…so please keep in mind that you are bearing witness to my first attempt. My second confession is that I hated my unborn baby. Well, that is not strictly true; I hated that he was there, not that I knew at the time he was a he.
It’s hard to pinpoint when it all started to go wrong: I suffered from rather delayed onset post natal depression after our firstborn arrived and was taking antidepressants to help deal with it. We found out we were expecting again so I made the choice, albeit perhaps not the smartest choice, to stop taking my medication and went completely cold turkey. The day after we told our close family about the pregnancy, I started bleeding and we found out we had in fact lost the baby. You can imagine how this loss coupled with my coming off the medication caused me to be – I was not very fun to be around.
We made the choice after a couple months to start trying again, I fell pregnant pretty quickly and I can still remember us both waiting sat on the bed for those three long minutes to be up. I can remember physically acheing with the hope of seeing a positive mark. We looked down and there it was, a positive. My husband smiled and hugged me with tears filling his eyes and in that very second my hope turned to fear and hate. I suddenly did not want to be pregnant, I kept thinking it must be a mistake, but it wasn’t. We were definitely pregnant for a third time.
The next nine months were probably and hopefully the most difficult thing we have or will ever have to face as a family. I must have typed out an application email for a termination dozens of times. But every time it came to tapping send, I backed down. I cried every day, often praying to have a miscarriage so then it would all be over but not by my doing, so nobody could possibly blame me. I hated myself for thinking like this, after all we had actively tried for this child, I knew the pain, both physical and emotional of going through a loss. So why was I wishing for one now?
I started to have panic attacks and talked about wanting to end it all, I ended up feeling so lost and trapped, alone in my situation. I felt like such a failure as a wife and mother to our eldest that I started to truly believe that everyone would be better off if I were not around. I would find myself contemplating jumping in front of traffic or walking off a pier. You have to understand, I didn’t want to die, I just wanted the pain to stop.My husband was incredible, he obviously wanted this baby but never pressured me, he told me he would stand by me, whatever I decided. It’s thanks to him that I ended up getting professional help; I was assigned to a mental health specialist midwife and had regular home visits from members of the local crisis team. I was offered the choice to terminate based on my mental health but all I could think was that this little person inside me had a little heart, and now it was beating. It was my role as his mother to ensure it carried on to beat and was not my place to stop it. I was also offered medication many many times, so much in fact that I was beginning to feel rather bullied into it.
I had said no every time, not whilst pregnant. My husband helped me to get a friend with knowledge of mental health law and our GP involved, there was a huge meeting in which I was told I was fully within my rights to decline medication and being bullied into it was beyond out of order.
I made it to full term with a healthy bun in the oven. I had suffered a difficult labour with our first born and had sustained a nasty injury so to avoid increased anxiety of this recurring we decided that I would have an elective caesarean. Special measures were put into place and I can’t thank the hospital staff enough for being so patient and dealing with me. My husband was allowed with me at all times, even during my spinal (though it took five attempts to get the needle in correctly and he had to briefly leave the room as he felt woozy, I tease him about it to this day).
Our son arrived into the world kicking and screaming, beautiful and healthy. It was instant love, adoration and a deep instinct to keep him safe. We remained in the hospital for three days during which time I had a private room and my husband was allowed to stay by my side, day and night. I know this is absolutely not standard fare on a maternity ward and we understood and appreciated the exception they had made for me. During the hours when fathers were not allowed on the ward, my husband was very good and stayed in our room, trying to cause as little amount as fuss as possible. He slept on a chair and helped with all the nappy changes, he would pass our son over to me so I could breastfeed and would then take and wind him for me. During the day he would go to visit our eldest who was staying at my mum’s house.
After we went home, things were good for a while. I was still very anxious but seemed to be getting better. I bonded very well with both our children and all seemed like it would be fine. Then I started to show signs of odd behaviour. Our eldest wondered into our room in the middle of the night, having had a nightmare, I saw the little silhouette in the door and screamed. I was terrified, even though I knew exactly who it was. I could not explain my fear. Things escalated rather fast from there, I was starting to have psychotic episodes more and more regularly. At one point I was convinced there was an evil spirit in our bedroom that only our son could see, that it wanted to take him away from us. I became convinced there was a government conspiracy that wanted to kill us and if I feigned a suicide attempt then they would leave us alone.
Our eldest went to stay with my mum for a while as I just didn’t feel I was able to be a proper mother, I was edgy and snapping all the time. I could not however be parted from our son, I was extremely overprotective and would become very distressed if he was out of my line of sight.
After seeing a counselor, a psychiatrist, my GP and several health workers I finally agreed to take some low dose antidepressants to help take the edge off. I just wanted my family back together and to be able to function as a wife and mother again. By this point I was very antisocial, my paranoia was extreme and I could not leave the house alone. I would often have a panic attack whist food shopping with my husband, convinced that everyone wanted to hurt me.
My husband stood by me every step of the way. I am pleased to say that I no longer have psychotic episodes, I am still on my antidepressants, a slightly higher dose now but still low enough that I’m comfortable to breastfeed. I still have severe anxiety and don’t like to be alone, my husband acts as my carer. The worst symptom I have now is what I describe as my brain shutting down. If I become too worked up I lose the ability to make a decision. Sometimes I can’t decide whether I need to stand up or sit down, I can’t even decide between two tv channels on some days but things are gradually getting better.
I have been able to cook some family meals and planned our sons christening, and though I was not alone, I recently completed a weekly food shop without once feeling in any danger. A refreshing realisation as we were loading the shopping in the car afterwards.
If you have stuck with my story and have managed to read this far, then thank you. If any of this rings true for you or echoes someone you know then I hope you can see some light at the end of the tunnel.
You are not alone in this and it can (and does) get better!
Before I finish I feel the need to add, and this may be surprising to some: One of the worst things when going through all this was not the friends who didn’t understand.
These friends or those who wanted to keep their distance were at least upfront and I knew where I stood with them. Funnily enough, the worst type of friends were the ones who said they knew exactly how I was feeling and that they had been through it too. What they meant, in fact was they had maybe suffered depression or anxiety, I don’t mean to belittle anybody’s experiences and appreciate it is a difficult thing for them to go through, yes. But did it mean it was the same as me? No.
They would still think I could meet them for a coffee, or have a playdate with the kids. They really could not get their heads around why I couldn’t manage it, they assumed if they could do it with their issues then I must be able to manage with mine. It caused a lot of hurt feelings as people seemed to think I was avoiding them or that I was being rude by bringing my husband with me.
At the end of the day every human mind is different, and everyone deals with things in different ways, whether intentional or not. I know I’m not well, but I know I can and will get better. I have my beautiful children here with me now and my oh so patient loving husband here by my side, and I know in my heart everything is going to be ok.