I have been pretty open with most people that I had post natal depression with my first born son Levi but didn’t experience it with my second born, Beckham.
Post natal depression is such a horrible experience and mine was undiagnosed for such an extended period that it was even harder to address when I eventually did.
I was very perplexed about why I didn’t get it with Beckham when I was going through the hardest emotional time I had ever experienced in my life. My marriage was in tatters, the sting of heartbreak was so raw and I was living alone with my boys when Beckham was only 10 days old – life was pretty tough yet Beckham became my comfort, my release of dopamine when I needed it and the long nights became my solace.
I have spent some time pondering over the years why it was such a different experience and I think ultimately it was the difference in births I had with both boys.
Levi was my first born and for my whole pregnancy he sat in the posterior position on my back, it was so bloody painful and uncomfortable. When I went into labour the pain in my back and pelvic area was just the most excruciating thing I have ever felt. There was no break from the labour pain and I was trying to achieve a ‘natural’ birth. I remember looking at the clock on the wall in the middle of the night and literally thinking I wasn’t going to survive this. I kept vomiting from the sheer severity of the pain and at one stage just started sobbing unable to manage the pain properly.
After two days of contractions I finally had an epidural as I couldn’t get past 7cm dilated – when it kicked in I was so exhausted but they wouldn’t allow me to eat as I was still being considered for surgery if I couldn’t progress.
I laid in the bed for another six hours and finally reached the time ready to push.
I tried to get my little boy out for 2 hours, pushing with all my might but really – I actually had nothing left in the tank.
Ironically I had only said to my ex husband just before the end of my pregnancy that if something went wrong with bub he was to follow bub wherever they took the baby and if something was to happen to me he was to put the baby directly on his chest and have skin to skin. It’s a shame one of these became a reality.
After I had given birth to my beautiful healthy baby boy I was laying down for about 15mins or so and being closely monitored due to the length of my labour. I was getting uncomfortable and asked to sit up, my epidural was still in affect as we were waiting for the surgeon to come and visit me due to tearing from the birth. I felt a strong pain in my lower stomach despite being on pain relief and started to feel dizzy. I mentioned this to the nurse who figured that it was because I had been laying for such a long time. She decided to check under the sheet just in case – lucky she did as what she found wasn’t good. I was bleeding out.
What happened next was such a scary and surreal experience – all of a sudden the bed was lowered, an alarm was pushed signally all drs in the hospital to come to my room, nurses flocked in, the baby taken from me and I quickly said to my ex husband get your shirt off, he was pushed aside, my mum was outside and watched everyone running to my room, as she followed she walked into a room full of people and raced over to where my ex husband was.
I started to lose consciousness and the nurses couldn’t get a blood pressure reading it had dropped so dramatically.
I had people pushing on my stomach forcing my uterus to contract, someone yelling things from the corner and people pushing buttons and needles being jabbed into my body.
I remember laying there and my head feeling so heavy and thinking I’m so tired, I’m just going to go to sleep.
I don’t really know how long it took but they managed to get the bleeding under control and I started to feel a tad normal again. When the surgeon arrived I laid for another hour being stitched as my birthing complications were so severe. By the end I was just shaking and shivering. I wanted to sit up, I wanted to properly hold my baby, I wanted to have a shower, I wanted people to leave me alone.
By the time they moved me to a room it as nine o’clock at night – I had Levi at 5.24pm and I was so exhausted.
But I was a mum now and my first night with Levi was as unsettled as any newborn is. He had latched but I had no idea what I was doing.
The next part I think goes to my sheer determination when I fully decide on something. The next morning come hell or high I was having a shower. The drs and nurses weren’t really sure to my physical state at this stage – they had ordered bloods and taken weights of the blood I had lost the evening before. So I stubbornly told the nurse I promised I would call out if I couldn’t shower myself but I remember standing there feeling as though I couldn’t get enough air into my system and felt very ‘off’. Well no wonder, it was then confirmed I lost 2 litres of blood but what this meant for someone of my size and height was actually that I lost half my blood volume within my body. My heamaglobin count had plummeted from 125 to 62. The medical professionals decided it was time to do blood transfusions and so I sat for two hours with a nurse while they added blood back into my system. The only bought my count to 82 but there are risks with blood transfusions so it was decided I would try my best to bring this up with diet and supplements.
The next few days were a blur of not being able to be out of bed for too long, the pain in my lower was pretty severe, I remember making the nurse sit with me when I first went to the toilet, I cried in fear of what had happened to my body, I had a catheter. I was totally reliant. I felt broken, scared and unwell but couldn’t take a moment to mentally process what had happened as I had a new baby and this was the most important thing apparently.
Right or wrong – people focused on the fact that I had a healthy baby boy so it didn’t really matter what had happened to me. This felt very lonely, I felt like no one understood how scared I was, how weak I felt – I couldn’t even make the bed when I returned home without feeling short of breath. My body was torn apart both literally and metaphorically and being strong is something I am so proud of.
I think it was this isolation, physical difficultly post birth and being my first born that led to a deterioration of my mental state pretty rapidly. By comparison Beckham was a quick and fairly straight forward labour.
I have said and felt for a long time that I think a major contributor to PND is the lack of emotional support new mums get. The lack of acceptance by others to be able to say out loud I’m a wreck, I’m in pain and yes I’m happy that I have a healthy baby but I feel like shit!
We are expected to be happy from the moment our babies are born and while this does happen for many it’s the ideal but not always the reality. Sometimes we need to allow mothers to grieve for what they have been through.
I certainly believe if I was able to grieve and felt safe to say how I really felt I could have reduced the effect of PND or even not experienced it.
I now make it a personal commitment to ask a new mum or dad how THEY are – are THEY ok. They might not open up but I want them to know in those moments that someone cares how they are feeling.
My heart goes out to the women who have experienced this wretched condition!