Post Natal Depression Or Am I Just Normal?
Lately, I have been hearing a lot about Post Natal Depression. It seems to be a disease which is taking over the society or perhaps it’s always been there silently but we are just being a bit more open about it now?
I think like many other diseases, Post Natal Depression is a modern disease, created by the modern society in which we live in today. In my previous blog, I mentioned how “back in the day”, the mother of a newborn got to spend six weeks in bed, just focusing on the newborn child and bonding with it. Today, with so many pressures of other children to care for, immediate family not being available to help, cooking, cleaning, generating an income; it is pretty much unheard of that a new mum would be able to take six weeks out of her schedule and solely focus on the brand new baby.
I truly believe this is where the problem lies. Of course, I am not a psychiatrist, a psychologist and I don’t have any kind of a professional degree. However, I am a mother. Of a few children. Let me tell you my stories.
The first time I fell pregnant, I was 23 years old. I was barely more than a child myself. I didn’t particularly like children. When everyone would be fussing around a newborn, I would remove myself; this was because everyone would be going “ooooh, she’s sooooo cute” and I just thought they looked like a wet rat. (I still think this) In a supermarket, I would give a wide berth to any isles containing children. I couldn’t relate to non adult people and I didn’t particularly want to.
So I totally hated every bit of being pregnant. I didn’t like my body being “taken over” by something I had no control over. I wasn’t prepared for all the changes. Sure, I read lots of books, but they don’t prepare you for real life as much as real life does. There were things in there which were conflicting, there were things in there which freaked me out and there were things that should have been in there but weren’t.
And of course, there is nothing to ever prepare you for your first child birth. The pain sucks so bad and the thing is that you can’t make it stop, and you don’t have a choice but to keep pushing because the baby ain’t gonna stay in there until it starts college.
And there always have to be some kind of complications no matter how minor. The first time, Madison was overdue so she pooed in the sac during labour. Luckily, she didn’t breathe it in however she did swallow it. The first poo is tar like and therefore sticky. If the baby breathes it in, it can get stuck in their lungs. This time however, it got stuck in her throat and she wasn’t breathing when she came out. They quickly whisked her away to “fix” her.
Being in a daze from twelve hours of constant pain, I didn’t quite react to anything, so I wasn’t worried. When they brought her to me and put her in my arms for the first time, I looked her and thought, “oh, gross, she’s got blood and white gunk all over her head, didn’t they give her a bath?”
See now, the only “newborns” I had seen were on TV and they all looked clean so naturally, I assumed mine would be as well, how was I to know any different?
Also, I knew nothing about skin to skin contact or breastfeeding. A midwife coming up to me and pinching my nipple to get the colostrum started was my first brush with breastfeeding.
Those early days sucked big time. First of all, I felt absolutely nothing for my first child. All the books said that there would be a “magic bond”. I had no magic or any other kind of bond happening, was I failing?
Breastfeeding sucked and was painful and we were both crying and distressed. Did this mean I was failing?
I had random thoughts pop into my head about all the things I read in books and what causes SIDS. All these scenarios would go through my head of the different ways my baby dies and I failed her and I would cry and cry for hours like it actually happened. Did this mean I was a failure?
In the middle of the night, I would hold my three week old baby as we both struggled to feed her and I knew I wasn’t doing a very good job and I would cry and cry and I would put my head in her lap and cry and feel like I was the worst mother she could have possibly ever chosen because she deserves so much more and for some reason I am not able to give it to her?
And then when she was eleven weeks old and I had to go back to full time work, did I feel like a failure? Just when we finally got happy with the formula and had a routine happening and started the bonding thing, I up and deserted her.
Yes, I felt like a failure with all of the above. I didn’t know what to do about it or that I was, in fact, supposed to do anything about it. Sure, I read somewhere about “baby blues” but that only happened in the first week and I was past that. I heard about post natal depression but that had the word “depression” in it, and I didn’t think I was “depressed”.
Of course the “mother guilt” continued for years as I had to send her to daycare twelve hours a day, five days a week until she started school. I felt so guilty from being away from her and she must have felt so many things that she could not express at such a young age, that the time we did get to spend together was not as good as it could have been.
In retrospect through, and even at the time, while I recognised that I was on an emotional rollercoaster and my mind was playing some very strange tricks on me, I still knew that hormones were a big part of it and perhaps because of my ignorance, I just accepted that it was what it was and I just had to deal with it, in an onwards and upwards fashion. As much as I may have imagined myself giving up on numerous occasions, I knew that in real life, that was simply not an option.
My last pregnancy with the twins was a different yet similar story. The main obstacle I had to overcome was the tyranny of the public health system. You see a twin pregnancy is considered a “high risk” pregnancy, so what the hospital is interested in doing is minimising THEIR risk that anything could go wrong by taking the control away from nature and god/universe, and taking that control themselves. They don’t like to let you full term with a twin pregnancy. They like to “take them” early and put them in an incubator. That is a whole other blog and I will not go into it here.
At the hospital, I was inundated with a 24/7 procession of doctors and nurses and midwives (I would also like to say that midwives are my favourite people in the whole wide world, I love them so much), but at least I got to stay in bed.
When I got home, my lovely mother in law came and stayed for five days and that was a blessing but when she left, I cried and cried because I didn’t know if I could cope with it all on my own. I was so tired that I would fall asleep while breastfeeding; I would wake up and feel so guilty because what if something happened? What if I had smothered them? What if I had dropped them?
And also the whole looking after two babies instead of one was a new thing as well.
I felt like a failure because after sixteen hours of labour and nine centimetre dilation, I still had to have a caesarean section. I felt like a failure because I nearly bled out on the operating table and died and left them without a mother. I felt like a failure because my nipple got so sore that I would cry when I was feeding them and it wasn’t until after I stopped that I realised I had a blocked milk duct. What if I had realised this sooner and could have continued breast feeding for longer?
I doubted myself because I insisted on always keeping them together and never separating them. Would they be okay in the same cot, I mean what about SIDS? Will I fail them? What if they die and it’s all my fault? And the dying scenarios started again. And everyone was dying. All the kids, my husband, me. I wept for us all.
And should I feel guilty because the twins have now changed my life, and ended my career as I know it? Would I blame them for that later and will that make me a bad mother?
I don’t think it matters how many kids you have had or what you do, this will just happen.
The reason I am sharing all of this is because I want the mothers and the fathers out there to know that:
- You are not the only person this happens to
- There is NOTHING wrong with you
- Trust your instincs
- Yes, you CAN get through this
- If you can stay in bed for 40 days with your newborn child, PLEASE do so
- You are perfectly normal
- You are the very BEST mother/father your child could EVER have, that is why they chose YOU