3 Feb 2014

Shackled - Prenatal Depression

We've all had it drummed into us that postnatal depression can strike, your health visitor or home visit midwife ask probing questions on your mental state whilst you are knee deep in sleep deprivation and nappies.

It's a horrible and dark illness that many mothers struggle to recover from. It can often go unseen or the right help not given at the right time which is made harder whilst looking after a newborn.

But no one really mentions prenatal depression. It too is a dark and scary place and can also strike anyone at any time. I thought I was strong and knew what I was already doing with a boisterous toddler in tow. I felt ashamed and very weak that I of all people couldn't cope and I only had one child to look after. What would I be like with two!!

This is a post I didn't want to write, I thought I was strong so it surprises me as much as anyone that I got sucked into the hole. I still can't call it depression...I don't want to label myself like that. I drafted a post when I was in a dark place that I find shocking to read myself, it was a very raw introspective look at myself.

I found it's also a disease that you can start to cover up. People help you do this, I'm not sure they are aware they are doing it and often it's only to be nice but these are some of the comments I've had when I admitted I was struggling...

"You aren't mad"

"It's hard looking after two children as it is"

"Oh bless, it's your hormones"

"Motherhood isn't easy"

"Second pregnancy is never the same, it's harder"

All of these things are true and I'm aware of my own emotions, I always have been finely tuned. But I needed help, someone to listen but even when they did I didn't feel any better. I just kept getting deeper into the black hole.

I can only describe my experience as feeling shackled. I would cry at anything and everything, questioned my ability as a woman - let alone a mother, I resented my role as 'pregnant' lady. I hated going to bed because I'd have to get up the next day and my hubby often heard me saying 'but it's only going to be the same shit but a different day.' The guilt made me feel worse because I had wanted this, we had planned this longed for second baby and now all I could do was resent our situation. I'm lucky, I know I am but even that didn't help change my feelings, in fact it made me feel more ashamed to be feeling like this.

The only reason I got up each morning was because of my girl. I had to keep moving or I'd sink. My day would involve crying at some point in front of strangers, family, privately in the kitchen and feeling desperately overwhelmed by almost anything. Yes we all get a bit hormonal in pregnancy but this would involve me breaking down uncontrollably in front of my two year old most days. That's something I never want her to see again because I really wasn't the adult in control. She would ask why I was sad and more often than not I couldn't tell her.

I'm only talking in the past tense here because although not completely out of the dark place, I'm starting to see light. I'm starting to feel something for becoming a second time mother, something close to excitement. Before it was a dark cloak of dread and overwhelming responsibility. I could only see the negative in a situation, I wanted things to change but didn't know how.

After two routine visits to my midwife where all I seemed to do was cry, I got referred to a specialist midwife who took one look at me (crying again for apparently no reason) and kindly suggested I see a specialist at the hospital. Perhaps my hormones have changed a gear again but between the referral and actually being seen I'm able to control my emotions more. I was going to be put on antidepressants but instead I'm being monitored and will get extra care after the baby is born.

For this I am grateful, perhaps it's the realisation that there is some support that  has helped me. I'm still close to the edge and tired a lot but I'm aware I'm doing much better than I have the last few months. I'm confident now that I can and will cope, I have down days but my hope surfaces a lot quicker now.

If you or someone you love is struggling, then please visit Panda. At the very least, talk to someone, every time you admit it's a struggle, the pieces of the jigsaw start to come together.
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