Hiding behind the smiles and postnatal depression

The day is warm and the sun is shining bright, whilst a mother and her children walk along a country path. She smiles away, pushing her baby in his pram whilst her angelic three year old skips along side her. She has her make up on and a pretty summer dress and to the outside world she looks happy and content. She smiles when she walks past people and lovingly strokes her baby’s cheek as yet another old lady stops her to coo over this beautiful baby. Her life is complete as she has one of each and they are the most beautiful children she could have ever imagined, but why does she feel like this.

Behind the smile she is dying inside with pain. She wants to scream and shout, but she doesn’t think anyone can hear her. Maybe she could run away, but would the pain still follow her or maybe it’s best to end it now, so she doesn’t have to feel this pain anymore. She is consumed with guilt, anger and pain and she knows she is failing, but that make-up is hiding the bags under her eyes and is her mask to the outside world that she is doing ok. When people ask how she is, she always smiles and replies that she is fine, as she is too scared to tell them the truth. No one wants to know that she can’t cope and that everyday is a battle. Why would anyone feel the way she does with two beautiful children.

Her pain is invisible to the naked eye and she blends in like any other mum taking their little family out. She is isolated and alone and feels like she is battling this pain all on her own. No one knows that this is the first time she has left her home for a week or that she feels like a prisoner trapped in her own mind. She’s afraid and anxious that she will never feel happiness again. The anxiety has been building up inside her to force herself out and to not spend another day in that prison that used to be her home.

She finally gets to the shop and buys what she needs and heads back to her home. She made it out today, she kept the children alive, she survived and she continued to fight. Today she made progress and tomorrow she will be strong enough to ask for help.

 

 

 

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Lonely parenting and finding the support you need

Taking Miss J home from hospital for the first time was nothing short of magical. She was beautiful, happy, content and feeding well. My husband was lucky enough to be able to take two weeks off and we spent those couple of weeks visiting friends and family and going out for lunches. When my husband went back to work working 12 hour shifts and the visitors died down I started to realise the reality of being a mum with a husband who worked. I started to get lonely and realised that being at home with a baby all day long, with no one else to speak to was lonely and isolating. At first when Miss J came along we had so many visitors, but as she got older they dwindled, not for any fault of their own it was because life moves on and people have their own lives to live.

I didn’t have postnatal-depression with Miss J but I did struggle with anxiety so for me to go to baby grows was pretty scary experience and something I would get myself really worked up over. I forced myself into these groups but in the village where I lived at 24 I was one of the younger mum’s who went and felt a little bit unsure of myself. I continued to go and did make some lovely friends through these groups and me and Miss J loved doing the baby massage class together. My year at home with Miss J was pretty jammed packed full of different groups sometimes even two in one day and it honestly was the best year of my life. The baby stage is very short, even if at times it feels never-ending probably because you haven’t had eight hours sleep over three nights let alone one night. I felt it was important and helpful to me to find some friends who were going through the same stage as me so baby groups and also Facebook groups were so invaluable to me. When I did have to return to work when Miss J turned one I was honestly gutted that I wouldn’t have that time with her again. I went back to work three days a week and I cherished my days off in the week with her.

When Mr T came along I was naive to think it would be the same. I thought having Miss J at home would be helpful and would be nice as I could now have a proper conversation with her. Miss J wasn’t particularly impressed with this screaming and pooing thing that I spent most of my time feeding. She because quiet jealous and wouldn’t acknowledged his existence. As a mum you immediately feel guilty and that you have betrayed your first born child and with my husband going back to work I had never felt more alone and isolated. I tried desperately to get out the house but I found toddler groups just exhausting, as I had to keep an eye on Miss J whilst carrying Mr T with me. I wasn’t actually able to talk with anyone and found the whole experience stressful. Miss J decided to perfectly time stopping napping when her brother was a week old which made me I feel I was unable to have anytime to actually bond with my new baby or time to be able to appreciate my daughter and I desperately lonely in my house all day long. We tried getting out with walks to the park but Miss J would refuse to walk and want picking up whilst I tried to push the pushchair. I found that I wasn’t seeing or speaking to people for days and I would just sit at home crying and feeling like I was letting both of my children down.

When Mr T was 5 months old something had to give and I excepted that I needed to get help for postnatal-depression and anxiety. Luckily Miss J had started pre-school at this point and I was able to get a little bit of a break from her and she could get a break from me and her brother. I started taking antidepressants and started CBT which did help my anxiety. It has been a constant battle and something I am still battling. I’m enjoying my time more with the children and I am able to appreciate them more, but I do still have times where I feel isolated and lonely. Miss J now loves her little brother and also loves to go to school whilst Mr T has got a little easier and is happy to entertain himself for short periods of time so I can just about keep on top of the house.

The point to this post is that it does get easier and it is all momentary and will not last forever. They will soon grow, need you less and became their own little people. It’s important to involve yourself in local groups, even if it means trying out a few until you find one you really like. Connect on Facebook with local groups and also baby groups and you will soon realise you are not alone and that your feelings are quiet normal to feel lonely. I have made some lovely friends through Facebook, some who I have met a few times and some who only live in my phone, but these people are real people who care for me and support me as I do for them. Do what you need to do to get through the day and don’t feel guilty as you are doing a lot better job than you think you are. If someone offers to babysit, take them up on it, if no one asks, then ask them, if you can put you child in a crèche whilst going to the gym, then do it and if you can put an older child in preschool or nursery then do it. A happy mummy equals happy children so make sure you are looking after yourself so you can look after your children properly.

 

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The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually – Eeyore

Today it has rained none stop, Mr T is cuddled up to me, poorly and it’s just a bit depressing. I am stuck in, unable to move off the sofa, the washing is piling up, I have holiday clothes to wash and pack, but today it will have to wait. I hate the rain and how it makes everything seem so depressing.  I have such a fear when one of the children or me is sick as I know how easy it is for me to slip back into depression. Being stuck in a house with a poorly child, isolated, alone and unable to do the jobs that I need to be doing can be such a difficult thing for me and my wellbeing can suffer quickly. If I get into a habit of staying in and being isolated I then struggle to get out again and things can easily spiral for me and negative thoughts can creep in, but the best thing that has come out of my recent mental breakdown is that I can recognise this and put things in place to stop it snowballing. It’s hard when you have a small child who is sick and is demanding your time and attention and when you add the lack of sleep into the mix, it can quickly become too much.

I won’t always have postnatal depression, the house won’t always be messy, my children won’t always be small and hopefully won’t always be ill. Everything is momentary and just a small piece of time, we will move on and carry on as that’s what we have to do as humans. Be kind to ourselves, be honest with ourselves and don’t worry about tomorrow as tomorrow will come in its own time.

Mr T has eventually fallen to sleep and been placed in his cot and I can see the gently rise and fall of his chest. He looks so at peace, content, warm and loved. He is happy and right now and i’m all he needs.

The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually – Eeyore

The lonely mother and the working husband

 

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How PND damaged my relationship with my daughter

PND and how it damaged my relationship with my daughter and how we got it back.

My daughter Miss J has always been the sweetest little girl and when she was born eight days late, after a three day labour all was forgiven as soon as I held her. My bond with Miss J has always been so strong and she really has been my sidekick and when my anxiety has been bad just having her by my side gives me strength.

The first twenty weeks of pregnancy with Mr T were fairly easy besides a few hospital trips early on, but after twenty weeks things started to get very hard as I was diagnosed with SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction) and later Polyhydramnios. Abruptly the walks to the park, chasing around and sitting on the floor playing stopped. I felt incredibly guilty that I was unable to play with my daughter or even push her in her pushchair, but the pain got too much.

I think this is where my depression started and then escalated. Towards the end of my pregnancy I was having to lean on my mum for help with my daughter as I just wasn’t able to give her the attention she craved. Miss J wasn’t wanting me anymore and was crying when I took her home from my mums house, which made me feel like a terrible mother. I kept telling myself that once the baby was here it would be so much better as I wouldn’t be in pain anymore but I was very much wrong.

When Mr T arrived 3 weeks early I felt a huge relief. I had been induced and been away from my daughter for two days so was extremely emotional and wanting to get out of hospital as soon as I could. I left hospital too early as I was still extremely anaemic after a iron transfusion and was having dizzy spells constantly, but I pushed to leave as soon as I could. With Mr T back home I was so excited to introduce him to his big sister, but the reality wasn’t as I had imagined. Miss J only being three wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about and kept asking me to put him back in my tummy. She didn’t bond with him and ignored his existence besides trying to cover his face with a muslin when he cried.

The rational side of me knew that this was normal behaviour but inside it was killing me. I was patient and didn’t force her to be with him but it was so frustrating and making me stressed. Miss J was getting jealous that I was breastfeeding him so I would encourage her to feed her doll but she was acting out trying to get my attention anyway possible.

Mr T was not a good sleeper and would be up most the night screaming. He had bad reflux so I was forever changing his clothes and feeding him. My husband was working 12 hour night shifts so I had no way of getting help. Miss J was fobbed off with TV as I was too exhausted to entertain her and between me breastfeeding and holding a reflux baby upright I was failing her and was feeling terrible mummy guilt. I was resenting her for not letting me bond with my newborn and I was resenting him for ruining our relationship. Something had to give before I broke which is when my mum stepped in.

My mum didn’t work Fridays so we would go out or I would go to hers and she would take care of Miss J, where I would leave her for the night and collect the next day. It meant that once a week I only had to put one child to bed and I could nap when Mr T napped. It worked so well that she still does it now. I felt at first I was letting her down and worried that she would love my mother more than me, but its been the best solution for us both.

Eventually once Mr T could interact with her at around four months she started to take an interest in him. It was extremely slow and frustrating, but she now adores her brother, will take care of him and is incredibly protective of him. Once she started to bond with him and I sought help for my PND our relationship slowly improved. She started preschool when Mr T was 4 months old, which meant she got a break from us both and I think that was the best thing possible at the time.

Sixteen months on from Mr T’s arrival and the mummy guilt seems to be lifting. Miss J and me are best buds and I focus on spending some time where it is just us two when I can. She’s an incredibly kind and happy child and even though she can be a madam she is mostly very well behaved.  I thought she would remember it all, resent me forever and that her and her brother would never be the best of friends. Its amazing how PND can make you think so irrational, but I can now see it from the other side and we are now one big loving family.

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The first steps of getting help with postnatal depression and anxiety

The first steps of getting help with postnatal depression and anxiety (antidepressants)

After speaking with my Dr and getting a prescription of Sertraline things got much worse before they got better. I had been warned by the Dr that these antidepressants could make me feel suicidal which they did. I was feeling broken, hopeless and guilty, but I was still trying to keep up the impression to the people closest that I was fine.

Miss J had just started pre-school, which eased my guilt slightly knowing she could have fun at least two days a week away from me. The playground made me feel super anxious as everyone already seemed to know each other. I had Mr T strapped in the baby carrier against me almost like body armour, I would keep my eyes forward and march Miss J into her nursery room and get out as quickly as I could. I now know the other mums are actually nice ladies and some have even become friends, one in particular has become a very close friend and a huge help in my ongoing recovery, but at the time I was so scared to talk to them and so worried about what they thought of me. Any conversations I did have with Miss J’s teacher and other mums over the next few months I would replay in my head  constantly, so worried that I had said something stupid.

The days at home with Mr T were strained and not what I had planned in my maternity leave fairy tale. Washing was mounting with Mr T throwing up constantly from his reflux, the husband worked every hour he could so we could afford for me to be at home and I was alone and empty. Many a times I just wanted to run away and hide or even end it, but the fact this baby boy needed my milk to sustain him kept me going. I’m all for feeding your baby, which ever way suits you and your family, but for me breastfeeding made me feel like I had some use even in the dark days.

After being on the antidepressants for a couple of weeks I forced myself to go to my local children’s centre to get Mr T weighed and to speak with a health visitor. I told the health visitor everything and broke down in tears whilst she held me. It was such a relief to tell a stranger and not feel so alone and trapped. My HV was lovely and offered me lots of support and set me up by visiting me every week at my home whilst sorting out cognitive behaviour therapy. I was so thankful to have the HV for support, especially with the antidepressants still failing to kick in and a six week wait for CBT to start.

After this I started to feel ready to come clean about my mental illness and confided in my best friend who was also on maternity leave and able to offer me support and comfort without judgement. On a girls night out after a few too many glasses of wine I came clean to the rest of my group of girlfriends who were amazingly supportive and still make the time to check in on me from time to time to see how I’m doing. Realising that I had support and that I had amazing friends around me gave me a glimmer of hope that I could come out through the other side.

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