CONFESSIONS OF A MENTAL MOTHER

mental

IT is inevitable you will go a little mad when you have your first baby. From the moment they arrive your whole world is turned upside down. You are tired, physically uncomfortable and trying to keep a tiny human in tact on barely any sleep…  However, if you feel low, hopeless or if staying in bed forever seems like a brilliant plan….then maybe speak to your GP.

Post Natal Illness (PNI) affects 1 in 10 women, yet many people still ignore or hide their symptoms afraid that they will be perceived as a bad mother or weak person.

I did this, and it turned out to be a terrible idea.

I am not a bad mother or a weak person, I just got sick.  It was not my fault. It sometimes just happens.

My story…

IT had been two weeks since the birth of my first baby and I was sat in my pyjamas surrounded by vomit.

And not just of the baby variety.

I had thrown up over the coffee table and the baby had thrown up over the settee.

This is definitely not how I pictured motherhood.

I knew I would be tired, but I did not expect severe insomnia and a complete loss of appetite that meant I was unable to keep food down…hence the puke fest.

I could not think clearly. I was having anxiety attacks and I had hallucinated several times due to the lack of sleep. I was terrified I was going mad.

Which was all terribly inconvenient as I had a brand new baby to take care of.

My family were convinced I just needed a good night’s sleep, friends thought I had the baby blues, but I knew the truth.

I was rubbish at babies.

After a stress-free water birth, when the midwife handed me my daughter for the first time. I wasn’t filled with happiness. I was filled with sheer panic.

I was struck with the overwhelming feeling that I was NOT going to be able to look after this baby.

But what could I do? It was too late.  I couldn’t quit.  Tell them I was not up to the job and go back to my old life. I wished I could put her back inside me, where I knew I could keep her safe.

So, I cried.

And cried some more.

Two weeks later, I was still crying and I still couldn’t sleep. At all.

Is this normal? 

Yes it is normal. If you are rubbish at babies. 

I was so ashamed of myself.  Some people would give anything to have a beautiful new baby and here I was acting like it was the end of the world.

I felt anxious about everything.  I worried that our neighbours (who were perfectly nice) would attack the baby if she cried too loudly.

The thought of leaving the house filled me with fear.

What if someone tries to hurt my baby? Snatch her from the pram. What if I can’t stop them? What if I pass out and my baby is left alone? 

I did not want to see or talk to anyone.

People will see that I am rubbish at babies. People will see that I am a stupid, ungrateful mother who can’t cope.

Any noise seemed to be magnified tenfold. The baby crying, people talking, or the cot mobile. I developed an irrational fear of any toy that made a noise. Any sound above a whisper would bring on a panic attack. I was constantly fuzzy-headed, as if I wasn’t really there. I felt like an alien roaming a world in which I did not belong.

I felt disconnected from everyone around me. Even my baby.

Everyone hates me and I don’t blame them. I hate me. I have ruined this magical time for everyone.

‘Is this normal?’ I asked the health visitor. ‘Or am I going mad?’

She told me there was a very good chance I had post-natal depression and advised me to go and see the GP.

“I haven’t got post natal depression”, I told her. “I am just rubbish at babies.”

‘You have post natal depression’, the doctor explained.

She wanted to give me anti-depressants. I asked for sleeping pills convinced that sleep would make everything ok.

It didn’t.

So I went back to the GP.  I was given anti-depressants and was referred to a therapist.

However, my clouded mind was telling me I should not take the pills. I was worried about the drugs being passed into my breast milk (despite being assured that this was safe) and I still felt I didn’t need them. You could not cure being a rubbish person. You could not cure being weak. So after a week I came off them.

Anyway, if I was clinically depressed I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed, would I?

The next day I couldn’t get out of bed.

I was eating next to nothing. I was still unable to sleep and having panic attacks. So I felt the best thing to do was stay in bed. I had everything I needed to look after a baby right here.  Nappies and milk. Sorted.  Plus I might even fall asleep – eventually.

Despite this new plan to hide in the bedroom, I still did not believe I was ill. But I knew I couldn’t go on like this.

I was tired of being a burden to everyone. I saw the way they looked at me with disappointment in their eyes.  I wanted them to think I was happy. Good at being a mum. Coping well and in love with motherhood.

So I had a brilliant idea.

I would simply pretend to be ok.

The down side to this plan was that it would probably mean getting out of bed.

From that day on I was determined to try to get back some physical strength. We went to stay with my parents. I was advised to give up breastfeeding. So I did – against my instincts. My daughter had taken to it straight away and I felt it was the one thing I hadn’t failed at.

For the next few weeks I lived on small portions of Weetabix and potatoes with cheese until gradually I found I could eat without throwing up.

I was still barely sleeping. My baby woke up a lot anyway and I had bouts of insomnia. My nights were filled with silent tears, milk and quiet despair.    But as soon as I was physically better and capable of looking after my baby, I went home.

To the outside world I may have seemed just fine, but inside I felt nothing but pain. My secret pain.

I fed, changed, held my daughter but I was doing all of this under a black cloud. I felt numb. I didn’t know who I was any more. I believed I was getting it all wrong.  I loved my baby, but I felt no joy in being a mother. Just guilt about being unhappy, stress and self-hatred.

But the thing I discovered about secret pain. The longer you keep it a secret, the more it hurts.

So I did eventually go back to the doctor and got referred to an amazing therapist from  Let’s Talk, Well-Being , who got me to finally admit that I was in fact very ill.   I also was lucky enough to have support from Home-Start Mothers In Mind (MIMS) who support mums with Post Natal Illness. It was only then, that the dark cloud slowly, slowly began to lift.

To the amazement of my health visitor, I managed to breastfeed again and got my milk supply back up.  A few weeks of sore nipples and we were back in the boob milk business.

I began Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and eventually my symptoms improved. It was a long and often hard process but it worked. I was determined to get better for my baby and I did.  I just wish I had got help sooner.

I even had another baby to celebrate. And despite being totally prepared for it this time, I did NOT get Post Natal Depression after giving birth. In fact, I was happier than ever because I got to enjoy being a mum to a new baby for the first time…

 So the good news is…

They say what doesn’t break you makes you stronger and due to overcoming PND I feel stronger than ever. The black cloud never quite leaves you. I still have bad days.  But so do most parents of young children. Especially the sleep-deprived parents of babies who do not sleep! But the difference is, I know they will pass.

I am rubbish at producing babies who sleep. I am rubbish at getting to morning play groups on time. I am rubbish at making stuff out of cardboard boxes. I am rubbish at keeping my house tidy and making homemade baby food, but that doesn’t matter. Because I just have to look at my smiling, happy children to know that I am definitely not rubbish at babies.

Have you had Post Natal Depression? You can find some useful links/resources if you click  here. Feel free to share your story in the comments box below or join us on Facebook. 

40 thoughts on “CONFESSIONS OF A MENTAL MOTHER

  1. Thank you for this, it’s comforting to know that others have gone through the same thing. The first 3 months after my little boys life are a blur. I feel terrible for not having any memories of that time, but I was robo-mummy then, from outward appearances I was doing the right things, but felt dead inside. Someone stole the real me at the birth and replaced me with a mad, weeping robot. I was not as lucky as you in regards to my health visitor, and in regards to about the first 3 gp’s I saw…. by 8 weeks after the birth, if I had heard the expression “baby blues” one more time, I was ready to bludgeon a medical professional to death. Thankfully i eventually saw a doctor who recognised what I was going through, and with her support and that of my husband and family, I received appropriate treatment and now can finally enjoy being a mummy (despite the lack of sleep and 530am alarm calls!)
    However it still saddens me that I literally have no recollection of my boy’s early days, and that is was in no small part due to a failure of trained medical professionals to spot PND symptoms.

    • I can totally relate to all of those feelings. The early days with my first baby is complete a blur! Yes, it is often unrecognised, especially as many of us try and hide our symptoms. I feel fortunate that my health visitor was so up mental illness. She came to see us every other day. Even when I was in denial! So glad you are doing better now! Thanks for sharing.

  2. When our mutual photographer friend laughingly posted that he sometimes got us mixed up because we had similar lives and traits I took it as a compliment coz you’re cool. What I didn’t realise is just how right he was. I know this feeling so well I could have written it myself. And due to severe anaemia I not only feared taking the girls out into the scary world, I was also convinced that I was going to die. Every flutter of my tachycardic heart had me believing it was going to give up. My aching legs made me think of the blood clot that could be travelling up to my lungs. I believed my wonderful and understanding husband was going to wake up in the morning and find me dead in the bed I now only shared with my youngest baby as he had retreated to the sofabed to help me get more sleep. I was afraid of leaving my beautiful, precious girls while they were too young to remember how dearly I loved them. I wasn’t afraid I would roll on my newborn like many co-sleeping parents. I was afraid if I didn’t have her in bed with me I wouldn’t know something was wrong and I would wake up to find she had “fallen asleep” without her mummy’s arms around her. The fear surrounded me, enfolded me and finally crushed me. I went to the hospital for a blood transfusion recommended by the gp after my iron count showed to be very low but the hospital doctor said no, not unless it was an emergency. My husband gave me a look that somehow gave me the courage to say how I had been feeling and that opened the floodgates for so much. I had support and even though there are still fears that makes no sense (can’t watch hubby take the girls to look out of a high window without mentally playing out the fear that somehow the glass will break and they will fall, and when walking at portland bill I kept imagining falling over the edge with my littlest girl and trying to decide if I would have to try to throw her to my husband or if I should curl around her to try and protect her from the rocks below). I tried to fight it and for a long time though I wasn’t exactly winning I fet like I was doing a good job of pretending it was all good, but finally a couple of weeks ago I had to wave the white flag and surrender and as a result have just been signed off work (this is the first place I have acknowledged that – even my best friend isn’t aware of it). I have pills to take that, like you, I can’t bring myself to start taking but I am trying to talk myself into it as it has been 17 very very long months of up, down, sideways and just generally all over the place and finally I am worn out with it all. Thank you for being brave because you being brave and writing all that has made me feel just a little bit less alone with my thoughts. Thank you :) xxxx

    • Hello! That’s a first for me, being referenced in anything related to motherhood! I love you both, in a kindly, non-sleazy uncle kind of way. You are good people. <3

    • Oh Nikki, I never would have guessed you were going through that. But the fact that you are having all these scary feelings and still manage to be a brilliant mum shows how strong you are. I only was I had taken the tablets, I may have got better sooner. my therapist explained to me that not taking them was like trying to fix a broken arm with out a plaster cast! But as I became pregnant a few months into therapy maybe it was for the best. I was terrified about posting this (although what I have written was just the tip of the iceberg!)but I know that if I had read other women’s stories when I was going through this it may have helped! You are doing the right thing getting help, and now you have bravely admitted it I am sure it’ll improve. It is nothing to be ashamed of. I used to go to to a support group which really helped- maybe there is one near you. And we should meet up soon!. I will send u a message! Take care and never forget that being a mum makes you well hard and once you come through this, thing will be better than ever! xxxx

  3. What you have gone through must have been terrifying. I have suffered throughout my life with depression and I only had myself to think about. I am so lucky that since having a baby (touch wood) I have been healthy. Your words will help so many people understand pnd. I think you are so clever to write in such a witty way about a subject that is so miss understood. I hope it helps other mothers open up more if they are having similair experiences. Pnd can happen to anyone from any back ground just like depression, people need to talk more openly about it! Thank you for
    sharing your an inspiration.

    • Thank you Sarah! You are certainly one strong lady for coming through all your tough times.. I think by sharing our stories it will definitely help take away the stigma of mental illness. It knocked me for six because i knew nothing about it. Apart from what i had seen in the soap operas!

  4. I have a beautiful intelligent and strong 10 month old (who is currently on boob) and I am just emerging from the pit of PND. I no longer cry everyday and I no longer feel guilty 24/7.
    The pretending to be OK thing is something I also do regularly. A brave face is a heavy thing to wear.
    I started blogging in January and have found it a useful way to explore my feelings and then move on.
    Well done for getting through the dark.

  5. Emily-Jane and Nikki, I don’t have children so can’t imagine the anxiety you felt. It would be wrong of me to say I can empathise with that as I can’t.
    However, four years ago I was diagnosed with clinical depression and OCD so have some experience of the dark days and know how they can take hold. If I had a pound for every time I was told to ‘pull myself together’ I’d be incredibly rich now.
    The thing is, you both are amazing for getting through the hard times and juggling parenthood with all it brings.
    Sharing your stories will help other people to see it’s ok to have problems and that there is support and help out there.
    Mental health can still be a taboo subject but like it was said earlier, if you broke your arm or leg then you’d get help and medication for it.
    If I’m lucky enough to ever have kids this blog post will certainly be an inspiration to me.
    Sending much love to you both and your families. xxx

    • Thanks so much for your kind words. They mean a lot. As hard as it is, i think the only way we can take away the stigma of having a mental illness is to share our stories. I hope you are through the worst of your dark days. If you do ever have kids, I think the fact you have dealt with some tough times yourself, will make you a better, stronger mother! xxx

  6. E-J – “I was terrified about posting this…”.
    I know it was a brave step for you to take but, for what very little my opinion’s worth, reading it caused me to think even better of you. And the same with Nikki. That I can’t empathise with your actual experiences doesn’t stop my appreciating the humanity of your feelings.

  7. Hello, I think you are wonderful.. before I read this one I thought you were funny and cool, I now know that’s true. I’ve just had my first baby, 8 months back. I didn’t hit rock bottom but I was on the verge of feeling insane a lot of the time for the first 6 months and came close to falling off my perch. I will never forget how grateful I felt to have a friend by my side who could gently and carefully hold my hand through it all. Looking back it is a blur of exhaustion, love fuelled but more of a major earthquake feeling of shock to my whole being more than anything else. It felt lonely, impossible and frankly very, very frustrating not to be able to sleep more than a couple of hours (oh how I love sleeping)..I know every single time it’s different, for every one of us, bringing a new born tiny human being into the world and I hope your post inspires everyone to think more about what it is actually like having a new born baby- besides the whole ‘wow, it’s wonderful, magical, beautiful blah’ which of course it is, there is nothing else like it in the whole world, but it’s bloody shocking, hard and painful too this shouldn’t ever be underestimated. Talk loud and proud, you are brave and I love it. Peace and love and strength to you all wonder women x

    • Thank you so much. That is so kind. I know exactly what you mean. I always liken my first born arriving to a tornado hitting us. I knew no one with babies and so I my whole ‘idea’ of what life should be like with a newborn was based on books and mother & baby magazine!! So of course when I had my daughter it was a major shock to the system. It was so much harder than I had expected! And I assumed every other new mum I met was coping perfectly, so why wasn’t I?! Inevitably, the fact I had a little sleep thief keeping me awake every night made things even harder to deal with! Thanks for sharing, always a comfort to know it is not just me x peace back at ya my friend

      • Yes! Well it’s easy to get depressed when you’re that anxious. In her case it was just the anxiety, which is why nothing happened about it for so long.

        Your experience sounds quite horrible. I do remember being nauseous from lack of sleep and having a pretty rough period but nothing like what you’re describing.

  8. Yes, sleep-deprivation can also aid the depression. But of course, you are too anxious to sleep a lot of the time! I think those first few months are tough, whether you have PND or not.

  9. I love your blog! This post sounds so familiar, I have a 14 month old and am only just starting to recover from the PND, also with the help of rethink. I’m amazed and comforted to know you didn’t get it again, we are planning another baby and I’m so worried I won’t cope!

    • Oh thanks! I was terrified of getting it again the whole time I was pregnant with my second. Coping with PND and just one baby was hard enough! However, I think my year of cognitive therapy really helped me fight all those negative feelings from day one. Good luck!

  10. I’m so sorry you had to go through that when you had your first, and glad to hear things went differently with #2. I also drowned after my first was born. I can’t remember much of the first few days after we went back home. My mom later told me that people came to visit, and I was “awake”, and yet I have no recollection of that. And on top of the stress and shock of having a first baby, my body went through some awful things that made everything worse: my lower vertebrae got stuck in my pelvic bone and I couldn’t walk until a chiropractor accepted to snap me back into place after my C-Section wound healed (even though I begged); lactation turned my A-cup breasts into watermelons the pain of which caused me to have convulsions and pass out; the whole breastfeeding process was torture that I thought might kill me; and the C-section was an emergency which saved my baby boy, and experience that traumatized me. It makes me sad that I couldn’t enjoy my first experience, but like you, #2 was a very pleasant one.

    • That must have been hell Leila. How did you get through it?! You must have been so strong! I may have had mental shit going on but I was fortunate to have no physical pain or traumatic birth. Maybe you have to have one of the other! Indeed. I am very thankful I was fine with baby #2. I got to actually start enjoying motherhood with a new baby!

      • Oh even without the physical stuff I was loosing it. I forgot to mention my intense fear of SIDS and the house rules I set because of it: it was strictly forbidden for everyone to be asleep at the same time. My mom was staying with me and I made sure at least 1 person was up to make sure baby was breathing, and that person was always me. I was getting about 2 hours of sleep every 24 hours. And if I had fallen asleep “accidentally” and woke up to find everyone else asleep…. OH BOY! I scared the crap out of my family! I totally lost. I drove myself insane. I was in a dark place, crying constantly of fear and worry and pain and doubt.

        Anyway, I’m glad we both got through it okay and enjoyed having a little baby the second time around!

      • Oh goodness me. Having your first baby is so very hard isn’t it? No matter what your experience I guess. Even without PND I think it would have sent me a little mad. I was forever worrying I was going to break the baby! I would not even carry her down the stairs in case i fell. If husband wasn’t around to do it I would have to stay upstairs or go down on my bottom clutching her to me… ha. The second time around was so much easier, despite having two demanding little people to deal with!

  11. I to have had a rough time with my first. I was mental anyway before I had kids and was on medication for it but came off during pregnancy. I felt totally fine through my pregnancy but after a traumatic 36hour labour and a hefty blood loss I knew I wasn’t right. After being transferred from HDU to the post natal ward I was a total mess! After 2 weeks of not eating or sleeping ( I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep) I was sectioned and placed in a Mother and baby unit for 5 week’s. I actually can’t remember much from that time but just as I started feeling bettwr my mother was suddenly found dead. So any health visitor telling me to do controlled crying etc was ready to be punched. 6 years on my 6 and 2 year old don’t sleep and I don’t ask health professionals for advice as its usually patroising. I find it easier to get through by just letting them sleep with me!

    • So sorry for your loss. That must have been awful.You must be one strong lady to come through all that. Yep, with my second the newborn phase was far left stressful if I just went with my instincts and let her sleep with me. She still woke up all night but at least I didn’t have to get up!

  12. Confessions of a mental mother…reading this was like ground hog day for me, I could have written it myself. So scared to have another in case it’s the same :( it’s taken nearly 3yrs to ‘get over it’ & some days are still haunted by it. Thank you x

    • I was terrified about getting really ill again when I fell pregnant with my second…kind of sooner than I expected! But you know what I was fine and am so glad I did it as I got to enjoy being a mum to a new baby for the first time. That time with my first is all a blur but I found having a second helped get rid of that feeling of being haunted by what happened the first time. Good luck xx thanks for sharing

  13. Hello from Finland! What a clever blog you have. :) I just became a follower! I read the other mothers’ experiences and boy am I lucky… I don’t want to tell you my story to rub it in your faces, but I was sure I would get PND after my baby was born. This was because we had difficulties to get pregnant in the first place and I went through many expensive hormone treatments before I finally became pregnant. The fertility treatments cost us nearly 5000€ so I sometimes tell our baby to behave because “mummy didn’t pay for this ,” ;) Anyway my infertility destroyed my self confidence. I felt like a big failure, all the “wrong” people were having babies, why not me! I really hated them. Then when I finally got pregnant, it wouldn’t stop: I was pregnant for 42+2 weeks; the baby just wouldn’t come out so I had to have a c-cection. I felt I had failed once again: I cant even get the baby out!! In the hospital milk wouldn’t rise (in the first 2 days…) and the horrible failure feeling was there again. Because of the infertility trauma I was so certain I would get depressed, because I was absolutely sure that if the baby would cry a lot or I would feel insecure about taking care of her, the same old feeling of failing as a woman would creep up again… As I was so aware of the possibility of falling ill after giving birth, I really practiced to be merciful to myself! I think that helped a little and I survived despite of my strong fears.

    Well, my story is different to yours since I am one of those hateful people whose baby does sleep 12 hours a night (feel free to send punches via e-mail :D) but it seems that us mothers blame ourselves for everything. The last thing to do is to read “true stories” on the Internet or to compare our situations to others’.

    My best wishes to all you strong mothers out there!

    • Thanks for sharing your story! You are definitely not a failure but an incredibly strong woman. You came through all that and you and baby are both in one piece. I reckon you earned that good sleeper! Best wishes my friend!

  14. Thank you for writing this. I don’t know what’s up with me I feel like a crap mum because my fuse so short. Im very angry and irrational I feel bad when I get angry thoughts about my baby keeping me up. I feel so bad a constantly best myself up and find it hard to go out and getting up is so depressing because I’m in the house too stressed to go out, if the house is untidy it ruins my entire though process. I wish I could take my baby swimming but I’m so anxious

    • If you are feeling this bad and still looking after a new baby then you are not a crap mum! It all sounds very familiar. It doesn’t have to be like this i promise. Talk to your GP or health visitor as soon as you can. Ps. Oh and those angry thoughts at stupid o clock about baby waking you up…totally normal!! More info here http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk.

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