This is the story of Ashleigh and April. Ash had wanted to be a mom for as long as I’ve known her. She and I want to share her deep, dark run-in with Post Natal Depression (PND) to give other moms an insight into it, and a resource for identifying it; as well as to give those suffering with this black dog hope for the future and their relationship with their little one.
PND is not something I ever expected to go through. It’s not always easy to talk about, as there are a lot of stigmas attached to it. But it’s important to share our stories to help other new moms who go through it to realize that they are never alone, and it doesn’t last forever. There is so much support out there, and there are people who can help.
My pregnancy went very well. I definitely felt the glow, the incredible feeling of bringing a new life into the world, the amazement at this little person growing inside of me. I was excited and overwhelmed by the miracle of it all.
I am no longer ashamed to say that I found the aftermath of my birth quite difficult. I have terrible flashbacks of her coming into this world, at times I was devastated by the resentment I felt towards the entire traumatic experience. I remember holding her in my arms, waiting for the relief, the endorphin rush to hit me. But, nope, it wasn’t there. Just an overwhelming sense of anxiety, still in terrible pain, and so most of it went into a blur.
And so, the weeks started to pass, and to escape these feelings, I made the huge mistake of trying to jump back into my old way of life. After hearing the advice, ‘the baby must fit in with your life, not the other way around’ through my entire pregnancy, I filled my day, as much as I could with a newborn, with outings and errands. Maybe I thought I could get over the shock of it all by delving into the familiar.
This was probably the worst choice I have made this far as a mom. I hit a breaking point. Even though I had immeasurable love for her, even the most simple task of a feed made me want to crawl into a corner, to escape and somehow quiet my mind of these feeling of panic. My life felt unrecognizable. I wanted to go back to how it was when I felt calm and confident. I had brought her into this world by choice and now the overwhelming sense of responsibility and, I guess, the permanence of it all made me terrified. The darkest moments of my life included an immense loneliness, feelings of terror and panic, daily panic attacks, feelings of self harm and being suicidal, maybe somehow that would save my daughter from this terrible mom I thought I was. Mostly, it would bring relief.
I was falling into a black hole. I wasn’t able to sleep at night at all, without feeling like I was going to stop breathing. I began to lose all interest in the world around me. I decided that my life would never have enjoyment, I was going to feel this way forever. Well, at least, I didn’t believe there was a way out.
Looking back, something I will still have to work on was the disappointment, because this isn’t what it’s supposed to feel like, it’s supposed to be a time of bliss and joy, getting lost in the bubble of your newborn baby.
I never expected to go through it. It was, thankfully, the love from my closest friends, my mom and, most of all, my husband that helped me to get the help I needed. I am so thankful for the sacrifices they all made to be there for me, look after my daughter, cook wholesome meals, and put in the effort and research so I could get the help I needed.
With the help from my doctor as well as other medical and psychological professionals, medication, and a good routine of some simple exercise every day, I was able to get to a point where I had hope, I realized I wasn’t going to feel this way forever. Something that was a turning point was getting counselling to cope with the trauma of my birth experience.
Today, I am at the point where I am able to face each new day with determination that my illness is not going to control this beautiful time in my life. And I get excited as I feel this darkness inside me begin to fade slowly.
I am grateful for a lot.
Having been involved in social media groups with many moms who suffer with PND, I realize I am fortunate to have still felt the instant love and bond with my girl, it might not have been there and I don’t know if I could have bore the guilt that that brings. My heart goes out to new moms who have gone through those feelings.
Here are some of the signs that you are suffering from PND. If you feel even one of these, please get the help of a trusted loved one and a professional:
- Having feelings of hostility towards your baby, other children or your spouse
- Unable to enjoy anything
- Feeling very sad and low, and often tearful
- Feeling extreme exhaustion
- Feeling hopeless and miserable
- Having no appetite or binge eating
- Having a big sense of guilt
- Feeling anxiety and/or having anxiety or panic attacks
- Losing interest in your appearance, not washing your hair, or changing your clothes
- Thinking about self harm or suicide
- Having difficulty sleeping at night and feeling sleepy in the day
- Feeling constantly irritable or agitated
- Unable to concentrate or make decisions
- Having difficulty bonding with you baby
- Losing sense of time
- Feeling very antisocial
- Strong feelings of worry that something is wrong with your baby even though he or she is fine
- Fearful that you could harm your baby
- Feeling you are incapable of looking after your baby