*Trigger warning: infanticide, suicide*
I’ve been lucky enough to have another beautiful, healthy son. I know that so many people would give anything to be in my position. And yet the 4 months since he arrived have been some of the worst of my life.
Since developing postnatal depression, I’ve discovered that it’s so much more than just feeling sad. That’s not to say I didn’t feel sad- I cried every day- but it was so much more to it than just sadness. When it was at its worst, I felt as though I was being suffocated by this huge black blanket. I thought I would share what postnatal depression felt like for me in case it resonates with anyone who is experiencing something similar.
Inability to Cope
I couldn’t cope with looking after two children and thought that we should never have had another baby. I would even go so far as to say I regretted having my second baby as I felt it had turned me into a terrible mum. I felt pathetic for not being able to cope, particularly when A is such a contented, easygoing boy.
I found simple, everyday tasks completely overwhelming. For weeks I sat on the sofa all day. The washing built up and up until we had no clean clothes left. I couldn’t face cooking or cleaning, and leaving the house seemed completely impossible. Little T watched TV all day long because I couldn’t face playing with him. I didn’t shower or wash my hair for 2 weeks. I literally didn’t want to do anything.
I felt as though I had bonded with baby A to start off with, but it soon disappeared as the depression set in. I felt as though I was just going through the motions with him, and almost like he was someone else’s baby. I thought that he deserved better than me. I would cry every night as I watched him sleeping peacefully. My biggest fear was that he would die of SIDS and would never have had a mummy who loved him.
I was incredibly angry. I had absolutely no patience with T and would shout and scream at him for being a normal 2 year old. It was frightening how the rage would just take over me. I like to think I’m a pretty patient person, so this was really out of character for me (although Mr Wonderfully Average might beg to differ…!).
I was very aware of how I was being an awful mother and letting my children down. Every other aspect of the postnatal depression, the thoughts, feelings and behaviours, made me feel incredibly guilty. My boys deserved better.
I couldn’t see things ever getting better (spoiler alert: it did). I thought that as A got older and more mobile it would get harder (probably true) and I was never going to enjoy having two children. I was sure that I was neglecting my children and I was going to screw them up emotionally. I fantasised about walking out the door and never coming back. I looked into how to voluntarily put my children into care because I knew that they would be better off without me.
Unable to concentrate
My mind felt fuzzy. I couldn’t concentrate or make decisions. I couldn’t think of words. Weeks went by in a blur. And then, when I had clarity again, my newborn was suddenly 3 months old. Looking back, I feel so sad to have missed out on this time with him by not really being present.
I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to see anybody. I cut myself off from everything, made excuses not to sign up to a baby yoga class that I’d been planning on doing. I had no confidence. I couldn’t make eye contact with people. My normally low self-esteem was nonexistent.
This is something that I experienced with little T, so I know that this is normal to a certain extent. At first I was able to dismiss them, knowing what they were. But soon they started to become more powerful, more demanding of my attention. They were incredibly vivid, visual thoughts- I could see myself acting them out. One day I was driving and the thought popped into my head that I could park on a level crossing. I saw myself doing it. I could see my children’s faces as the train hurtled towards us. Another time I was bathing baby A and I saw myself holding him under the water until he was still. This thought stayed with me for a long time. It scared me so much that I didn’t bath him for another 6 weeks. I knew I wouldn’t do these things. But the ‘what if’s were always there.
I spent a lot of time thinking about death but I had one day when I actually felt suicidal. I just wanted the pain to stop and I knew that everyone would be better off without me. I spent the morning making a specific plan for killing myself. I wasn’t going to do it that day but I knew that if I continued to feel as awful as I did, it wouldn’t be too much longer until I carried out my plan. That day, 30th September, was when I hit rock bottom. I’ve never felt as bad as that before or since.
Postnatal depression truly is horrendous. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. If you’ve been experiencing any of these things, please don’t keep it to yourself. Or if you’ve had none of these but are finding it hard in other ways, remember that postnatal depression and anxiety are unique experiences to each person. But please talk to somebody, get help. It will get better. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but honestly it will.