The idea for this blog came to me a few months ago. I was a freelance writer before I had my son, and had been trying to think of ways to get back into it and rebuild my career. The first question I asked myself was what interests me? In order to write, you need something to write about…a field you may or may not consider yourself an expert in; something that really grabs you and makes you want to learn more or tell your own story. My immediate thought was my son, and being a parent. I feel like I’ve learnt so much in the past 16 months of his life, and it’s an area I’m learning more about every single day. But if I was to blog about parenting, what would make it special? I didn’t want something generic and overdone; something random and without much train of thought. So what was it that I had a lot of experience in that I could share with others? And there it was…postnatal depression and postnatal OCD. They are issues I continue to suffer with 16 months down the line, but at least I have a better handle on it now; a bit of control.
So, a little bit about me. Theo is my first child, and I had him at the age of 25. He wasn’t planned, and it came as a bit of a shock to us when we found out (me and my partner hadn’t been together long), but that definitely doesn’t make him any less loved. I have had what the doctors have diagnosed as ‘severe depression’ for just over a decade, and so during my pregnancy I was put on high possibility for PND.
My labour was a lengthy one, and I ended up with an emergency C-section. I went in for reduced movements at 39 weeks, and the consultant offered to induce me that day seeing as I was full term and had been in for reduced movements before. I declined the offer, partly because I wanted my son to come when he was ready, and partly because I was terrified of labour. They arranged a scan for us the next day just to check things over, and we were pulled into a room afterwards where they told us that, although he looked happy and in no danger, he had stopped growing and the fluid levels around him were quite low s they wanted to induce me just to be on the safe side. We were told to go home and get some lunch, pack my bag for 3-5 nights stay, and go back for a 2pm induction. Well, that was that…it was suddenly becoming all too real. I had so many emotions running through me that I couldn’t stop shaking, and my appetite completely deserted me. To cut a long story short, my son was born 3 days later via emergency C-section, because I had stopped dilating and was running out of energy. The ironic thing was that it all happened because I went in for reduced movements, and the nurses and midwives told me that he was the most active baby they had ever seen during labour!
I’d known from the start that I was going to breastfeed. While I was in hospital they were very helpful, and checked on me every 4 hours to give me a hand with feeding because Theo wasn’t interested. We eventually got there, but unfortunately I only managed to last 5 weeks. I felt so disappointed…I felt that I’d let down both myself and my son, and that people would think less of me. The fact of the matter was that Theo wasn’t happy on the breast. He would scream and scream, and it was wearing both of us down. It got to the point where I was dreading him waking up because I knew it would happen all over again. I wasn’t going out because I was to scared to feed in public, especially because of his screaming. We just weren’t bonding at all. I was still getting over major surgery, I had a baby who only seemed to scream in my arms, and a partner who was back at work and feeling helpless. As soon as I made that decision to switch to formula (expressing hadn’t really worked for me), it was like a weight had been lifted. I felt so much happier, and you could see a change in Theo too – he was happy, and he was full.
Three months down the line, I began to feel that something wasn’t right. The baby blues weren’t shifting, and I was getting some truly dark thoughts. They terrified me. Thankfully, one of the groups I went to at our local family centre was run by a lovely lady who works for the charity MIND. We had a chat, and she arranged for my health visitor to pop round and see me. I was then referred to Time to Talk, one of our local counselling services. The difference that made was unbelievable. I was able to talk to someone without the worry of judgement, and without fearing the involvement of anyone unnecessary. Within a few sessions, we established that my dark and scary thoughts were simply the result of a ‘worry problem’, something that could be worked on. It meant that I wasn’t the bad person and terrible mother that I thought I was; it was simply a thought issue that I had to find a way to deal with.
Since then, things have been so much better. I still have the down days, the feelings of helplessness and the occasional dark thought, but that’s ok. I can label them now; I know them for what they are. That means I can deal with them, rather than letting them get the better of me.
That is why I started this blog. I have come across so many people in parenting group on Facebook etc that feel hopeless and alone, and scared to talk to someone because they think their baby will be taken away from them. I want those people to know they are not alone, that they can cope, that they are not bad parents, and that it will get better.
If you are reading this and it rings true, please get in contact. Send me a message though here, or find me on Twitter. I will listen without judgement, and will be happy to chat about my own experience.