I was 35 years old when I found out I was pregnant, I had waited a long time to meet my soulmate and words cannot even describe the joy I felt that my dream of becoming a mum was finally coming true. This moment of joy was short lived and soon turned into worry, which meant throughout my pregnancy I worried a lot about all the things that could go wrong and had the sudden realisation that life is so very precious and can be gone in a moment. And this is where the obsessive worrying and anxiety began.
Like every expectant mother when I had my first prenatal appointment I had to disclose any past health problems, I was honest and open and explained I had a difficult childhood and had suffered from mild to severe spells of depression from my late twenties to early thirties. From here on in I was regularly asked how I was feeling, any concerns I had were discussed, and I genuinely felt supported throughout my pregnancy.
A few days before my due date my waters started leaking and I was admitted to be induced. I had done Hypno-Birthing classes so felt truly gutted that my birth plan was probably not going the way I wanted now, but knew I had to do what I could to get my son safely into this world.
I went in on Friday morning and on Sunday morning my son was born, like many mothers out there, a moment I will never forget. I felt so proud of what I had achieved, after years of longing for this moment I was looking into my son's eyes. I somehow felt like I already knew him and that I would spend my life, loving, protecting and supporting him.
We left the hospital late that night as I was adamant that I wanted to go home to my own bed and not spend another night in the hospital. That first night my son had liquid on his lungs so was coughing and choking quite badly, which terrified me, along with him wanting to breastfeed every hour I got very little sleep and felt completely exhausted. The following days were all a blur really, I had visits from the midwives, checking the baby and my stitches.
My son continued to feed every hour to an hour and half, I never felt prepared or informed of the mental and physical drain breastfeeding can take on you. Within a week my stitches had become infected, all of the colour had drained from my face and I was back at the hospital for antibiotics and iron tablets as I had lost more blood than they thought in labour. A few days later we were back in the hospital with my son as he had jaundice, but thankfully didn’t need any hospital treatment. My point of explaining all of this is that those first few weeks were really upsetting and my expectations of bringing this beautiful little human home were overtaken with worry and lot’s of tears.
The following weeks were filled with visitors and our house always being full, finding very little time to just rest and enjoy the moments. But once the visitors had stopped and my partner went back to work it was just me and my son, we were on our own.
I don’t have any family living close by ,with the exception of a few close friends, I didn’t have a support network around me. I never realised how utterly lonely being a new mum would be, I had never felt so alone in all my life. And so the darkness began to creep in , I would cry nearly all day just longing for someone to come visit and help me for 10 minutes. I worried so much about everything, I had vivid visions of awful things happening to my son that also turned into nightmares and I would jump out of bed to check on him regularly. I couldn’t leave the house the thought of it was too overwhelming, so I stayed at home most days counting the hours until my partner came home.
To the outside world everything looked perfect but the truth was that we were struggling, me and my partner were both overwhelmed and exhausted with very little support. I started feeling resentful and bitter towards the people who we asked for help but didn’t really deliver. Alongside the “well meaning” advice from other mothers meant that I felt like a complete failure. I kept asking myself:
Why was I feeling like this? Why is everything I do criticised or belittled by people around me? When I share what I’m worried about why are other mothers laughing at me?
My partner noticed my moods and saw the confident, capable woman I once was, fade away. I was now scared to go out, hated social situations, and sat sobbing after family members made a comment about how I was parenting our son. I felt judged and alone and couldn’t see how I was going to get through this. My partner tried to convince me to get out and join local baby groups, but when I went, I was surrounded by people but felt just as isolated. They all looked so perfect and happy and I couldn’t open up about how I was feeling.
My saviour came in the form of a health visitor, I used to look forward to her visits just so I had someone to speak to. She noticed early on that something wasn’t quite right, and although my son was happy, healthy and well looked after, I wasn’t myself. So she began to visit every week, and would just sit and listen. I was adamant that I wasn’t going to go on antidepressants again, I didn’t like my experience with them before and considered them my last resort. The health visitor told me about a local post natal charity that offered peer to peer counselling, so I looked them up online, booked an appointment and mentally prepared myself to leave the house. I will never forget the day I had my first session, I sat on the sofa with my son in my arms and the flood gates opened. I told this lady everything and I cried so hard, she sat next to me and gave me a hug and told me everything was going to be ok. She then went on to agree with my concerns, and told me that how I was feeling was normal. That was the first time since I gave birth that someone had said that to me, I thought I was going crazy to be feeling how I do and to feel insecure and undermined by the comments on my parenting.
This was my first step towards recovering, and it's been a long road back to me. I have done so much work on myself, I have had lot’s of therapy and finally got back to remembering what made me happy. What brought me joy before I became a mother. Motherhood completely consumed me and without the support of my partner, my health visitor, the charity ladies and the determination to not let this defeat me, I dread to think where I would be today.
My son turned one in June and reflecting on the year we just had, I don’t know how I survived it. But I did! Even if you are completely on your own, with the right help and support you can get through this and you will come out stronger at the other end. I am finally in a place where I can enjoy motherhood, enjoy the moments with my son and look forward to the future.
My message to you is spot the signs, baby blues do not last forever, so if you are feeling low, even though it takes so much strength to pick yourself up, ask for help from whoever will listen. Motherhood is a blessing and meant to be challenging but also a joyous thing. You have brought life into this world so you are stronger than you think, hang on in there because the best is yet to come.