While a lot of women experience the Baby Blues in the first few days or weeks after giving birth, about 1 in every 10 women will experience postnatal – also called postpartum – depression (PND), a condition that’s far more serious.
It’s just the Baby Blues
Everyone tells you that the Baby Blues are normal, so even though I cried all day and night, I assumed that was normal, too. At the time I felt like having my child was the worst thing that had ever happened to me (I felt terrible for even thinking that – in fact, it’s almost three years later and I still feel bad about it). I was shocked that anyone would choose to have more than one child. It was only when a friend pointed out that I’d been crying every time she’d popped in to see me and the baby that I considered it could be anything more serious. She said to me, ‘You don’t have to feel this way.’ And she was right.
All. The. Time.
You know that terrifying panic you feel when you get your hand stuck in something like a jar? When your blood feels like it runs cold and you think you’ll never get your hand out – ever? It felt like that. All. The. Time.
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It’s a blur
I had PND with my first baby and, strangely, I don’t really remember what it felt like. I know that at the time I felt horrendous and kept thinking, ‘This can’t be my life – I have to get away from this’, but that whole period of my life is a blur now. I saw a psychiatrist about three weeks after the birth and took anti-depressants for about a year, which really helped. But I barely remember any specifics from the first six months of my daughter’s life.
For me postnatal depression felt like I was having the worst panic attack of my life. But at the same time I felt like I was in the middle of a packed room and I couldn’t let the panic show on my face. I don’t know why I felt like I had to keep my feelings to myself but I just kept thinking, ‘Act normal, act normal’.
I knew there was something very wrong with me when I was driving my car (my baby was at home with my husband) and a disturbing thought popped into my head. I thought, ‘I’d love to be in an accident – not a bad one, but just bad enough that I’d need to spend a few days in hospital.’ That felt like the only way I’d be able to take a break by myself.
An anxious mess
Although the days were hard, it was mostly at night that my anxiety kicked in. Every time by daughter cried I felt like I was ‘doing parenting wrong’. My baby barely slept and even when she did, I was so hyper aware that she could wake up screaming at any moment that I’d just lie in bed waiting for it to happen. I was an exhausted, anxious mess for at least four months before I asked for help.
I felt nothing
I took a friend with me when my son had his six-week vaccinations. I put him down on the nurse’s bed and he screamed when she put the needle in. My friend was so concerned when my son cried, but I just stood there. The nurse turned to me and said, ‘You can pick him up and comfort him now – we’re done.’ It hadn’t even occurred to me to pick him up, I was just frustrated that he was crying again. At no point did I neglect my son, but I did everything from nursing to bathing him begrudgingly for the first six months. I wish I’d seen my doctor sooner.