13 Jun My Story – Overcoming Post-natal Depression
Fresh from University, no home and no money. I and my husband struggled to prepare ourselves for the upcoming baby. Without any plans to have a child it was a worrying period. Luckily for us we had such a loving and strong family support we managed to build a home of love and comfort. We did not have much but we had each other. My catholic faith was a foundation that strengthened me on a daily basis and not before long I became a mother and my motherly instincts kicked in straight away.
By the time my daughter was 4, we had our own place. Finally my husband was working a decent enough job and with the little saving I had we both felt that it was time to make our little family a tad bit bigger. Before long, I got pregnant with our son.
Baby Boy came 3 weeks early. 3 weeks too early for my husband to request paternity leave from his new job that he had just started. 3 weeks too early for childcare to be arranged for my daughter school run.
As I cuddled my joy and took him home, I wondered out loud about getting help for the first few weeks but everyone kept reminding me of how I coped fabulously the first time round and how this time it would be a breeze. I smiled, but every part of me was freaking out. I forgot how tiny babies could be when they are born and how needy they could get, especially at night. Although my husband assisted, I was too afraid of how a night shift with baby would affect his performance at work in his probation stage, so I took on the role of night nurse. Morning would come and I took on the role of mummy of two. By day 3 post-partum, I started to feel unwell. This overwhelming feeling of cold took over, yet I was extremely sweaty. A general feeling of nausea and dizziness also took over and within a few hours I was feeling my heart beating irregularly. I wanted to mention it, but I couldn’t afford to be sick. The community midwife came that day coincidently and it didn’t take long for her to rush me to hospital…
Within a few hours of being there I was pumped with antibiotics due to an infection that developed post labour and subsequently I was cardioverted. The act of cardioversion is basically when they restart your heart, by doing so they hope that your heart would fall back into the normal heart rate range. If unsuccessful it could lead to a stroke or a heart attack.
The first thing they did was give me a double dose of a medication called Adenosine. Now I need you to understand something, the chemical reaction to this drug is a “feeling of impending doom” (Doctors words exactly). After they had practically injected FEAR into my blood stream, they told me that they were going to shock me into rhythm (basically CPR but under a controlled environment).
I looked at my little family, my daughter was crying, my husband was practically fighting back tears and my new born that I was still yet to name officially is laying there peacefully without any idea of what was going on. At this point is when I believe the mental trauma began. I thought about how my children would grow up not knowing me, I would just be that person that people spoke about during family gatherings. A faded memory. I had left no legacy, no life insurance, nothing to impact them in any way or form. And this feeling of loss was so painful to experience.
Somewhere in my irrational reasoning, I decided to let go of them and give them up to God to look after. At that point as I laid there with a heart that was about to be shocked, I was so certain that this trend of parental death was about to be my fate. I didn’t want to miss them anymore than I already was and I didn’t want them missing me back so I cut off my feeling of love, sadness and loss and somewhere within me I just detached emotionally from everyone but especially my children. “Maria it’s all done now and looked like it worked. Your heart is back to normal sinus rhythm” I couldn’t believe that I was alive! I was certain that I was going to die.
Over the next couple of weeks as the family continued to rejoice over the new baby. I kept expecting to die. I would carry the baby only for feeds but after I kept telling myself that I could not get attached. It would be too painful to say goodbye. As for my daughter I barely spoke to her. Repeatedly she would ask me “what was wrong?” and my answer was the same “mummy is fine, just tired”. I was not lying though; I was tired of waiting to die.
I cooked when I had to, cleaned when necessary, but I saw no need to talk to anyone or go out. With this strange feeling of detachment, I would feel bouts of guilt for not being able to play with my children. I isolated myself. I always cried in the shower. My tears were watered down by the high-pressure shower and no one seemed to notice the silent screaming I did.
A month later, I started taking progesterone only contraceptive pills, since I was breast feeding this was the recommended option. My dark little hole that I had dug for myself now became a back hole of despair. I don’t know how or when those hormonal pills took my sadness into a different level. Before long I became impatient waiting for the “impending feeling of doom” to finally kill me, I began thinking of a way to do it myself.
As a Nigerian Christian culturally and spiritually, suicide has never been something that had ever crossed my mind even at my darkest hour, but those pills really pushed me off the edge. I couldn’t utter a word of how I felt to anyone, I felt ashamed of my thoughts and lost in my depression. I didn’t know what to do. However, my sister noticed the major change in my behaviour. After denying it I finally gave up and explained to her that I felt so sad and so scared.
How I got better
Most importantly I got rid of the contraceptive as they were a danger to my already fragile mental state. I found Praying and meditation really helped to calm my thoughts and to move on from my ordeal.
My sister had encouraged me to talk & walk. Talking definitely identified the problems I had and it allowed my loved ones to know exactly how to help. I embraced these new changes and I no longer felt isolated in my sadness.Taking walks with my son, was also helpful. Sometimes I even talked to him out loud. It was a little routine we had, just the two of us but the routine gave me a purpose that had me centred in it. I spoke to other mums that had experienced post-natal depression as well as my doctor which was therapeutic.
Being a mum is not an easy journey. Social media and society have painted an image of a super mummy that has everything under control and is able to remain sane. But true reality paints another picture; sometimes all you want to really do is scream, cry or both!
My advice for anyone that thinks that they are experiencing any form of post-natal depression or trauma is to first find someone you can communicate this to and just off load your burdens and worries, then the next step is to seek professional help. Remember the most important thing is that your child needs mummy to be happy first always let that motivate you.