My PND Journey – by Tillie Mabbutt

“I don’t want to be a Mum anymore!” I screamed at my husband: the defining moment of a row we were having about something insignificant, but had blown out of proportion.

This sentence was the catalyst for my Post Natal Depression recovery journey.  Those were the words that gave my husband, Shaun, a window into how I was really feeling about being a mum to our nine month-old son.  He stopped still, embraced me, and gently told me that we needed to seek professional help.

From as long as I can remember, the thought of being pregnant; or anyone else being pregnant was just horrific, I suffered with what psychologists call, Tokophobia, fear of birth or pregnancy. I have no idea where this phobia came from.

Although I understood that it was the most natural thing in the world, it just seemed so alien to me; growing a human inside your body? How does that make sense? However, my want to have a child after we got married gave me the push to deal with the phobia through therapy.

So before trying for a baby, I sought help in the shape of Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT) and it worked! I felt more comfortable with the idea and I had the psychological tools to control my thought process surrounding it.

Shaun and I tried for a year and a half to get pregnant and after being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovaries, my local fertility clinic put me on Clomid, a drug that forces your ovaries to release eggs on a regular basis, something my body wasn’t doing on its own.  Within two months of being on it, I was pregnant.  We were, understandably, over the moon and excited for the journey that lay ahead.

I had, what would be classed by most, as the perfect pregnancy: no complications, nothing out of the ordinary and other than being uncomfortable, it was all fairly simple.  Simple, apart from the fact that I didn’t really ‘get involved’ with my growing baby.  By that, I mean that I didn’t enjoy feeling him kick or move, I didn’t look at my bump or stroke it with loving thoughts, I just detached myself from the growing life inside me and went about my life as normal. I read the books and knew what was happening with my body, but I didn’t enjoy pregnancy, it just felt like a huge inconvenience.  And as my friends and family know, I’m not a woman who is used to having restrictions on what I am able to do.  With hindsight, I should have known that I would struggle.  It was even at those early stages of being a mum –  pregnancy – that I hated losing my own power of decision and independence.

My birth was, (and when I say this to other women they look at me like I’m crazy) wonderful.  I’d had been listening to hypnobirthing CDs and reading the accompanying book and felt more than ready for this huge feat.  Although from the start of contractions to our son being born was 33 hours, it was relaxed and calm.  I made cakes in between contractions and had a fish and chip dinner, Shaun with me the whole time being amazingly supportive.  I then spent the last 6 hours in the birthing pool where our son, Fletcher, was born.

The midwife quickly scooped him onto my chest for me to hold.  And that’s when it started: I had no emotion towards him at all.  I was just lying in the water overcome with relief and self pity.  I was looking at him and all I was thinking in that moment was “I can’t believe I’ve just done that, I am in pain and exhausted, thank god it’s over”.  I wasn’t thinking, what a lot of mums do: “I’m so happy to meet you, I love you so much”.

We had put in our notes that we didn’t want the midwives to tell us the sex of our baby, as we wanted to look and discover for ourselves.  It took a good 5 minutes and prompting from the midwife for me to even find out.  We then named him and I quickly past Fletcher to Shaun to look after whilst I got out of the pool and was checked by the birthing centre staff.

Fletcher and I went home 15 hours later. This was a decision I now regret, I wish I had stayed in overnight and had that extra support for his first day, and mine. Who knows, it could have made a difference. In the next few days and weeks we had lots of visitors, as you do when you’ve had a new baby, and each one would say things to me like: “Isn’t he lovely?”, “I bet you’re loving being a mum?” “It’s just such a magical time”.  And I would sit there, nod and smile and agree whilst secretly , I just assumed that this was the ‘baby blues’ and I could just ‘fake it until I made it.’

But weeks turned to months and I still didn’t feel bonded to Fletcher or enjoy being a mum.  And I should have, he slept through from 4 months and although he had colic to begin with, a change of milk sorted that. But he was a good baby.  He has always been a very active child, making noise and wriggling around from the moment he could, but in my mind, he was a nightmare.

I hated that he needed me so much, I hated losing my independence, I hated that I no longer felt like ‘me’.  I started to feel a huge amount of resentment towards him; this of course led to a massive gap in understanding between Shaun and I.  We couldn’t begin to grasp how each other was feeling or why, and we would fall out over tiny, insignificant things that escalated into full-blown arguments, which, before Fletcher, just didn’t happen.  This was something else I blamed my son for.  In my head, he had caused me pain, discomfort, loss of identity and now a wedge between me and the love of my life.

But life goes on and I truly thought that at some point I would settle into it and start to love him.  I just assumed it was sleep deprivation and just generally getting used to be a parent.  I did everything I could to bond; skin to skin, baby wearing, baby massage classes. Unfortunately he didn’t take to breastfeeding because of a tongue tie, but I felt fine with giving him formula because I knew we had both tried our best and quite frankly I was happy to be able to give him to visitors as soon as they would arrive. I even once, offered him to the postman.  He was born in November so the first few months were spent in a small village with no one my age around, in the depths of winter. Most my friends and family were living  20+ miles away, I was lonely.  I was also the first of my closest friends to have a baby, so to speak to other recent mums about how I was feeling meant leaving the house, finding women I had something in common with and becoming close enough to talk to them honestly.  I found one mum friend who was a great support to me, without her even knowing it, because she was honest about parenthood. But even then, I just couldn’t summon the courage to tell her the extent of how I was really feeling. I knew that the thoughts I was having were horrid. I couldn’t possibly say them out loud.

There is a misconception that with PND, mums or dads want to harm their babies.  This isn’t the case for the majority of women.  I certainly didn’t.  I didn’t want to hurt myself either, but I did want to leave Shaun and Fletcher.  I would watch the clock all day until Shaun was due home, and on many occasions I would think “Shaun is back in ten minutes, if I go now I know that Fletcher will be fine and then they can get on with life without me.”  I thought that it wasn’t fair for Fletcher to have a mum around that regretted having him and couldn’t love him as much as Shaun could.  One of these times, I actually packed a bag, but as Shaun drove up to the house I hid it.  I stayed because I couldn’t imagine my life without him.  I’d just have to get used to Fletcher.  But the darkness was terrible, people call depression ‘The Black Dog’, and he was biting at my feet, just waiting to swallow me whole. Some days I wanted him too, it seemed easier to submit to it rather than fight it.

We moved from the cottage when Fletcher was eight months old and bought a house in a nearby town, but to get the size house we wanted we had to buy a renovation project.  We moved and I was happier, in the village we had some neighbours who made our life there very stressful, so having new, friendly neighbours it helped removed that strain.  But with the amount of work we we’re doing on the house coupled with work and parenting, the stress levels of both Shaun and I rose and with that the arguments started again.

After my admission of not wanting to be a mum I couldn’t reign it all in.   Everything that I was feeling and thinking came pouring out.  Shaun called my health visitor and she came to see us a few days later.  She asked me to fill out a test of ten questions with multiple-choice answers about how I was feeling, if you score ten or over you are diagnosed with postnatal depression.  I scored 20.  She asked me to commit to doing a hobby that I enjoyed before motherhood for an hour each week, she also booked me an appointment with a doctor that she had carefully selected to ensure I got the support I needed.  So I started swimming for an hour a week and the doctor put me on Serotonin based medication.  I told the rest of my family and some close friends, I felt supported, lifted and hopeful.

On Fletcher’s first birthday, I had a ‘light bulb’ moment.  I looked at him and I saw not a baby, but a toddler that was growing into a boy.  He had become a real character, he was becoming independent (fiercely so, I wonder where he got that from?!) and I realised that he didn’t need me to do everything for him. I had gained some of my independence back. I had survived the first year, and I had stayed.  But most of all, I had started to love him.

I now understand the science behind PND, my body had an imbalance of hormones that had blocked my mind the natural instinct to love my child.  But through the help and support from medical professionals and my family, I was fighting against that.  I don’t think I would have ever have made it out of the darkness without the shoulders that I had to lean on.  I was so lucky to have a health visitor that was so brilliant at understanding and knew exactly what to say.  And beyond fortunate to have a husband that gave me the time, space and love that I needed.  We discussed alll it recently; we both feel that going through that experience has made us more aware of each other’s needs as parents and individuals, which is an unexpected bonus.

And now, just before his second birthday, I can’t find enough words to explain how much I love and adore him.  He has turned into such an amazing little man, he’s funny, caring, silly and independent. I just love watching him learning each and everyday. Sometimes I find myself staring at him and crying, completely overwhelmed by my love for him as if my mind and heart are making up for lost time.

I’ve also come to the realization that I am a good mum. And although I don’t think I will ever say that parenting is easy, I can’t ever imagine my life without him.  I now have two loves of my life.

Advertisements

SAD Mam’s Winter Survival Guide – by Angela Broadbridge

SadMum1

It’s no secret that many of us struggle in winter, the dark mornings and nights and dull overcast days can send even the most positive soul into the doldrums; with light deprivation the main cause of SAD the long nights and short days can take their toll. I realised a few years back that I have made a referral into community mental health or asked for help from my GP every year in Autumn/Winter for as long as I can remember.  It’s pretty clear then that for me a personal action plan is necessary to help me fight the winter blues.

When I was on maternity leave I found that particular year much easier, I could be out during the brighter parts of the days and felt good about making plans for the late morning period when I knew I could get more of the vitamin D I need from the sun.  Once I returned to work the impending sense of doom that the change in the clocks brought about was palatable; I was SAD alright, really bloody miserable!  There’s a sense of cabin fever that winter brings and now that I recognise it I am better prepared to treat myself well in winter.

I have learned to manage aspects of SAD over the years and yet it’s definitely harder when you have more than just yourself to think about.  During the summer months I really enjoyed going out for a walk with Joss every evening until about 8pm. This routine set us all up for a happy bed time, yet in winter we all have a sense of being ‘stuck at home.’ This survival guide is no replacement for getting advice and support from a medical professional, but it might offer some general well being pointers that fellow SAD mums and dads might find helpful!

 SAD MAM’S WINTER SURVIVAL GUIDE

Your survival kit might include:

  • Access to sunlight daily, even just for twenty minutes. If you’re at home with the kids take them for a walk between 9 – 11 when they days are often brightest, keep yourself from getting down by talking about all the things you see on your walk, there’s a reason why Joss and I have been doing so many leaf pictures lately, it’s because it gives me something to do when we’re walking to distract myself from thinking about what we’ll do next, what we’ll do is get some glue and get sticking!  If you’re at work take an earlier lunch break and have a walk around the block to soak up any daylight you can get.
  • A SAD or light therapy lamp which can give you a boost on those really dark days when Mr Sunshine stays away and Mr Rain comes out the play. I use mine daily for an hour from about September and do feel a noticeable difference
  • Headspace, I have been teaching myself to meditate to help clear the dark thoughts and intrusive ideas that come into my head. I tend to get really glum in winter, it starts with head chatter “I feel bad, why do I feel bad? Is something bad going to happen?” Then it spirals… CBT taught me to control the spiral and I have some brilliant tools that I use to combat anxiety, but in winter it feels easier to give up and I sometimes lose the fight, that’s when taking some time to meditate can bring me back to a more positive way of dealing with the thoughts. I use a few online tools, but the headspace app is a really good place to start.
  • Your diary – give yourself things to look forward to, plan to see some friends – life often looks different when we get together with others; look ahead to Christmas if you enjoy the festivities and plan to do something nice, this year we are going to get tickets for Enchanted Parks in December and I’m really looking forward to sharing that with Joss. More recently we’ve enjoyed getting out in the late fresh air for Halloween and Bonfire Night, both nights I had to really motivate myself to get out of the house but we really enjoyed it when we were out.
  • A healthy eating plan – step away from the winter stodge, it’s so tempting but try to save that to look forward to over Christmas time! If you can stick to a healthy eating plan, (heck, include exercise and make it a healthy living plan) you’re likely to feel more energised and better prepared to fight off any winter bugs that also get us down.  Balance your carby cravings with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and try to take in proteins which can help to boost your seratonin levels try fish, turkey, chicken, beans, pulses, nuts, eggs etc, food high in B vitamins and tryptopan can boost your serotonin levels
  • An Advent activity list – in winter it’s harder to motivate ourselves as we experience a dip in energy.  I find it harder to think of things to do and easier to sit down and do not much of anything!  Last year I had a series of counselling and was given a huge list of 100 activities to challenge my thinking, often my husband would designate me a task for the day and I’d have to engage with it.  After a day or two of feeling silly for needing someone to motivate me I thought I could do the same for activities Joss and I could do together.  I wrote out a list of fun activities indoor and outdoor and stuck it on the fridge to avoid the old ‘I’m bored and there’s nothing to do’.  I really recommend giving this approach a try if you like to have something to look forward to and to set yourself goals, it sets you up for the day with a little activity plan and is something for your family to look forward to as well.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.  I’ve decided to use this as a basis for our ‘Advent bucket list’ of 24 ideas to do starting 1st December; we’ll try to do them all in the run up to Christmas to keep me motivated and I’ll use each activity to try to increase my mindfulness and focus throughout the darkest time of the year.

SadMum2

Finally, if your symptoms are so bad that you feel you can’t live a normal day to day life and the down days are too frequent, see your GP for medical help.

Original content available here: http://thereandbackagainamotherstale.com/writing/sad-mums-winter-survival-guide/