I had no formal diagnosis for either pre or post natal depression, but the changes I felt within me during the life-altering time of pregnancy and the subsequent arrival of my son Rafferty, definitely changed my thinking and my behaviour, and not really for the best for me or those around me.
Photographs can give very different stories to what’s going on behind the lens; someones depression or tough time doesn’t actually ‘look’ like anything. I went from being a super confident and vivacious twenty-something to a moody, anxious and short tempered wreck. I hid away, and suddenly despised the mere (unchanged, I should add) smell of my husband, and simply lost all ability to function like a normal and measured human being at work. I remember driving up and down the M4 with a seething migraine and had completely forgotten what exit I needed for the meeting I was now already 40 minutes late for, whilst reaching for a bag to vomit in for the sixth time that day. I was in such a flap, I wanted to mound the hard shoulder and run up the verge behind it and just disappear. That night I told my Husband I was so sick of being pregnant, I just wanted to die. I realise now how totally irrational that was, but at the time I meant every word of it.
Despite that, I had planned a mega holistic home birth, with a pool, candles and enchanting hypnobirthing downloads to fill my body with all the oxytocin and empowering vibes needed to do a job that my body was apparently, designed to do. I remember listening to a recording that encouraged me to chant repeatedly that I was ‘a strong, confident woman’. Despite the meditation, the reality was to end up on an operating table in Slough under general anaesthetic. I met my child for the first time four hours after he entered the world. I didn’t feel strong and confident, I felt like I’d failed. I know now of course, that I absolutely didn’t.
As I approach Raffy’s third birthday, I’d say I’m only just reaching the other side of that. And I wonder if this process may of been shortened if I opened up about it a little more, felt less embarrassed, or knew where to find women who could relate.
And you know, even for those with the perfect pregnancy and birth story, Motherhood is still such an all-consuming, life altering experience; the arrival of a much longed for child can effect us in the most profound ways. Many of us don’t want to admit we’re struggling. Parenting is hard bloody work, whether you’re 8 weeks pregnant, or your ‘baby’ is 18. And it’s absolutely okay to not be okay. So let’s just talk about it. It doesn’t mean we aren’t grateful for the most incredible gift we could be blessed with, or don’t know how fortunate we are to have our babies to hold; we shouldn’t feel selfish or ashamed.
There are various different focuses for this years Maternal Mental Health Week, and the theme is ‘Support for all’ with a strong emphasis on enabling all family members effected by perinatal mental health, to seek support. You can learn more about it and how to get involved here https://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/news/uk-maternal-mental-health-matters-awareness-week-support-for-all/ and you can share a #shoutyselfie to show your support.