How I survived postnatal depression

As we sat in our one but last antenatal class hearing about the various challenges of new motherhood, I naively zoned out as the topic of postnatal depression was discussed. I just didn’t think it was likely to affect me.

Fast forward two months, with a five-week-old perfect little bundle in my arms, I was desperately reading up, through tear-filled eyes, about the tell-tale signs of postnatal depression. If only I had paid a little more attention to the information we had been given in advance about what can only be described as the gloomiest period of my life.

PND, as it is commonly referred, strikes more than 1 in 4 women after childbirth, and although much of the information on line states that it usually affects women who have previously suffered from depression, I can vouch for the fact it can also bite those who haven’t!

Tilly was in the category of easy babies (if you can ever say babies are easy), which made me feel all the more confused about why I wasn’t happy.

Tilly was in the category of easy babies (if you can ever say babies are easy), which made me feel all the more confused about why I wasn’t happy.

She fed, slept, gurgled and generally looked happy to be in this world form the moment we got home from hospital, and the more I ran round in circles in my head trying to keep the anxiety at bay, the more I fell deeper into this dark hole each day.

We were incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful maternity nurse to set us off on the right tracks. The only negative I can derive from this is the false sense of security it gave me. When she left, it might as well have been the end of the world. The prospect of a day, even an hour by myself without company – God forbid!

I muddled on, with the support of my amazing husband and family. I could have filled the Thames with the tears that flowed – a Coldplay song on the radio, tears from Tilly – these were the small things that would reduce me to a soggy heap on the kitchen floor.

The much more intense symptoms of anxiety followed, with a loss of appetite (not the best way  to lose the baby weight) and an inability to sleep. The black hole seemed to be deepening and I just couldn’t see a way out, no matter how many people reminded me how tough the first few weeks of motherhood can be. This had to be something else.

Throughout my life I have been lucky enough to be under the watchful and guiding eye of an older sister, who seven years my senior, was my Phone a Friend on that dreary morning in March when I felt like things couldn’t get much worse. Her calm approach and balanced advice over the phone from her home in Jerusalem was the turning point.

Desperate not to have to survive another day being sucked into the vortex, I booked an appointment with the doctor that afternoon, on Monday 31st March, our second wedding anniversary, and immediately felt like there was a little glimmer of light ahead.

Harry and Tilly had an afternoon of father/daughter bonding and I scurried to the surgery, sunglasses surgically attached to my face in fear of people thinking I was a victim of domestic violence, to ask a professional about what on earth was going on.

The relief on my face when she said my symptoms ticked each and every box of PND must have been a picture.

The relief on my face when she said my symptoms ticked each and every box of PND must have been a picture. I wanted to hug her – a strange reaction you may think, but honestly – it was such a relief to know that I wasn’t a). completely losing the plot, and b). simply not coping with being a mum.

I began a course of antidepressants and as we moved from winter to spring, so did my mood and within three weeks I was cruising down the street with the biggest spring in my step. That feeling of knowing I could be like everyone else and enjoy being a mum – I will never forget it.

A year and a bit on, having just celebrated our third wedding anniversary, I am pregnant with my second child and feel far less daunted by what lies ahead.

Yes, I may be susceptible to the grips of PND a second time, but at least I know the signs, and the remedies, and that it’s a chemical imbalance that sorts itself out over a period of time. I honestly feel fortunate to have suffered and come out the other side smiling – wiser to the hurdles of motherhood. I’m able to enjoy the highs – and even the lows – possibly a little more than anyone because I know that the odd bad day is nothing compared to those gloomy months of early motherhood.

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