My name is Rose, I’m a 25-year-old mother of three. My children are Kimberley, aged 6, Connor, aged 4 and Harvey, 18 months. We live on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
I have suffered with depression since my early teens and was going through a particularly bad patch when I became pregnant with my daughter in 2007. The pregnancy was fairly straightforward, apart from high blood pressure. I was induced at 38 weeks and the birth was uneventful, too.
We had a very difficult breastfeeding experience – she took weeks upon weeks to latch properly without my husband helping us. It made me downright miserable and we ended up combi feeding through lack of support on the breastfeeding side of things. I had no idea about growth spurts or cluster feeding and no one helped me!
I do recall one incident, I’ve no idea how old she was, but she was hungry and my husband asked me if he should give her a bottle, to which I stormed upstairs shouting behind me ‘I don’t care what you do’. I remember very little of my daughter’s first year as I was gripped so tightly with the depression it passed in a blur of tears, anger and sleepless nights.
It went undiagnosed because when my Health Visitor asked me to complete the Edinburgh Depression Test at my daughter’s 6-week check, I didn’t answer the questions honestly. I lied about feeling suicidal and about how I wasn’t coping. I was too embarrassed to be open about how I was feeling. My mum and husband noticed how I was and encouraged me to go to the doctor’s. I don’t remember what age my daughter was when I finally went and asked for help, but I started taking anti-depressants. I wasn’t, however, offered any therapies alongside the medication, which I think is something that happens more often than not up and down the country. I believe that although medication can help lift the fog, there needs to be better support offered alongside to help with recovery. Mums are so often just left to fend for themselves after being given the medication, so this leads to feeling isolated and alone, which is one of the worse things for a mother with postnatal depression to feel.
My second pregnancy
My biggest worry during my second pregnancy wasn’t the thought of having a second child, but a crippling fear of experiencing postnatal depression again. However, because of my experience first time, I felt better prepared as I was more aware of the symptoms and my family were too. I asked them to keep an eye on my moods etc and made them promise to get me to seek help if I started to go downhill again. Very luckily, although I had bad patches during my son’s first year, I never felt anywhere near as tightly gripped by depression as I had with my first experience.
My third pregnancy
During my third pregnancy I suffered my worst prenatal depression experience and by 28 weeks I was taking medication. I was beyond exhausted looking after my 2 older children with very little support, and I’ll admit to feeling suicidal during this pregnancy. I just wasn’t coping and felt completely isolated and alone, so at my 28-week pregnancy check-up I spoke to the midwife about how I felt. She got me to see the doctor there and then, who prescribed me with anti-depressants. I know taking this medication in pregnancy isn’t for everyone, but it was crucial for me to try and nip the depression in the bud so it didn’t snowball into the depression I felt after my first child was born. I will be forever grateful for the support that midwife gave me and the fact she didn’t let me leave without seeing the GP. I know I would have ended up making excuses and not making an appointment, but thankfully the medication helped me during the last 3 months of my pregnancy and the fog lifted a great deal and enabled me to cope far better than I had been.
After my third child was born I discovered ‘babywearing’ and carried him from day one in a sling. I wrote about this on my blog and, although I did have bad days in his first year, I didn’t ever feel as low as I had the previous two times.
I put this down to carrying my baby – this, a simple thing, holding your baby close, helped us bond, enabled me to comfort him whilst being able to look after my older two children at the same time. Harvey suffered with reflux and was quite often unsettled and wearing him in a sling helped reduce his symptoms and in turn, helped me feel better too as my baby wasn’t unhappy, which of course helped reduce my postnatal depression symptoms. So it was a win-win situation for everyone!
There have been studies done that show that carrying your baby close can help reduce experiences of postnatal depression – this was certainly true in my case.
I have always been passionate about raising awareness of postnatal depression and the effects it has on both the person suffering and those close to them. I talk very openly about my experiences as I feel it’s not something we should hide away – approximately 1 in 7 mothers are diagnosed with postnatal depression and around 15% of women never seek help, so the sheer amount of women suffering in silence is staggering.
This needs to change. Mothers need to feel able to talk about how they feel without fear of judgement, knowing the process of what happens after being diagnosed needs to be better noted, as one of the biggest fears I’ve come across from talking to women is that if they admit they have postnatal depression they worry that their children will be taken away from them. This fear alone prevents so many women from seeking the help they need.
PND and Me
I had this little thing An illness you can’t see I want to tell you a story About PND and me.
When my precious baby was The size of a grain of rice I thought this would be lovely How a family would be nice.
Then suddenly a fog appeared It would sometimes come at night I thought I could get rid of it I was putting up a fight.
People said I should be happy But what they couldn’t see Was happiness and laughter Had gone and left me.
I didn’t feel any love When my little baby came PND was getting me Life just wasn’t the same.
All I ever wanted Was to be a good mum So why was it so hard I just felt numb.
It took away everything But only for a while I wouldn’t let it keep My sparkle and my smile.
It took a long time To finally be free Of this hidden illness To get back to being me.
I got my life back And so will you Ask your friends and family To help you see it through.
So carry on, keep going!
Just you wait and see I promise that one day PND will set YOU free
Rose Wren 17/12/13