Hi Leigh! From my volunteer work with you, it’s quite shocking to read your blog. To me you’re this strong, inspiring woman, it’s hard to imagine that you have ever struggled with anything, but your piece highlights something which makes many women feel so vulnerable so thank you so much for writing it.
In an ideal world, how do you wish your initial appointment with the GP regarding infertility had gone?
I would’ve appreciated having someone listen to our concerns and offer reassurance as well as an overview of the possible options/typical outcomes. We felt like we weren’t being taken seriously and that our personal feelings didn’t matter at all simply because we didn’t fit nicely into the little checklist of ages when infertility could strike.
Looking back, what makes you think you may have been suffering from AND (Ante-Natal Depression)?
From around the middle of my second trimester nothing made me happy. I felt detached, grumpy and like everything was too much trouble. I despised being pregnant because it wasn’t the beautiful, glowing experience that everyone told me it should/would be and I was frustrated with myself that I was “doing it wrong”. I was convinced that I had this contained internally, but I’ve been told by a few close friends since I started blogging that I was unbearable to be around. One of my best friends once told me that if I ever got pregnant again she was going to buy herself a crash helmet!!
I can’t imagine how you felt to have tried so hard to get pregnant and then suffer from PND, is there much support out there for people who have had fertility problems and postnatal depression?
I’m sure there are areas where the support is great, but I think that like a large facet of peri-natal mental illness support a postcode lottery applies. In our experience there is a lack of joined up thinking (i.e no inter-departmental working). We were offered counselling via Assisted Conception, but it wasn’t flagged to the community midwives or health visiting team that I would be a risk; despite there being evidence to suggest that families where infertility has been a concern are proportionally higher risk of developing subsequent mental health illness. So I was treated in the normal way until I had my breakdown at clinic.
You say that you’ve come to terms with having little control over your birthing process, do you think something could have been done at the time to improve your birthing experience?
I think I had a very traditional (old school) midwife in delivery who took control as I was officially labouring via medical intervention. Rather than discussing options I was given instructions. I felt disconnected from the whole experience and was afraid to challenge what was happening. I was belittled at a crucial point of delivery and made to feel as though I wasn’t coping as well as other women. I think a little more understanding/compassion surrounding me and my situation rather than “this is an induction” would’ve works wonders.
What impact do you think not being able to breastfeed had on you and your relationship with your son?
In the short-term it was massive. I felt like I had failed him. breastfeeding should be the most natural thing in the world but it’s hard work and I think that part gets glossed over at ante-natal appointments. He couldn’t latch, I couldn’t express and he was hungry. He could scream for hours on end and when I asked for help it took more than 24 hours to arrive by which time we’d started formula as we didn’t know what else to do. I was treated with scorn by the midwife who came because I’d “given up”. In the long term it has made no difference, but it has been a long road to having that level of acceptance.
Has your experience changed the way you are with friends and their new babies?
I think so. I tend to focus now on how mum is rather than the baby, looking out for those tell-tale signs that no-one recognised in me. I wouldn’t ever want to scare anyone, but I would find it difficult to forgive myself if someone I knew slipped through the cracks of the system and couldn’t access support if they needed it.
Why do you blog about PND?
When I was receiving talking therapy during my illness, I was encouraged to keep a mood journal so that during low points I could refer to hard evidence that I was capable of good days. The blog became an extension of that shortly after the birth of my second child as I was nervous about the possibility to developing PND again. (Hence being @pndnerves). Over time I realised that my talking about my experiences had the potential to give hope to others in a similar situation and it grew from there.
Lastly, what do you look forward to doing at the end of a rotten day?
TV on the couch in my pjs with a large block of chocolate.
Thanks so much Leigh for taking time out to talk to me and for sharing your story with us!