. It seemed like the moment we got married and arrived in the West Coast to start our new life together the 3rd trimester hit hard. I was alone during the day and didn’t know anyone in the area (except my new mother in law).
Something that also made me feel very isolated is that the language here is Afrikaans (with the West Coast accent) and my Afrikaans is absolutely terrible. I couldn’t find the AA group that was supposed to be in Vredenburg and it was hard not having my recovery support group. I was also under the impression I would be able to work and cope fine until labour started. How wrong I was!
I got so fat and I could barely move and when I moved, it was slow and painful. I gained about 35kgs in my pregnancy! My brain seemed to malfunction and I found work was almost impossible. I just couldn’t think and couldn’t seem to function in any way. I couldn’t sleep or eat. I was just a huge, fat, pregnant, bundle of misery.
Something I found out recently which makes perfect sense is that PND often starts in the last trimester of pregnancy, NOT after the baby is born. Maybe all the changes and being pregnant made life hard and I was miserable or maybe the PND was setting in at this time? One thing is for sure – I was not a happy camper!
All I remember about the last stretch of pregnancy is being constantly uncomfortable and miserable. The smallest thing was impossible to do. The lovely feeling when my baby moved changed to being a horrible feeling of pain when she made the slightest movement. This bothered me the most. I hated feeling her move because it hurt me. And it hurt me to hate feeling her move. I was peeing in my pants all time and throwing up all night every night. I had such pelvic pain that it hurt to walk. I couldn’t eat, sleep or poop! And I just had to wait out the days, alone at home in misery praying for labour to come.
I won’t go too much into the labour and birth because I have written about that previously.
To sum it up my planned home birth didn’t go too well. It was 42 hours labour with a posterior baby which landed up in an emergency c-section. To say I was exhausted after this just doesn’t explain it adequately.
When I was released from the hospital we spent the first night at my parents in Cape Town and then we came home to Saldanha. We wanted to come home and spend a few quiet days together before my husband had to go back to work.
Having a new baby is scary, I was so worried I would drop her or do something wrong. I second guessed myself with everything I did. I had read all the books I could get my hands on, but found that overall nothing prepared me adequately for being a mom. I remember every mom telling me that I would be shocked and unprepared. So I wasn’t shocked that I was shocked and unprepared, but damn I was shocked!
I struggled with breastfeeding and it was not the comfy, bonding experience I expected. I hated it and I felt guilty about that. I felt guilty that I wasn’t a good enough mom and I wanted to do almost everything myself because I was worried my husband would do it wrong. I was also (very unfairly) angry with my husband because he wasn’t doing enough to help, but in fact I wasn’t letting him help or I would redo what he did. When he washed the bottles he didn’t do it right in my eyes, so I did it again. When he rocked her I would think he wasn’t doing it right, when he swaddled her he did it wrong. I have now realised he has done nothing wrong, he just did it his way!
At some stage something drastic in me changed. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened or how, but it was huge. I believed my husband didn’t love me and he only married me to “do the right thing”. I knew he loved our baby girl, but I was convinced he didn’t love me. This brought up so much for me. One part of me said I should just take my baby and leave and find happiness, but how could I take his little girl away from him? Another side of me said I must stay and just carry on.
I feel strongly about marriage and families. I never want to be divorced. I believed we had made a mistake and I was so sad and miserable. I cried every day for months. I love my husband and I thought he would be miserable for his whole life because he is married to someone he doesn’t love. I didn’t know what to do so I cried and I withdrew and tried to stay out of his way. For a long time our only conversation was about the baby and nothing else. I so wanted to talk to him, but I just couldn’t. I was also so sure of what I believed and I needed to hear it said out loud, but I didn’t want to hear it. I cried for hours every day and I cried myself to sleep every night.
I struggled to do anything during this time. I was physically and emotionally exhausted every day. I didn’t have the will to do much at all. I also wanted some time to just “be” and there was no such thing. This baby just wanted me all the time. I loved my baby but I started to feel resentful. I just wanted to be left alone for a bit, but she just wanted to be fed and to be held. The days and nights felt so long! Then when hubby got home I would want him to take over for a bit, but he works hard and he wanted a few minutes of peace and quiet when he got home. I felt resentful about this too. I thought if I could go to work (away from the baby) for a day that would be a day off!
I can’t remember when my hubby sat me down and spoke to me, but it was such an emotional talk. I am so grateful to him for taking that step. It turns out he also felt completely unloved and he was hurting so badly. He told me how much he loved me and wanted things to change. Things did not change fast. For a long time I still doubted what he said and I still cried so much. Over time, very slowly things started getting better. I started talking to my husband and I started laughing again. I have the most amazing husband and I am sorry for what I put him through.
When my daughter was 6 months old things changed again. It was almost like coming out a dream and I could see that I had been in quite a bad way. The more time goes by the more I can see how bad my mental state was. The confusing thing for me is that I have had plenty of therapy and counseling in my life and I know what to look out for, but when I was there all I wanted to do was withdraw from everyone. It is almost like I wanted to be miserable and I was completely delusional!
My daughter is now 17 months and I am happy. I get so much joy out of life.
I urge any mom who is feeling anything like I did to please go and get help – you don’t have to feel this way. Go and speak to someone and very importantly talk to your husband. That was my biggest mistake. If I had spoken to him and trusted him he would have helped me.