my name is Ebby and I have postnatal depression
From the moment I conceived I lived in fear of developing depression and as my pregnancy wore on in sickness and pain I felt it creeping in as each day passed. I tried to put it down to hormones and baby blues but when my baby boy was put in my arms for the first time I knew it was more than that. I looked down on this tiny, helpless life in my hands and felt… nothing.
My baby was born by caesarean and with breathing difficulties he was rushed away from me in to the special care nursery. I didn’t see him for 36 hours. I lay in my hospital bed looking down on my once bulging belly and it was gone, but where was my son? I have no doubt that those first hours intensified the already overwhelming emotions of my pregnancy and labour. By the time the nurse handed him to me the first time I was already so disconnected from the baby, he might as well have been a stranger’s child placed in my arms. I wanted to love and protect him, I wanted to feel like a mum, but there was nothing. I was already lost in a haze of overwhelming fear and panic.
I was so lucky, I had so much help. An understanding husband, grandparents who were happy to give up their time to babysit and the finances to hire nannies to help me through the sleepless nights when I was at my worst. But nothing helped. I would hear my baby crying and even if he was right beside me, it felt like I was so far away, like it was someone else’s life I was watching from a distance. I felt like I was in a suspended reality. Life stopped. I was treading water with weighted legs and my head was starting to go under.
Just before Christmas I finally got the courage to see my Doctor. Maybe it was the voice of an outsider or the way she said it, but I left her office that day feeling as though I wasn’t useless, that I was doing my best and there was no shame in admitting I couldn’t cope.
By the time the New Year rang in the fog had started to lift. With a clearer mind I started to realise, no other job on earth is as hard as parenthood. In no industry in any office around the world are you expected to work such long hours under such emotional and physical strain, with little to no rest between shifts. And in those early weeks before the smiles or giggles and cuddles, there really is no thanks, no appreciation for all your hard work. You are the slave and your little bundle of not so much joy is the master.
Days slowly passed and with each week my little man grew and changed. I barely remember those early days and looking back at photos of him then, so little and fragile, feels like someone else’s life. These days when I go to him, he smiles and ties himself in knots with excitement that I’m close. He reaches out to touch me when I sit beside him. He laughs when I’m silly. He looks at me like he knows I’m mummy and I’m doing my best. We’re a team.
To the mummies still stuck in the darkness, I promise it gets easier. One day you will wake up and the sun will be shining and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without this drooling, pooping, screaming little person attached to you all day. Enjoy the quiet moments when you can and when there are none just remember that one day too soon our babies will be all grown up and asking us to drop them around the corner from school so their friends don’t see us. Until then, hold them close, life will get back to normal soon. An entirely new, wonderful kind of normal.
For more information about postnatal depression please visit Beyond Blue and if you need help talk to your Doctor or Community Nurse.