As someone who doesn’t shy away from discussing what’s usually described as TMI, having a kid allowed me to discuss a plethora of personal things from boobs to poop. Going to play groups, you can see people you’ve only just met and five minutes later be talking about your poo, your baby’s poo, your boobs hurting, and what said baby did to your vagina. One thing that isn’t really talked about IRL is post-natal depression. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow have opened up about post-natal depression- and there is more articles out there – but day to day, it’s just something that isn’t really talked about.
I’ve got a long history of depression, so there was higher risk of post-natal depression for me. After my son was born, I went through the usual tearful phases – charity ads on TV, a cute dog, someone saying something nice, everything would set me off. The two week blues were manageable though, despite my blotchy face. It was when I was more tired than just sleep deprived; when the thought of doing anything seemed too hard; when my legs would leaden and I felt numb and distant. I was lucky – I still felt a lot of love and connection with my baby and we got along great. I just felt crushingly depressed at the same time.
I’ll be eternally grateful for the ladies I met through my NCT group – some of the loveliest women who I’ve met who are endlessly supportive of all aspects of each other’s lives. Even then, despite the journey we’d shared, I didn’t feel like I could talk about PND. I guess a by-product of depression is the fact you don’t want to bother people, but I did broach the subject eventually and they were brilliant about it and I really should’ve said something sooner.
The worst part is that everyone is so excited and happy for you, so you feel like you should be too. And you are, in a way, but you’re also tired, and being screamed at a lot; you have no clue what you’re doing, and the constant worry of doing things right or wrong, or choosing the right way to feed the baby, to sleep train them, to dress them, how to play with them, whether you’re stimulating them enough or too much, or eating the wrong thing – it’s endless. Coupled with an illness like depression it’s a tangled, dangerous situation which spirals faster than your kid is outgrowing its onesies.
Initially I turned to the internet and actual doctors (as well as my partner), but I think what I just want to share is that it’s okay to have depression, and it’s okay to have it when it’s meant to be the Happiest Time Of Your Life. Depression is an illness – it’s a physical disease which you can’t control – but you can survive, cope, day by day, hour by hour even. Along with medical professionals and even forums or people you meet on the internet – the thing I wish I had done is open up to ‘real’ people around: friends, family, support groups. It may feel scary and awkward and exposing and weird, but use the people who love you and the people who are going through the same, and maybe you’ll help someone else who’s freaked out about talking about it too.
And remember – look after yourself.