Caroline 2

Post Natal Depression: A change in destiny

written by Caroline Eyles

  1. #parent
  2. #parenting
  3. #pregnant
  4. #pregnancy
  5. #post natal depression
  6. #pnd

"I got Post Natal Depression," is a sentence I currently find myself more openly, albeit tentatively, admitting to nearly two years after my first daughter was born and in the face of imminently giving birth to my second.

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"I got..." - It's an unusual way of phrasing it. Did I catch it? No. Did I pick it up while at the shops along with some milk and bread? No.

More correctly phrased, I 'suffered' with Post Natal Depression, but I don't find myself offering this term for fear of the 'tilted-head' response and being patronised or judged.

I swiftly follow it with a, "it was only mild, and I wasn't depressed, just shocked and overwhelmed," simply to relieve the potential tension or raised eyebrows that might ensue. In saying 'I got', it imposes the suggestion that it wasn't my fault, it was something that happened to me, something I wasn't in control of.

I got Post natal depression

I am not entirely sure why I feel the need to justify or defend it - prior to giving birth I would proudly admit my fierce independence as a woman, so why was this now something that I felt ashamed to be missing?

Because my role as a woman was now up for debate - was I still an imaginary member of Destiny's Child, 'being a honey and making my own money' or was I now rejecting all the diamonds and rings I was supposedly buying myself, to instead adopt my new identity, as a gentle mother who caresses her child, breast feeds until she bleeds, foregoes sleep and spends her days whistling to the merry tune of, 'wah, wah, wah'.

The latter soon felt like much harder work compared to the metaphorical bling I had given up and 'only ringing a celly when feeling lonely' - question - so why isn't it okay to admit this? To admit that the loss of my entire independence, my body, my free right to visit the toilet, to sleep, had come partnered with a mourning period.

And here's why.

We mourn when we lose a life, but to mourn our own self as we have known it for a decade or so is seen as shameful, because to admit this suggests, or at least it is feared, that we regret having our child.

And if we are to once again be grammatically correct, I didn't lose my independence, I didn't misplace it somewhere and nor would it ever be found again along side the half eaten banana or raisins on rummaging around my very disorganised changing bag. I chose to give it away, I chose to get pregnant, I thought I was ready, I had read 'What to Expect, When You're Expecting', I had done my research, (I would sleep when the baby slept, obviously) I had nested, I had brewed a baby for nine months, I had created a birth plan (if only for the hospital to laugh at after nature had taken its barbaric path) - I was prepared wasn't I?

This tiny being was my decision, I had consented, I had willingly signed my life as it was away, without really knowing the vast juxtaposition of emotions that motherhood had to offer.

So when any feelings contradicting the idealised fantasy that I had had nine months to conjure up arose, they translated themselves as being my own fault. It was my fault for not reading more, preparing more, knowing more, nesting more, researching more, brewing more, achieving more, buying diamonds and rings more! Ringing celly's more or simply and most annoyingly, why hadn't I better packed my hospital bag more and squeezed in just a little of my independence (and preferably some sleep).

Ironically I haven't once received that pre-empted 'tilted-head' reaction in response to my honest admission of suffering from postnatal depression. In fact, nine times out of ten, it is responded to with a complementary admission, an agreement, and that whoever I am talking to felt the same, struggled too, wonders how I knew and if they too maybe also 'got' it when they went to the shops, and yet still the subject remains taboo.

We still feel bad for questioning if we signed up for something we weren't entirely privy or prepared for, we still feel bad in case the friends who are not yet mum's hear this and think they will be different, they think it must just be our experience, for them it won't be like that, and despite the majority vote ruling otherwise, we worry that for them it won't be either.

In fact, on discussing with a friend who hasn't yet had a family about another mutual friend who had recently given birth to her first, it was innocently remarked, 'she's a natural mother'. My hackles went up.

There is no such thing as a 'natural mother'

'What is a natural mother?' I asked myself, thinking that surely we all just do what comes naturally. I got PND I answered in my own head taking it personally - I didn't take to motherhood like a poo to nappies and found it hard, I still do at times, so I therefore over-sensitively concluded that I would never be considered a 'natural mother', for I am faking it. I was previously faking it as an adult, and now as a mother.

And now, as a result of my own honesty in an attempt to reject the on going pressure and facade, I fear I would be regarded as 'not a natural' and tarred with the having 'suffered' tag. But if only I had expressed for a little while longer, bled for a little while longer, force fed her puréed organic food against her will for a little while longer, just to tick a box, then maybe I too, might have gained that fictional title we all battle internally with.

So despite my relief to hear others agree that they too felt the same, and despite invariably being the first to offer up this more real, and what I am learning very common and, 'natural' response to motherhood, I am still not 100% comfortable in my admission.

With my body clenched, I verbally throw it out there as part of my own need to be congruent and real, refusing to pass on this portrayal that further feeds the insecurity amongst mothers, and yet, as brave as it might appear, I am prepared at the net in the ready position to simply volley back a patronising response.

With every loss there's a gain, and with every door that shuts another opens. In going into motherhood for the first time, you do lose yourself as you have come to know you, but you gain a beautiful child you cannot imagine your life without.

However, to accompany this, you also gain a lesser spoken of, amount of pressure for which you are not prepared to combat having never entered the arena before. Pressure from society, from mother's past who did it a different way, (or more accurately have lost all memory), from not wanting to disappoint your husband who upholds the same 'mother nature' fantasy thanks to the one rammed down our throat by the media, from yourself to attain said fantasy, and finally, from this innocent being that will grow up to blame you for everything (all because you didn't breastfeed).

And thus, further confusing and overwhelming emotions build upon the initial foundations of Post Natal Depression that originally merely stemmed from a little (HUGE!) loss of independence, stunting your development as 'Mummy'.

Not only have you questioned whether your choice was the right one, now on top of this you will constantly question if, and attempt to reassure yourself that, you are enough (cue where play group friends come in!).

While other mothers are fist pumping the air for having achieved the perfect latch, you're still hankering over the hangover of diamonds and rings that are still as close as yesterday. But they're gone, bye bye bling, get your boob out, for you must try, or more preferably book a one-way ticket to Thailand (for one, just to clarify).

Adele recently admitted in an interview with Vanity Fair that on the back of Post Natal Depression she had to do what she wanted for just one week. I for one read this and felt reassured (and jealous she had both the help and the courage to action this!)

Adele had the guts to admit she struggled too

But why does it take a public figure who is entirely irrelevant to my everyday life, to permit this two years later? Because, be her famous or otherwise, she is brave enough to speak out, brave enough to admit on the front page of the Daily Mail that having a second child scares her and brave enough to be real; to be vulnerable.

And so with an 'unnatural' C-section just days away, along with the decision to 'unnaturally' bottle feed from the off, and with a prescription for anti-depressants already been provided by my doctor just in case, am I excited to potentially re-visit the journey I undertook before? No.

Ask for help

But more accurately, am I more prepared to continue forward on this hormone infested journey knowing that the positive pay off of a gorgeous little addition to our family by far outweighs the initial struggle of change? Yes, for this time, I am more privy to what I am up against and will continue to conquer forth with my own style of parenting. And, in the instance I do 'suffer' with Post Natal Depression (or unfortunately someone puts it in my trolley at the shops once again) I can this time be confident that my love is stronger than the urge to jet off to Thailand, and that I will mother my child in the only way I know how, naturally.

Ps. Any diamonds and rings would still be gratefully received, just if you were thinking of it.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or, have concerns that you may be suffering from Post Natal Depression, please contact your GP. For more information and support on Post Natal Illness, please contact APNI: The Association for Post Natal Illness and remember you are not alone.

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