Immediately following the birth of my first child, I suffered with severe anxiety and OCD. It was like a veil coming down as soon as I delivered him, feeling no emotion when he was put in my arms, just a numbness.
The early days felt like permanent jet lag and with breastfeeding issues which only exasperated my obsessive nature and anxiety. I was exhausted and couldn’t even bring myself to hold, change or bath him.
The following weeks were so intense. The intrusive thoughts of harming my baby haunted me and I continued to see the world from behind my veil; I didn’t know what was happening to me and I just began to accept my new existence. My baby sensed my anxiety, I’m sure of it, he was more settled with others.
I somehow gained strength to resume daily routines but inside I was screaming for someone to save me. I did receive therapy from the Recovery Team after a referral from the Crisis team and GP but wasn’t I told it was the result of a Perinatal Mental Health illness, and it didn’t deal with delicate form of the grief I was feeling from losing those precious first few days, the overwhelming love of my child and losing myself.
It was only during my second pregnancy and with the support of a specialist perinatal mental health service that had just started up that I got told my symptoms fell under the umbrella term of postnatal depression and that I had experienced a complex and severe case of it. I remember bursting into tears. It was starting to make sense and it was starting to allow myself to let go of the guilt and the immense weight of the trauma I had experienced over the previous year and a half. I started seeing my wonderful specialist perinatal nurse and psychologist and the work we have done has really helped my recovery.
The months leading up to my delivery were challenging, I didn’t want to respond to people’s messages and I shut myself away, because how do you explain that you are not looking forward to what should be a magical and exciting time; I had to walk through the fire and I needed to stay as emotionally well and rested as I could.
Following the birth of my second baby, every milestone was extremely challenging to me as these were some of the experiences first time round that haunt me to this day. Luckily, over the next few weeks I did feel more myself and comfortable with my two children. However that then suddenly halted and an intense weight of numbness cascaded down on me, I felt the full pelt of depression. This lingered and I agreed to start medication due to an increase of suicidal thoughts. This was the start of a very different but difficult and dark time for me. The numbness continued to linger, I felt no emotion or warmth to anything, anyone, any beautiful sunny day, or the warm smiles of my children because the weight of the pain consumed me.
I did start a lovely course called Shine, an art therapy based 12 week course with other wonderful and inspiring women. Peer support really is the icing on the cake for any recovery journey. No judgment, kind words and a shoulder to cry on. I am certainly not the same person as before. I’m more fragile, maybe a little broken but the veil has lifted. As time has passed, my recovery is going well. Everything’s brighter and the everyday is more soothing, I’m inspired, I’m not ashamed and I’m certainly stronger.
I want to tell anyone who is going through their own journey that showing emotion, speaking and reaching out isn’t a weakness, it sign of true strength and courage and I still wouldn’t change my journey into Motherhood.