Chin up, you’re just tired.
Some women just can’t hack it.
How come you don’t wear your make-up anymore?
Some of the people I love the most have made comments like this. I know they don’t mean too but nobody knows what to say to me. My pride has gone. I have no compassion for things that used to make me loveable, I don’t even look like me anymore. I hate this house. I hate my husband for giving this to me. Most of all I hate him. I. Hate. My. Baby.
My career prospects are depleting before me, I feel like I could hyperventilate at any given moment at the anticipation of money running out. The house needs cleaning. My hair needs washing. My son needs picking up or leaving alone, I can’t decide which. I need to do the ironing. I haven’t planned anything for dinner. The grass needs cutting. The stairs need hoovering and the banister needs polishing. Everything needs something. Yes, I am tired. No, I can’t hack it, and truthfully, I’m not wearing my make up anymore because my eyes hurt from crying. There! I hope you are proud, you have cornered me and seen me at my worst.
Turn Back Time
Before this, I was marvellous! Before this I was a dancer, with a body that didn’t need filters or airbrushing. Just 2 years ago I was happy, I had the most handsome man lust after me all day. He was kind to me, supported me through my ups and downs and made a close friend out of my brother. He asked me to marry him and we drove off into the sunset ready for our adventure. Statistically speaking, I am exactly the candidate for Post Natal Depression. So I’m disappointed in myself that I seem to have been caught off guard with it. I’m usually so organised. Nevertheless, here I am. In all my glory, here to tell you my story. Don’t worry, everybody is fine……now.
My pregnancy was textbook, apart from the acute nausea – I don’t think this is even a thing anymore as so many women really struggle with it. I did most of it alone as my husband was a serving soldier at the time, he was home from about 7 months onward, so I didn’t have to wander the streets barefoot with zips undone everyday anymore.
My due day came and went. I remember that day well, only because we had the most ridiculous courtesy car to bring a baby home in but that story is for another day. Fast forward another two weeks and I’m being induced. I’m sitting on the ward hearing women sob around me, waters are being broken which is followed by screaming. I didn’t actually feel like a failure just yet, I thought I would but evidently the mood levels can go lower. I was the youngest on the ward by at least 10 years. The other 5 women all seemed to have the same problem as me, “you’ve just made it so comfortable in there, the baby doesn’t want to come out”. I would smile back because I know any other response would be interpreted as bad-tempered b*tch. 12 hours later and the show is on the road. I’m not going to bore you all with the horrific ordeal of my labour as it now a very common story. But I will pick up from the shift change over of having my first son, James.
The two midwives who delivered him are forever welcome in my home and heart. As they were firm when they needed to be, they got straight to the point when explaining the situation to my husband and most of all they considered my age and life experience when doing anything to my body while I was unconscious. I came around with wires and tubes and a catheter.
A Heavy Heart
There! Right there, the heavy, black mood was entering my room. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t mention it, I thought they would take my baby away. Minimal conversation would take place without my husband in the room just in case I gave anything away. After all, it was just the two of us who were so sure that we could grab life by the balls.
There is one midwife who I will never forget, Cherie. I hope karma finds her.
The two midwives to deliver James gave me time, told me everything in bitesize pieces and helped come up with a plan of action to help get me up and moving around. But they had to go home. It had taken me nearly an hour to sit at the end of my bed due to blood loss, nausea and generally feeling exhausted. We came up with a plan to try again at lunchtime.
Then Cherie comes into my room. Briefly announces herself and tells me that I have been in this room long enough, so I must leave now. She grabs my ankles and pulls them to the side of the bed, anybody who has had a catheter in will know the pain of that getting a good tug alongside scootching on the stitches I had. I can’t tell you just how sick I felt.
Within ten seconds I was landed in a wheelchair with bags of fluids put in my lap and James bundled into my left arm. I was not ready to move, my husband wasn’t with me, the room was spinning, and I was terrified of dropping this dead weight baby that was taking whatever strength I had left to hold up. Looking down, I saw these eyes staring at me from underneath the blanket. I was thrust into the lift with no appreciation for my injuries and it was silent. Cherie tapped her foot and swung my wheelchair round to face a corner of the lift.
She had robbed me of the first decent moment I had with James.
I was praying he didn’t make a sound so I couldn’t be seen to fail at the first hurdle and inconvenience Cherie further. As I sit here typing this, I can journey back to that lift, I remember the colour scrubs Cherie was wearing. I still have the blanket that James came home with. James is now 5. The first two years of his life were very heavy. Walking into his room every morning was like dragging your sorry ass into work. He needed me, and it was my fault he is here. So, I got on with it.
The next 4 four days I spent in hospital, which eventually resulted in a transfusion, I hardly touched James. I used my call bell all the time, I even handed James over to the staff for four hours, so I could cry in private. I didn’t mention my mood, and nobody picked up on it. On day 3 I managed to walk myself to the toilet with a wire of something attached to me. I sat on the toilet and looked into the mirror. My lips were white, my eyes were sunken in, my hair still had my vomit in from the labour I went through.
Who Am I?
I am not marvellous anymore.
That shine I had has left me, this wonderful man currently holding our baby is now just as far down the rabbit hole as I am, and I’m not talking about it.
I also remember the day we got home. The whole country was covered in snow. We eventually made it home, I walked into the house with my husband frantically getting bags out of the car, so we could keep the warmth in. I stood at the kitchen sink looking out onto the farmer’s field that looked like a Christmas card. I had no urge to check James, I kept my back turned to him, I didn’t want any possible signal that would trigger my milk. It was a few days later that I made the decision to dry my milk up ‘cold turkey’.
Shoulda, Woulda Coulda?
Yes, there are so many things that I wish I had done differently. I asked my husband what was the thing that made him think I might need help, he can’t pick just one thing. He said I had just become somebody else. A very slow transition, so slow that nobody picked up on it until James was over a year old.
I was asked in my therapy sessions how do I describe depression. I said that you could imagine a sink of water with nothing in it. Put a pin hole into an ink cartridge and place it into the sink. The ink slowly, silently contaminates the water until it’s all dark. For me, that was my depression.
The therapy that was offered to me was group therapy. I genuinely walked in there feeling like everybody else was crazy and I was fine. I was only in there to get some techniques about how to cope with this mood called anxiety. They are crazy. I am fine. I. AM. FINE.
The Road To Recovery
It’s been a long time since I cried in the shower. Its been a long time for me to get here. My marriage nearly broke down, I even think it did for a short time. I have had to dig deep to find compassion for a little boy that I truly resented. It has taken hard work, team work between me and my husband and at times, stepping away from family members who are bad for me. I am proud of who me and James are today. I love him.
This article has brought me to tears several times, not because of my own trauma. But because no matter how clever the system is at picking up Post Natal Depression, the people suffering get better at hiding it. If, however, this was already an accessible topic with no stigma then I feel I could have come forward sooner. I was the one to make the phone call. I was the one to put my head above the parapet. Because nobody knew what to say to me.