To actually write this blog post scares me… It’s a topic I have known is important to tackle since I started writing the whole blog but in some ways it’s the one post that reveals so much of me as a person it terrifies me. I have been trying to find reasons why I shouldn’t write it for weeks, telling myself that no one needs to read about my battles with an illness (because that’s what it is) that no one talks about. God it seems has other plans and just won’t let me walk away from this post. It scares the living day lights out of me to write it down but if by writing it I can help just one person then it will be worth it. It is a topic that needs to be talked about and a topic that needs the stigma taken away.
What is that topic?
Post Natal Depression 😦
My battle with the dreaded PND was one that I managed to hide from a lot of people, including myself, for a long time as I have always had a knack of being able to put on a ‘happy face’ and get on with things. It was also a slow spiral for me that started with the birth of my second child so I didn’t really notice it happening and if I’m honest, if R hadn’t walked out the way he did, I’d still be suffering. The way R left meant that we got counselling both together and apart and for me that was the biggest blessing to come out of this whole situation. I can now write this post from a place of happiness, security and knowledge that I’m good enough, having worked through so much stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I still get bad days when everything feels really scary but those are few and far between now and the nightmares that used to plague my sleep have all but disappeared. I have an amazing family, 3 wonderful children, truly superb friends and a relationship with God that I know I can depend on. So here goes… My story of PND….
It all started with a routine midwife appointment at 33 weeks and 5 days with Mr 6. I didn’t feel 100% and after talking to the midwife about my symptoms she was concerned enough to send me up to the hospital for further examinations. The concern was that my hind waters had gone and that obviously posed a risk of infection. Having left the midwife who happily said I should go home, pack a bag, have some lunch and head to the hospital ‘but there was no real rush’ I walked home with Mr 8 who at the time was 22months old, phoned R (who went into a tail spin) and once everyone was sorted we headed out.
Well that was when everything went mad… I don’t really remember a lot about the next 36 hours as once we arrived at the hospital I was pumped full of drugs and lost control of my life, or that’s how it felt. It was discovered that I had a temperature so suddenly I was wheeled into one of the labour rooms, hooked up to a drip and they started an induction. I’m sure a lot more happened in between but for the life of me I don’t remember. All I remember is sitting on this bed, looking at my little boy who was strapped into his buggy, thinking ‘I haven’t prepared him for any of this as I thought I had weeks’. My mum being the star that she is drove from her home in Dorset to us in Oxford to collect our little man from the delivery room as we hadn’t had time to sort anything for him. Not being able to hug him goodbye was really traumatic for me but my thought was that I’d be home in a couple of days and everything would go back to normal…. How wrong was I!
I remember the nurses saying to me that the labour should be pretty quick as with my hind waters having gone, baby would be ready to go so it was a huge shock for everyone involved when it took 5 bags of drip at 98% and 26 hours for our little man to make an appearance. I was completely exhausted, completely traumatised as it was the most hideous labour and I’m sure there was a big lump of shock in there too, but our little man was safe and so I relaxed. Mr 6 was taken straight to special care to be checked over and weighed in at a good sized 6lb 8oz! (I don’t even want to think about what he would have been if he’d gone to term)
We had to stay in hospital for 10 days in total and there are so many moments during that time that I could tell you about but my over whelming feeling from that time is one of sadness. I was stuck in a room by myself (only slightly better than watching people come and go on a ward) with a little boy who had blue lights to treat jaundice and who wouldn’t feed for anything! I remember the nurses showing me how to squirt milk down his throat using a syringe as he couldn’t suck. I felt a complete failure. Not only was my 22 month old completely confused about everything that was going on and wondering where on earth Mummy had disappeared too, my band new, tiny little man couldn’t feed from me. I felt like my body had let him down and allowed him to be born too soon and now i couldn’t even help him with the food he needed to survive. I remember at one point wishing the doctors would say he needed special care so I could go home. Even writing that 6.5 years later breaks my heart. This tiny little bundle who I loved more than the world I couldn’t deal with because of all the emotions and trauma I was dealing with but had no one there to guide me through it. As Mr 6 was such a good weight and didn’t need to stay in special care, none of the support structures surrounding a premature baby kicked in. I was asked so many times during those 10 days if I was sure my dates were right and it didn’t seem to matter that my dates and the scan dates all matched, the medical staff seemed to take one look at his size and decided he wasn’t premature so I obviously didn’t need the support. How wrong could they be!! During this time both my mum and R were amazing. One of them was with me every day and the other was with Mr 8 but the nights felt so so long….
Finally we were allowed home and I have never been so pleased to get back to our little rented house and to begin to try and feel my way parenting both boys. This is when I locked the feelings up, put on the happy face and got on with things. We had visits from the in laws, a new bathroom fitted because it was planned in to be done before the baby and R went back to work.
There is so much to this story that I could probably write a whole book rather than just a blog post. From the morning I remember phoning my mum at 6am after R left for work, having been up for most of the night trying to get Mr 6 to feed. I just said ‘please come’ burst into tears and hung up, knowing I had to somehow get though the 3 hours it would take her to get to me, to the endless doctors appointments that still continue to this day.
One thing that kept me going through all the mess was the love I had for the children and my husband. Yes things were messy and it was a constant battle to get things done but I kept smiling, kept going and got through it, but at some point I lost me….
Its only looking back I realise how far from being ‘me’ I had come. I didn’t care about what I looked like or what I ate and everywhere around me I saw things that would be a danger to the children or R. I hated being by myself in the house as I was convinced someone was gonna break in. The idea of the children in a car with others terrified me as I absolutely believed that it would crash and I’d never see them again. I saw danger in everything. It sounds completely crazy now but in the place I was it was very very real. I look back now and wonder how I hid my fears and feeling from everyone. Letting people see what was going on inside my head was something I was determined couldn’t happen. It felt ‘normal’ to be ruled by that level of fear about everyday things but deep down I knew it wasn’t right. I have always been the strong one and the one to hold it all together. I had no idea how to even begin to explain how I was feeling so I didn’t. I locked it all up and convinced myself I was happy and everything was great… It sooooo wasn’t!
I know that many families who have premature babies have medical complications far worse than anything we had with Mr 6 and for that I will be eternally grateful however the battles we have had for him have been ongoing and long. I’m not going to go into that now as those are stories for another time but I’m sure that fighting for him in some small way kept me going. As well as being mum to 2 wonderful little boys I had one who needed me to fight for his speech and hearing and I couldn’t be prouder of how far he has come considering the rough start he had.
The turning point for me was most certainly R leaving. It wasn’t a concise decision but something happened inside my head when he left and although it has hurt like crazy and it’s been a really really tough road to climb, there will always be part of me that is thankful that it happened. Did my Post Natal Depression contribute to the failing of my marriage? Yes it probably did, but then I would also say that if R had known me well enough and cared enough, he would have seen I was struggling and got me the help I needed. Instead he took the easy way out. He had an affair and walked away…. Do I blame him? Kinda, but there is also part of me that knows I wasn’t that pleasant to live with and maybe he just wasn’t strong enough to support me in my recovery. Through this experience I have become so much stronger as a person and although I never lost my faith in God, it has been renewed beyond my wildest imagination.God has been and continues to be, my rock through it all and I thank Him for that daily.
The most important thing I take away for my battle with PND is that is ok to talk about it. It’s not a dirty secret and people understand. It’s actually amazing how many people have suffered with it and want to talk about it once someone has the nerve to actually admit they struggled. PND needs talking about. There are so many people struggling with this condition and until we take the stigma away for it, they will suffer in silence, too afraid to speak out.
I know that this whole experience was part of my journey and has contributed in making me who I am today but the thing that makes me really sad is that none of this needed to have happened…. When they broke my waters, both were in tact… 😦