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Sunday, 5 April 2009

Reflections on post-natal depression

This post is inspired by a Twitter contributor who commented on my previous blogging. She was generous enough to say I give life and meaning to words. As other Twitter friends will know, I am always keen to hear positives about my writing with that huge ego of mine. However, this Twitter lady also said she was emerging from the fog of post-natal depression. As I am out the other side of PND, I feel comfortable talking of my experiences.
When my first child was born, I sailed through the whole process. The birth was enjoyable and he just slotted in making our contented two into a happy three. As I am very much the baby of the family, caring for a child was totally new to me. Mum and Dad relocated to help me with childcare so I could combine parenting with a new job.
Three years later, I had my little girl. It was a difficult labour but resulted in my adorable and angelic daughter. She was and remains an easy child smiling, sleeping and eating lots. My boss at the time suggested I should take 4 months off work. I did so reluctantly as work is my passion. Having moved to a country idyll, I felt totally cut off and isolated. My partner had a long commute and I knew nobody.
I am not clear when the black clouds descended but I can share how I felt for months and possibly years.
I would wake up and not feel any motivation to get out of bed. Logically, I could see that things were going well for us but I was unable to engage with any of it. As soon as my partner left for work, I would pull the curtains to live in a state of semi-darkness to match my mood. If somebody knocked on the door, I would hide in a special spot where I had worked out nobody would be able to see me even if unusually the curtains were open. Personal hygiene took a nosedive. My thinking was that as I did not have a life, why bother to take a bath or put on nice clothes. I feel embarrassed admitting this but if someone else is going through it and reads this, maybe they can sense that there is hope and PND does pass.
I had heard of post-natal depression but was loathe to admit that such a thing could have taken control of me. To be honest and I don't think this reflects badly on him, I think my partner was so busy that he was fooled that I was just tired or being difficult for much of the time.
One day having had another baby and on the school run, the sun was shining. I looked up and felt joy of the pure, unadulterated variety. I realised I had not had the feeling for such a long time. I think in all I was in severe depression for two years.
I wrote to Fern Britton from ITV's This Morning programme and she replied the same day! Clearly, she knows what I had gone through. I am now reading her autobiography and realise that she had some very similar experiences of the condition.
So, what mistakes did I make?
1. Believing that I would walk into parenthood with no troubles or need for support
2. Not seeking the help of my health visitor or GP
3. Not disclosing my feelings to my partner or other family members
On the other hand, I do feel that my partner and family members might have asked questions when there must have been signs of me totally letting myself go and a change of personality. Particularly in the case of one of my brothers who has had depression, I think he could have been there more for me. However, perhaps it was all too close to his own experiences and he wanted to turn away.
The key message is that PND or any form of depression can and does pass. I am more than happy to hear from, listen to or support anyone as they make their journey out of this debilitating condition. Talk about it, seek help - escape it.


  1. PND is awful. I had it very badly when I had my son. He didn't sleep hardly at all either which didn't help. No one noticed except my gp.....who sent my son into hospital to give me a nights sleep.
    It does pass though thankfully and I went on to have my daughter with no PND.

  2. I think I suffered from mild PND with my first two. The first time it was the expectations of a birth which did for me, I'd wanted natural and got lots of intervention. I felt a failure. I didn't bond with my baby, and didn't love her till she was nearly a year old. But I had work to keep me going and I got over it. Second time around, birth was much better, but baby was not. Lack of sleep, loss of status (like you I gave up work) and a few other personal things thrown in, meant I was miserable beyond belief. Although I never got as low as you did, am deeply grateful to my brilliant GP who spotted the signs that all wasn't well and sent me to a bereavement counsellor (I'd had my first baby within a year of my father dying. Go figure.). When I had my third baby, I can remember suddenly getting a rush of mother love (or hormones!) and thinking, now I get it, but with her and the fourth, I still felt really low at about nine weeks, when the first rush of euphoria had died down and the reality of sleepless nights sets in. It is bloody tough mothering a baby. People don't talk about it nearly enough. I think this is a very brave post, and I completely get where you're coming from.

  3. Depression in general, not just post-natal, is rarely talked about but can be completely debilitating for both individual and close family. Thank you for being open about yours.