The following words are written by a lovely client of mine about her own personal experience. Its honest and raw, its not dressed up and its not trying to hide anything away. And I am so glad she wrote it for me.
I’m sure some of you will be able to relate, and I’m sure someone will read it and realise there is help out there. Its just making that first step to ask <3
Motherhood. It’s all dinky clothes and baby snuggles, right? Nope. Motherhood throws you in at the deep end of nappies, sleepless nights and being entirely responsible for a small human, right when society tells us we should be at our happiest. It’s enough to make you ill.
When I gave birth to my first child, she was both planned and longed for. I held her moments after she arrived and waited for that much-quoted rush of love to hit me. It didn’t come. What did arrive the following afternoon as we brought her home was a wave of mild panic. I had never been a mum before, I liked things predictable and ordered. I was out of my depth.
I got through the first few days on adrenaline, but after that the sleep deprivation started to bite. My daughter only wanted to be held and wouldn’t sleep on anything that wasn’t breathing. When my husband went back to work after his two weeks paternity leave I sobbed as he left the house, knowing I had to get through nine hours alone. Pretty soon I was avoiding leaving the house, in tears every day and struggling to sleep. I even (and this hurts like hell to admit) began to refer to my firstborn as ‘it’.
When my daughter was about two months old, I happened to confide to my best friend that I was having trouble sleeping, and hallucinating baby cries in my dreams. I’d hear them, jolt awake ready to hold her, only to find her sleeping peacefully next to me. My friend’s next words changed everything ‘I think we need to get you some help for postnatal depression’.
Simply naming it was a revelation – why had I not noticed what I was suffering from before? I wasn’t crazy, or a terrible mother. I was ill. The next day she literally held my hand as I called my health visitor and began a four month route out of my depression. I started to venture out of the house, and my health visitor set me up with a baby massage course to help us bond. Gradually I noticed I was crying less. At seven months old when my daughter first slept through the night, I did too.
One in seven new mums will experience some kind of mental health challenge. So will one in ten dads. I want people to know that this is not unusual and you don’t have to accept these feelings. There is support out there, from phonelines when you just need to chat, guides on how to discuss your feeling with your GP and social media pages when it’s 3am and you need to know you’re not alone. Contact your health visitor or try www.pandasfoundation.org.uk if you need a starting point.