In the beginning…

When people ask me to describe what Postnatal Depression (PND) feels like I say its like crying at my own funeral.

So what happened to me exactly? Read on to hear my story…

My son was born after a text-book natural labour. And then they placed him on my chest and I started to freak out a bit. Who was this little boy? And what on earth was I to do now? I had prepared so well for the labour that I couldn’t believe how little I had prepared for… well you know… the rest of his life.

Things went downhill pretty quickly after that. Breastfeeding was painful and difficult. The nurses were kind and helpful but I was really having trouble actually holding onto my son in that position for 40 minutes. A good friend of mine, Na had just given birth to her fourth son a few days before me and was on the ward at the same time. She came by to see me and later confided that she knew I was struggling even then.

I was released from the maternity ward and sent home. I was panicked and scared. Over the next few days we had series of family visitors and close friends drop in. And I just sat on the couch while everyone cooed and ahh-ed over him. I was just a zombie. The strange thing was that months later everyone would say “Oh you looked dreadful, but I figured you’d just given birth so maybe you were just really tired” I just sat on that couch holding an invisible sign that said “Help” in really tiny letters. It’s just that no one could see it.

I had night sweats and a racing heart. I lost 13 kilograms in 2 weeks which was weird as I only put on 8 kilograms during pregnancy. And then on the 8th day I just cried uncontrollably. I told my husband that I just couldn’t do this anymore. He put on his best cheerleading performance “You’re doing a great job, it will get better” but the more he said the more I cried. There was a knock on the front door and I answered it. It was the registered nurse visiting. I fainted into her arms and was sent back to the maternity ward.

While there they suggested to me that I might have PND. I immediately rejected the idea and tried to rally myself into action but the reality was I knew that they were right. My son continued to not gain weight and was very unsettled. I went home with him for a few days and then went back to the hospital for a paediatric follow up. They weighed him. He still hadn’t gained weight and I cried and cried. The paediatrician sat down and firmly told my husband that I had PND and I needed to go to a mother baby unit. He  denied that I had it and then I FINALLY spoke up and said that I had it. It was my first real step to getting the help I needed.

And that’s how I ended up in a mother baby unit . I was 32 years old, I’d just given birth to my first child and admitted myself to a psychiatric facility when my son was 20 days old. Life was not rosy.

I had all sorts of anxieties about being in there but the reality was that it was a wonderful nurturing environment with amazing non-judgemental staff who really helped me learn how to be the mum I am today. I learned all about the “Circle of Security” and I even remember the moment that I fell in love with my son. He smiled at me. And I melted. Truly Madly Deeply in love.

I was later diagnosed with postpartum thyroiditis which is a horrible affliction and causes night sweats, racing heart, massive weight loss and high anxiety. So which came first the PND or the postpartum thyroiditis? I think they came together in a knockout one-two punch combo.

I’ll write more about being in hospital tomorrow…


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kylie
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 07:39:27

    Amazing story Caroline, thank you so much for sharing.


    • domesticallyuseless
      Nov 20, 2012 @ 07:52:06

      Thanks for reading Kylie. PND happens to all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. I love hearing recovery stories and I think sharing my own makes it easier for other people to seek help.


  2. Chris
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 07:47:06

    Powerful story, a battle well fought, am cheering for ya all the way 🙂
    Love Gherky


  3. Alicia
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 08:27:50

    I’m so glad you are sharing your story Caro. Very brave, and so very needed. I wonder how many of us women out there were suffering through undiagnosed PND because we are conditioned to put on a brave face and show we are coping? Look forward to following the rest of your story.


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  5. sarah menary
    Nov 23, 2012 @ 11:02:04

    Gosh, your experience of the the first days of motherhood reminds me of mine although it was different and not as severe. I did not have the post partum thyroiditis so I could soldier on longer but my baby’s weight loss and the onset of jaundice that resulted from by inability to breast feed my child effectively stopped the bond being formed. Only when I started to bottle-feed her (and I was convinced I was doing that wrong as well) could I relax and fall in love with her but even after that the exhaustion of having such a full-on super stimulated baby who never went to sleep on my chest( like all the other mums in my group) took a lot out of me. My mother called her “your little vampire” as so much energy was sucked out and it was really like this until she was three! I found motherhood the biggest shock of my life even though I was well aware how much hard work it would be beforehand. I eventually got anti-depressants which helped and as my confidence slowly increased in looking after her (I only feel confident now about that and she is 4!) so my depression eased. I lost an awful lot of weight and got very ill when she was 2 with what started as a chesty cold cough – because I could n’t rest it got serious and eventually led to me being carted off to hospital with pneumonia this year. I don’t think I had post natal depression, just huge fear and anxiety I was going to make mistakes and she would suffer for it which is a recurrent theme in my brain that I am combatting much better these days. I understand your husband’s denial of your PND, the worst thing for me was to admit to myself and my husband I wasn’t coping so I ran myself into the ground instead which was not useful at all. I admire the fact you were honest with yourself and got the help you needed.


  6. Trackback: Rolling with the punches | Domestically Useless

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